Food for Thought:
Social Skill Focus: Communication, Listening, Speaking
Our world is in a communication crisis. Kids spend astounding amounts of time on their electronic devices and with this shift, they are losing their skills in how to communicate their needs—with their own voices. ~Kelly Miller, PositivePsychology.com
Just let that sink in a moment.
Our children are living in a world where they don’t instinctively know exactly how to communicate their feelings, needs, thoughts or questions. They don’t always understand that by conversing in certain ways, using manners and etiquette, things will go much more smoothly and easily.
They need us, their parents and teachers, to explicitly teach them how to do this. Most articles on the subject list some key ideas that fall under the idea of communication. Here they are in child friendly language.
- Face the speaker.
- We should show children how to approach the group quietly, smile to those in conversation, listen to what people are saying, and wait until they are spoken to before speaking.
- Make eye contact.
- Looking directly at the other person in the conversation shows interest and gives respect.
- Be patient.
- This means paying attention to what the other person is saying and responding appropriately. This is sometimes hard because kids start thinking about what they want to say and stop actively listening to the conversation.
- Use kind words.
- When we listen and speak with empathy and understanding, conversations tend to go better. Using things like “I Statements” to express feelings of disagreement often help smooth difficult conversations.
- Speak clearly.
- This means using good pronunciation, not rushing speech and using good grammar.
- Wait your turn.
- This means we shouldn’t interrupt. Children must be trained not to jump into a conversation just because they feel like talking.
Another really important thing we need to teach our children is the nonverbal aspect of communication. We can say so much with our body language, without actually saying any words out loud. “Rude facial expressions like eye rolling and grimaces as well as yawning at a speaker, hair twisting, turning one’s back to the speaker, finger nail picking and checking one’s watch, are all bad manners. Children need to learn that their nonverbal actions and behaviors can make people feel badly. Learning to read other people’s nonverbal cues is an important lesson too, and with time, children will begin to understand when to end conversations, finish a story or change a subject.” ~Peggy Post from Emily Post’s Etiquette
Last, but certainly not least is the importance of LISTENING. The best conversationalists are those who listen well. We want to encourage students to be active listeners. An active listener: sits up straight, tracks the speaker with their eyes as they move around the room, visualizes what is being said, does not interrupt, asks relevant questions for clarification and understanding, and follows directions.
The easiest way to help support our children in this area is to talk to them. In the age of technology, with devices pulling us in lots of different directions, this is not as simple as it seems. We need to make a conscious effort to devote some time to talking to our children about their day, and modeling the exact active listening skills we want to see in them. I guarantee you will see positive results and your children will bloom in front of your very eyes.
As always I would love to talk more about this subject. Please let me know if you have any questions!
Refernces: Six Communication Skills Every Child Should Know by Elena Neitlich
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