by Bec Cavalôt

4 quick flips to get your son talking

Have you ever asked your son a question and got a grunt – or worse still, nothing – in response?

Do you feel like conversations with your boy are one-way streets that often lead to absolutely nowhere?

You can’t force your son to talk, but you can encourage better communication. You just need to flip a few things.

Flip 1: Steer clear of eye contact
I used to make my son give me eye contact when I asked him a question. Sometimes I would even lift his chin so his eyes met mine. But my son would squirm and fight to tear his eyes away from mine. Not the best way to start open communication…

You may like eye contact. It might make you feel connected and trustful. But don’t let your own adult perception of what good communicators do get in the way. For a lot of kids (especially boys), eye contact feels uncomfortable. Some children even find direct eye contact aggressive. Save shut down by asking your son questions when walking side-by-side or driving.

Flip 2: Ask open-ended questions
‘How was your day?’ I’d ask. ‘Good,’ he’d mumble. This used to be our post-school exchange every single day. Unless an alien spacecraft crashed into the classroom and abducted his teacher (and maybe not even then), this is probably what you’re going to get too. Your closed-ended questions are literally killing the conversation.

Try asking open-ended questions that need more thought, and more than a one-word answer. ‘What three funny things happened at school today?’ or ‘What was the best part of your day and why?’ This will help your son redirect his thoughts about the day and get him talking – and you can laugh a silent smug laugh.

Flip 3: Timing is everything so pick your moment
Trying to start a conversation when your son is playing a video game, reading or watching TV is never a good idea. How would you like it if he interrupted you bingeing on The Bachelor? You’re simply not going to get his full attention if it’s already engaged in something more fun than talking (most things).

Instead, try chatting when you’re in the car or eating a meal together. Or when he’s supposed to be doing his homework… If your son is a bit older, you could even give him the heads up and book in a time to chat. Don’t rush him. If you only have five minutes, choose another time to talk.

And if he comes to you and wants to talk, remember this is a miracle and may never, ever happen again. So put your phone down, switch off the TV and make the time.

Flip 4: Give it time before you follow up
Most adult females want to sort things out in the moment. I can’t go to bed on an argument. My husband is more ‘please leave me alone so I can process this’. Your son may well be the latter. He might take hours, days, or even weeks to process an important conversation, so allow time for follow-up.

If you’re still waiting for engagement or answers days later, gently bring it up again. You might be surprised how your conversation evolves over time, and what insights your boy brings to the table*.

*You also might not be surprised.


Brought to you by Brighton Grammar School

Bec Cavalôt is a Melbourne-based writer and editor, and mum of two beautiful, boisterous boys. You can find her at This article is about


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