Nonverbal Communication in Children

Children can be very vocal but sometimes it is the subtle nuances of their nonverbal communication that can reveal the most about what they are thinking and feeling. Learning how to recognize and interpret these signals can help you better understand your child's thoughts and intentions. This is especially essential for parents of children who are still learning to articulate their wants, needs and demands. And according to an Emory University article quoting psychologist Steve Nowicki, "Non-verbal communication is at least as important, if not more important, than the verbal part of relationships. 3

Facial Expressions

Facial expressions can alert a parent to so many things. A baby who has a soiled diaper, a toddler who has wet himself or a teen who is angry with the world all can be revealed by the facial expressions they wear. Looks of confusion or uncertainty can let a parent know when something is unclear and countenances of sadness or grief can send the signal to console a bereft youngster. Without these clues, parents would have a difficult time understanding the current status of their children's heartfelt feelings as well as their cries for attention and assistance.

Mannerisms and Gestures

A crying baby who constantly pulls at his ears will immediately be checked for an ear infection. A child who continuously rubs his eyes may be indicating that he is tired. A preschooler crossing his legs and jumping up and down may need to use the restroom -- and quickly. There are so many cues that a child gives his parents on a day-to-day basis that it is important that parents be alert to the message being sent so they can properly care for their offspring.

Eye Contact

Eye contact is especially important with older children. The manner in which they look at you can indicate shyness, deceit, discomfort, or love. The ancient proverb, "The eyes are the window to the soul," is especially true in that so much can be read into the visual exchanges between adult and child. A student who loses his place during a show can gain immediate confidence just from a teacher's look of encouragement from across a stage. A child can see when a parent's love shines from her eyes after a job well done. A stern glance lets a youngster know when he is in big trouble for an infraction.


When you ask your child how his day is going and his response is "great" or "wonderful" but he is hunched over and walking slowly with little or no energy, it is highly likely that you will read his body language and ask him what is wrong. A student walking straight and tall through the front door on report card day is sure to have exemplary grades. Posture can reveal so much about how a child is feeling and what is going on in his life and also how he feels about himself and his body image.