Mothering Monday: Teaching Children to Talk

Reposted from my daughter’s blog Where My Treasure Is.

I believe that one of the most important things you can teach a child is how to talk to other people.

That may sound like a silly thing to say, but think back to the last time you stooped down and tried to talk to a child. Did the child listen to you? Did the child even look at you? Did the child answer your question or just run away? I do this a lot because I am interested in what children think about, but I am often unsuccessful in my attempts.

I’ve noticed that there are usually two main reasons why children will not look at me or talk to me when I attempt to start a conversation.

1. Shyness

2. Self-centeredness

Both of these “conditions” are natural for children and both can be improved upon with loving guidance. It’s our job as parents to help our children to grow in the area of communication if they struggle with either of these things.

Why is it important to teach a child how to communicate clearly with other people?

Good communication skills can…

…help a child to learn to care for the needs of others more than themselves.

…enable a child to express his ideas clearly and exchange them with other people.

…help a child to learn more in life by listening to other people’s ideas.

…give children the confidence they need to successful in life.

Dan and I have tried to be very intentional with teaching our children good communication skills from the very beginning. We have 4 naturally vocal children. However, even they have had to learn how to interact with others. It didn’t come naturally.

Below are some simple things that we focus on as we try to teach our our young children about good communication. As we teach these things, we are conscious to model them ourselves. When starting out, we go with our children when meeting new people. Sometimes we provide them with a small token to offer the other person (a drawing, a flower, etc.) to help break the ice a bit. As the children grow and these sills become more naural, they start to want to go off and use them on their own!

1. Look at the face of the person who is talking to you. This means that even if you’re walking past the person as they greet you, STOP and look at them.

2. Always offer a greeting in return. Of course, for a very shy child, you may have to have lower expectations, but for our family, we strive for a minimum of “hi” or “hello”.  We’ve had a couple of children who had a hard time with this when they were very young. We waited it out (even if it took several seconds or even a minute) until the child would say “hi” (or at least wave) from behind my skirt :)

3. If you see someone who looks lonely, approach them and offer a smile and a friendly “hello”.

4. When you go up to a new person for the first time, say “Hi, my name is______. What’s your name?”

5. Ask the person a question about himself. ”How are you doing today?”, “Have you ever been here before?”, “What is your favorite thing to eat here?” (at a restaurant), etc. I remember prompting my children to ask these kinds of questions even at a very young age (1 1/2 – 2  years) so that they would learn this very important part of communication. They really enjoy talking to people more when they get to hear other people’s stories and ideas. You really can’t go wrong in a conversation when you ask people about themselves. :)

6. Listen to what the other person has to say without thinking about what you are going to say next.

Learning good communication skills is a labor of love for others.

“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
– Philippians 2:4

As my children grow in their ability to communicate with others, I try, as much as it possible, to let them answer for themselves when someone asks them a question, instead of stepping in and trying to answer for them. I believe that it is beneficial for children to formulate their own answers to questions such as “Why aren’t you in school today?”, “Are you excited for Santa to come?”, or “What are you going to do for the rest of the day after you’re done shopping?” If they get stuck on their answer and give me a quick, pleading glance of “Help!”, I’ll step in, of course. But I often let them try on their own first.

I’m not saying that my children are perfect communicators. I’m guessing that if you know our family personally, you would agree. However, I am a firm believer that character traits and habits can always use improvement. If we have a good reason behind our desire to help our children become better communicators, then we are more apt to try and help them grow in this area.

I don’t necessarily believe that you can make an extrovert out of an introvert. However, I do believe that by consistent teaching and encouragement, we can help our children to become considerate and confident in their dealings with others.

{For more Mothering Monday posts, click HERE.}

*This post was written by my daughter Anna.  Here is her blog

I Would Love To Hear Your Comments 

Published in: on March 3, 2014 at 2:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

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