Provide Lots of Explanations to Children and Parent in a Way That Promotes Open Dialogue
Parents need to put forth a conscious effort to engage in explanation parenting. It's a simple notion with far reaching consequences. Research has demonstrated that parents who tended to give their sons simple directives without explanation, such as "don't touch that" had more trouble managing their son’s behavior at ages 15 and 21 months than parents who mixed in more explanations with their parenting: "Don't touch that knife, it's sharp and could hurt you." (Belsky, Woodworth & Crnic, 1996) It's not just behavioral problems that can be curbed through a habit of giving explanations to children. The practice also has many benefits in promoting resiliency.
Explanation trains children in differing views of thought. When you tell a child "no," you're merely telling that child that you're impeding their desires. When you accompany such admonitions with conversation and explanations, you're helping the child understand that you may have a legitimate reason for impeding their desires that they haven’t thought of. This early training matters. Children who are customarily given commands without explanation merely learn to react emotionally to what others do. Children who are accustomed to gaining explanations and reasons behind the motive may also react emotionally, but then they'll spend time trying to understand the motives behind what others do. This is a valuable social skill that greatly diminishes hurt. Thinking that others do things that hurt you or get in the way merely because they're out to get you is not a philosophy that will serve your child well. Understanding that differences of opinion and perspectives are what motivate the intrusions of others, and instilling a desire to seek those differences out and understand them, will benefit children greatly. Parents are able to foster this attitude in their everyday life simply by talking openly and honestly with kids about the different things they do.
Explanation also provides opportunities for what child development experts refer to as open-ended conversation. In training to become a teacher, entire courses are devoted towards asking open-ended questions (questions that require thought and can't be answered with a simple yes or no) so that discussions with children are more elaborate. It may sound silly, but they push this focus for a reason: over time, the difference between a thousand yes or no responses compared to a thousand engaging answers and explanations about what others are thinking can amount to a very significant difference in terms of a child's IQ and social intelligence.
Opportunities to engage kids in discussions & explanations
When faced with difficult situations in life, far too many parents withdraw and try to keep children in the dark, avoiding conversation on the issues at hand. Seldom does this protect the child. What it does do is keep them confused, insecure, unsure, and left up to their own devices to form interpretations about what is going on around them. So whether it be everyday parenting or difficult situations in real life or on TV, you're surrounded with opportunities for teachable moments. Take advantage of them.