One of the greatest skills you can teach your children is to communicate effectively. Most children learn how to speak during their toddler years; however, it usually takes a few years for them to speak easy enough to where they can be fully understood. As your children grow, they will continue to develop their vocabulary and language skills, enabling them to converse with you and express their wants and needs.
Why is Good Communication Important?
Verbal communication is the most common method of sharing information, thoughts, ideas and opinions with others. Whether you are a parent, child or teen, one of the best ways to express yourself is through talking. Talking is an essential element in bonding with members of your family and establishing a close relationship with others.
Listening also plays an important role in effective communications. By learning how to talk and listen to one another, parents and children can establish an open line of communication that can help draw them closer together as the years go by.
Communications skills are used in every aspect of a person’s life. This makes it an important area for parents to focus on when raising their children. Although children will hone these skills at school, they will learn the basics of communicating from parents and other relatives at home. Children will also learn to articulate their needs, express their thoughts and convey emotions through the experiences they go through in their home environment.
Children who develop good communication skills will reap the benefits for years to come. Their ability to communicate effectively will help them perform better at school, establish stronger friendships, strengthen family ties and aid them in establishing a career once they are grown.
Teaching Kids to Communicate Effectively
While it’s true that some children learn to speak easy on most any topic without having to be pushed or prodded, many kids find it difficult to express what’s on their mind or heart at any given time. As a parent, there are various ways you can help your children overcome any doubts or fears they may have about communicating with others so they can learn to speak openly and honestly from their hearts.
Here’s some valuable advice from educational psychologist Michele Borba on how to accomplish this goal:
- Encourage your children to talk about what’s happening in their lives and listen attentively to what they have to say. Your genuine interest will boost your kids’ confidence to share matters of the heart.
- Convey feelings of support and encouragement when your kids face difficulties or challenges without lecturing or interjecting your opinion, unless asked.
- Take time daily to talk “with” your children – not “at” them. Look for opportunities to start interesting conversations that draw you closer together as a family.
- Ask your children questions that require more than a simple yes/no response.
- Get involved in activities your kids enjoy so you’ll have something in common to talk about.
- Use positive body language when listening to your children, i.e. smile, nod your head, maintain eye contact, etc., to show them you are all there. Your kids can tell from your facial expression and body language whether or not you care.
- As reading can help stimulate a child’s mind and imagination, encourage your kids to read and talk about the stories they enjoy most.
Another good way to teach your kids good communication skills is to model them yourself. If you put these skills into practice at home with your family, your kids will learn from your example. The earlier you model these skills for your children, the better, as it gives them the opportunity to grow in this area from the time they are small. As your kids grow older, the good habits they have developed in communicating effectively will stay with them through adolescence and adulthood, enhancing their lives.
The Importance of Self-Expression
The ability to express your feelings as an individual is a valuable asset in life. Unfortunately, many school age children today don’t learn this skill due to peer pressure from their friends to speak, think and be a certain way in order to be accepted. Many children and teens are all too willing to sacrifice who they really are for the sake of popularity. This doesn’t leave too much room for individuality or self-expression. Children who just go with the flow never learn how to express themselves as an individual. As a result, they often grow into adulthood lacking confidence and self-esteem.
It’s important for children and teens to learn how to express their thoughts, feelings and ideas and stand up for what they believe, especially on matters of importance. As an adult, you recognize the importance of individuality; you know how to communicate with others and express yourself in terms that others will understand. This same knowledge needs to be imparted to your children so they can grow into who and what they were meant to be.
Children and teens who are not afraid of expressing their ideas, opinions and beliefs are more confident, creative and capable of accomplishing their goals. Here are a few ways in which parents can encourage their children grow in this area:
Provide opportunities for your kids to express themselves through the arts such as painting, drawing, sculpting, dance, music, theater, etc.
Let your children experiment with different forms of dress, hairstyles, room décor, etc. This helps them grow in developing their personal taste and style.
Encourage your kids to pursue their personal interests and goals, even if they’re different from your own.
As much as possible, let your children make their own choices. Growing up provides ample opportunities for you to teach your children how to make good choices. As a parent, you can help them grow into mature teens and adults by leading and guiding their decision making and letting them learn by their mistakes.
The Quick and Easy Way to Speak Easy
The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking written by Dorothy and Dale Carnegie provides readers with a step by step guide on how to enhance public speaking and communication skills. In this book, Carnegie emphasizes the importance of having confidence in yourself and speaking from personal experience in order to help you connect with your audience. Speaking about topics you know enables you to speak from the heart rather than from a prepared script.
Similarly, children and teens need to learn to speak from their heart. They need to be able to express their thoughts and feelings in their own words and in the right way. Your children will experience a myriad of emotions in their lifetime, ranging from joy and contentment to sadness, frustration, anger and fear. As they transition from toddlers and preschoolers to older children and teens, it’s essential they learn to understand and manage their feelings, particularly negative emotions, in ways that don’t hurt themselves or others. Here are some ways in which you can help your kids better understand and cope with negative feelings that may arise:
- Allow your children to express themselves, even if you don’t agree with why they feel the way they do.
- Help your kids recognize the emotions they are feeling by identifying what they are, i.e. anger, disgust, fear, etc.
- Teach your kids how to express anger and frustration in a calm and collective manner, without yelling, breaking things or throwing a fit.
- Praise your kids for being open and honest about how they feel.
- Model the example you want your children to follow by expressing your own feelings in a constructive and positive way.
The ability to speak easy, openly and naturally is a gift your children will treasure for many years to come. According to life coach Anthony Robbins, “the way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”