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12 23Fri04252014

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Back Helping Your Child Succeed Teach your children good communication skills

Teach your children good communication skills

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IN TODAY'S schools, the fundamental skills of speaking and listening are given a high priority at all grade levels and across the curriculum.

Students are expected to listen attentively to instruction, and answer teachers' questions fluently, have the confidence to ask teachers questions when the need arises, contribute voluntarily to class discussions, and work collaboratively and co-operatively in groups.

One of the most important things parents can do to help their children learn to speak well is to have frequent, friendly conversations with them. These conversations do not have to be long, or be about anything adults consider important because the goal is to keep the child interacting with the adult using any words he can say. The following are some suggestions parents can use to have enjoyable, successful conversations with their children:

Communicate for a variety of reasons. Talk about anything your children are doing or are interested in, no matter how insignificant it seems to you, and continue the conversation as long as all of you are enjoying your time together. Be sure to share the lead with your children. Talk sometimes about what they just said; at other times, about your own ideas. Keep your children engaged by matching their ideas and words, and giving them time to initiate and respond.

Communicate more for enjoyable social contact than to make something. While teaching children how to make things is important, these interactions are not frequent enough for your children to learn language and conversation. Research in language development shows that the more adults teach in directive ways, the more passive and less social the children become. When parents and other adults become more of a "partner" during conversations, children enjoy the time more, and stay engaged longer.

Reply to your children's comments. Without the continued attention from adults, many children will not develop a habit of talking with others because they often use their talk while playing alone. Even if your children spend a lot of time talking to themselves, you can respond to their words and ideas, and show them that their talk gets your attention. Do not get in to the habit of listening to children talk without responding to it.

Keep conversation balanced. It is normal for children to talk mainly about themselves, but it is important for them to talk about others’ ideas as well. Help your children learn an important social skill of learning to talk about others’ interests as well as their own.

Think of talking as creative play. Unless children feel free of judgment and failure in an interaction, they are not likely to communicate much of what they know. When your children feel free to express their thoughts, they will be more interesting to you and others.

Follow rules of social conversations. When your children develop the habit of having conversations, you can then start to show them the basic social rules of conversations such as: listening attentively, communicating for a response; waiting silently, responding to the other person's intent; being clear about what they mean, and changing their words if not understood. At the same time, show your children what not to do in conversations such as: interrupt, ignore the other's message, ramble, communicate only to themselves, change the topic abruptly, or fail to clarify when they are not understood.

The more time parents spend talking with their children, the more their children will grow in confidence. Also, the more practice they have in speaking and listening, the better they will do in school both socially and academically.


Elizabeth Hamilton, M.Ed, MA, is a teacher with 24 years of professional experience. You can write to her at successfullearner[at]yahoo.com with your questions or comments.

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