In our technology-focused world, it’s easy to forget that we don’t always communicate with people via text or email. It’s important to know how to speak effectively with people, no matter what your age. Modeling good communication skills for our kids is the best way to show them how it’s done.
Eye contact: One of the most important, and often the hardest, skills to master is eye contact, especially for kids. The difference between maintaining good eye contact and staring someone down is subtle, and it’s not easy to explain. Model the skill on a daily basis with them.
Be responsive: Another difficult thing for kids is readily responding to others’ questions, compliments or statements. Encourage kids to answer questions from adults (while making eye contact, of course!) with complete sentences and interest. One word answers like “fine” get the job done, but good conversationalists take it a step further. “I’m fine, thanks. How are things with you?”
Be aware of body language: Kids are just learning how holding your arms or standing in certain ways sends signals as much as their words do. Encourage children not to cross their arms when they talk and not to point their head toward the floor. They also will learn to pick up on others’ non-verbal cues as they think about how their own are perceived.
Consider the audience: Sometimes kids have a hard time knowing how to adjust their speech for their audience. It is good for kids, as they get older, to realize that perhaps the way they address their buddies isn’t exactly the same as they would address a teacher or a stranger. Levels of formality change depending on the situation, and again, modeling and discussing these differences will help them make the distinction.
Kids are generally given a bit of a pass when it comes to having polished communication skills, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t consider them “in training” to some day be effective, well-spoken adults. Even in our world of screens, good communicators will have an edge when it comes to academics, college and careers. Might as well start now!