In the short term, being an excellent communicator can help your kid excel everywhere from the playground to school speech and debate competitions. Meanwhile, in the long term, teaching your child communication skills is sure to generate immeasurable benefits in both their personal lives and in their career.
For some children, asking a simple question such as “How are you?” may be enough to get them speaking or writing for several minutes. Other children may be more hesitant, but this does not mean they are inherently worse communicators: Effective communication is a skill that can be developed through practice rather than an innate talent that one is either born with or not.
Here are 7 ways to teach effective communication skills to your kids:
- Ask about their day
A great way to start practicing communication with your child is to ask them questions about what they’ve been up to. For children who tend towards one-word answers, you can start in their comfort zone with yes or no questions (Did you play with your friends today? Did you go on the swings?). Once these types of questions feel comfortable, you can build to having them choose between two options (Was playing with friends on the playground fun? Or did it feel a little boring today?) Then, as confidence builds, you can go on to more open-ended questions (How did you and your friends decide which game to play? What do you think makes the playground so fun?). It may take some time, but after consistent practice, you will be impressed by how much your child will choose to share!
2. Have them prepare a speech on a topic they care about
Is your child a broken record talking about their favorite TV show or video game? Are they always asking for those extra 15 minutes before bedtime, or to get a new pet? This can be an opportunity to channel your child’s energy into a constructive skill-building exercise. Ask them to prepare a persuasive speech that details three reasons why they enjoy this activity or three reasons why you should allow them to get whatever they are asking for. You can even provide an extra layer of motivation by having them use the speech as a way to earn that extra time participating in their favorite activity.
3. Practice active listening
One of the most underrated aspects of communication is being a good listener. Genuinely listening allows children to build their logical reasoning skills, as well as to develop empathy. An easy way to practice active listening with your child is through paraphrasing. First, be the model for them by listening to a story they tell you, and then tell their story back to them. Make sure to incorporate all the important details in your own words, rather than repeating theirs. Then, tell your child a story and ask them to paraphrase that story back to you.
4. Explain and demonstrate body language
Non-verbal communication has a huge impact on the impressions your child will have on those they meet, and the messages they will share. An important part of teaching your child effective communication is by making them aware of the impact of body language and facial expressions. You can introduce them to this by demonstrating different poses and expressions and asking them to describe what they think each pose and expression is saying about your mood or personality.
5. Give your kid a journal or diary
The best way to become a strong written communicator is to practice writing, and the best way to get your child writing is for them to pick topics they care about. Have them take 10 to 15 minutes every day before bed to write one thing from the day they would like to remember. This practice may seem insignificant, but with each entry, your child is experimenting with new words, practicing their grammar, and developing their voice.
6. Encourage reading
Reading is one of the best ways to expose your child to new forms of language usage. A healthy reading habit goes hand-in-hand with writing in helping teach your child communication skills. Through reading, children are exposed to new vocabulary as well as to grammar in a natural context. Exposure to different writing styles will also provide them with a range of techniques to add to their own toolbox of self-expression. Even if it is only a few minutes a day, reading will enable your child to absorb expert language use and eventually integrate it into their own writing.
7. Host debates for your child
A fun way to teach your child communication and critical thinking skills is to host debates for them and their friends or siblings, or even with you! There are plenty of fun debate topics out there, or you and your child can brainstorm a new topic they are excited about. In preparation, have both debate participants write three arguments supporting their side of the debate, and share their arguments in the form of a short speech. Then, have each side do a counter-argument, where they address the arguments made by the other debater. After the debate, ask your child if the debate has changed their opinion on the issue, and how. For an extra challenge, have your child argue for something they disagree with, or prepare arguments for BOTH sides of the issue, and then decide who will debate which side by flipping a coin.
In addition to these strategies, Ivy Camps USA offers several programs for your child to develop their communication skills. Learn more on our website, or schedule a free consultation to discuss which programs are the best fit for your child.