Who likes a conversational rambler?
Not I, and others I am sure, suffer them very painfully! I was at a networking event the other evening and I got waylaid in the middle of the room by a man who just loved his own voice and talked and talked all about himself and took no interest in me or anything I had to say. I tried to give him the signals to end the conversation, but he didn’t pick up on any of them. How self centred!
One of a parent’s most important tasks is teaching children how to communicate effectively and politely. The assumption that a child learns effective communication skills without adult input is a misnomer. Whilst in the womb, scientific evidence identifies that the growing child is receptive to communication via touch and sound. Therefore from birth, parents should begin teaching their children basic communication skills and continue to sharpen their child’s skills as the child matures. This is essential, because communicating well with others is a basic principal of society.
Conversing daily with children reinforces the model of basic communication skills. It can take the guise of polite conversation asking about their day, feelings and activities. This will lay a foundation for good communication later in life. Anyone who is a custodian of children should have an ultimate goal to nurture that child. Ultimately raising one who converses respectfully and courteously. An attentive child who listens to what others have to say, and who is able to clearly express his or her own thoughts, ideas and opinions. In some nations, e.g Nigeria, Africa, the culture doesn’t lend to this at all. Children should still be seen and not heard.
Peggy Post, the author of Emily Post’s Etiquette, lists 5 basics of communication that child carers and parents should teach to their kids. These follow;
1) Make eye contact. It is important that children are taught to establish eye contact with the person with whom they are speaking. Aforementioned, that many nations do not want there child looking in their eyes of adults (preferring that they look down at their feet with hands at their side whilst talking to an adult). But when you look directly at the other person in the conversation it shows interest. Children should be taught that looking away is a sign of disinterest and is not becoming.
2) Use clear and correct speech. Non use of slang, pacing speech and using good grammar are all aspects of communication that child carers should show as an example for children. Show them the right way with love, it should be done without mocking or embarrassing the child. Correcting mistakes in front of others may cause a child to feel self-conscious, inhibiting their speech in public.
3) Encourage taking in turns to speak and don’t interrupt or butt in whilst the other is talking. Train them not to jump into a conversation just because they feel like talking. It is important that this behaviour is nipped in the bud! Teach the child self-control. When a child interrupts, you should stop their conversation, firmly tell the interrupting child to wait their turn, and then pick-up the conversation where they left off.
4) If you show good listening skills to children, it is the best way that they will learn it. Whenever you converse with children, listen attentively and repeat key phrases back to the child so that they feel heard. You may ask questions of the child and allow them to respond. Face the child; this shows an interest in what they have to say. Note, that the best conversationalists are those who listen well (unlike the man I was stuck with at the networking event)!
5) There is a correct way to join a conversation which displays good manners. Child carers and parents should consistently demonstrate how to politely enter a conversation. Demonstrate how to quietly approach a group , smile to those in conversation, listen to what people are saying, and wait until they are spoken to before speaking., children will learn the practice.
Teach children how to behave politely when another child joins an active group conversation they are holding. Those in the group should smile and nod to recognize the person joining them, when the speaker finishes, the group can greet the newcomer and make introductions.
Always end conversations pleasantly. Walking away from a conversation with good displayed manners is a crucial skill to possess. Encourage children to leave a conversation with pleasantries, saying , e.g. “I want to join my sister, you can join me if you please?” and if the invite is declined then ending with, ” It was really nice talking to you.”
Additionally, other skills that should be focussed on when teaching children basic communication are reducing the volume of their voice (if they tend to shout constantly), not to disclose “ household secrets” and keeping private matters.
Encourage understanding of non-verbal communication and body language (also learning how to read other people’s non-verbal cues) as well as being mindful of the ones they are letting off, is an important lesson too. Using facial expressions like frowning or eye rolling. Or, yawning openly to show boredom, plugging the ears with fingers denoting that they are not listening to what you have to say, turning one’s back to the speaker, are all bad manners and can make people feel bad.
Care givers, teachers and parents should start nurturing in the child conversation skills early, they will help children develop honed communication skills that will benefit them greatly from childhood and lifelong.
Author of Nurturing Progressive Achievers