How to Teach Your Child the Art of Conversation

With much of today’s communication happening online, it’s likely that your kids’ conversational abilities could use a little boost. Active participation on your part can help them build useful communication skills for today and tomorrow.

Conversation

Check out these five practices to integrate into your daily life. After just a few weeks of focused effort, your child will be making strides in their conversation skills.

1. Practice Active Listening

Chances are your child has plenty to say, but how do they do when it comes to listening? Active listening is an essential part of human communication. Play games with your child that require them to remember words that were said. Focusing on information retention can help build their listening muscles and their attention span for productive conversation.

Conversations often operate similarly to a tennis match, with each participant volleying words to one another. Simulate this effect by having your child repeat back what you say. That way, they’ll have to focus on taking in your words rather than jumping ahead to formulate their own response.

Use a kids phone to force active listening by removing body language from the equation. Go to another room or outside while you practice simulating a real phone conversation. After they’ve handled single questions successfully, ask a series of questions to continue to build their memory retention.

2. Identify and Assess Body Language

Even though the world is becoming increasingly digital, body language is still an essential part of communication. After all, your child will eventually be in a business setting. Whether they’re participating in a negotiation or just a project meeting, understanding body language will be an asset.

Help prepare them for today and tomorrow by teaching them how to make engaging and welcoming eye contact. Show them what an attentive posture looks like.

Even as young children, reading body language is one of the best ways to understand how your friend is feeling. When your child can understand others’ body language, they can be a more helpful friend and become a more competent adult.

3. Lead With Empathy and Apply It Regularly

It’s normal for a child to be me-centric. It’s even normal for an adult. But the world does not revolve around each of us individually.

Teach your child empathy in daily life and especially when interacting with new people. Encourage them to apply the principles you taught them about active listening and consider what their conversation partner has to say.

If their friend shares that they’re not having a great day, encourage your child to ask them what’s going on. Expressing interest in others’ lives is kind and empathetic. When you teach your child to care for others, they can be responsive to others’ needs. In turn, they’ll also learn that it’s healthy to talk about their own feelings.

4. Encourage Constructive Conflict

Conflict is going to happen. It may happen on the playground, in the classroom, or at home. Equip your child with the skills to handle real-life conflict resolution. Practice situations with your child that they can apply based on their age range.

Teach your child that conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. Conflict is simply each participant in a conversation establishing their wants and needs at the moment.

If you’ve got a preschooler, work on toy sharing and taking turns. Help them articulate that the toy is theirs to play with now, but their friend can have it afterward. Defending their legitimate interests is essential for their future development. Help your child engage in conflict constructively instead of shying away from uncomfortable situations.

If you have an older child, this is even more important, as peer pressure is rampant. Discuss situations your child may face to help them prepare for potential conflicts. When you have these conversations ahead of time, they can feel more prepared when a real-life situation arises.

5. Help Them Establish Healthy Boundaries

Your child must be able to communicate with others. They also have to communicate their needs to the world around them. Over time, they will be called upon to stand their ground and articulate their needs while staying consistent in their message. Consider your child’s age and current maturity level and identify situations where they may want to set boundaries.

If your child is not allowed to go on social media, help them voice that boundary. Work with them regularly so you can boost their confidence. It’s not easy to say no, especially when the rest of their friends are doing something that seems like fun.

Give your child as much background as you consider appropriate about why certain things are permitted and others or not. Trusting them with the “why” can boost their confidence in protecting their boundaries.

Boosting Their Conversational Confidence

Communication and confidence are strongly tied to one another. The more you practice with your child, the better they will become at conversations with their peers. Encourage them to speak with you daily about their interactions with others and how those interactions made them feel.

Find ways to spark conversations outside of “How was your day?” Ask them about something that made them happy, frustrated, or confused. These open-ended questions can help them elaborate more about their interactions.

When they relate how they handled a situation, look for coaching opportunities to help them better interact with people in the future. Give them support and encouragement as they learn and establish their communication style.

It’s important to foster conversational confidence, so be mindful of appearing critical. Kids take things literally, so helping them arrive at their own conclusion is essential. With a mindful and empathetic heart, your child will be equipped with communication skills that will last a lifetime.