This is a guest post.
As an adult, nothing is more empowering than feeling like you can communicate confidently; the same goes for your child. Learn how, as a parent, you can nurture confident communicators at home and build a strong foundation of self-assured communication skills in early childhood.
Building a Strong Foundation of Confident Communication Skills
Communicating is a life skill; it’s how we express our thoughts, feelings, and needs and connect with others. However, learning to communicate effectively and with self-assurance doesn’t happen overnight – it has to be nurtured and encouraged.
Having good communication skills goes beyond just speaking well. Our body language can often reveal as much as our words, making it crucial to be a confident communicator.
Giving children the tools and space to learn to communicate as part of their early childhood development can also steer them away from harmful behavior. When given this space, they can assert their wants and needs without feeling like they have to “act out.”
Tips for Empowering Your Child To Use Their Voice
Kids don’t just become confident talkers through talking to them. As many early childhood development studies show, not all forms of communication are equal. For example, while baby talk may seem cute, prolonged use won’t help kids develop their language and vocabulary skills. High-quality interactions between children and adults support developing brains much more effectively.
Review these tips to create high-quality moments of confident conversation at home:
Model Active Listening
Half of the skill of talking is in the silent moments. Listening actively to others can transform communication skills and help kids become more confident in speaking abilities. Active listening is a critical communication skill involving hearing someone’s words and engaging in whatever they say.
Model active listening skills to increase your child’s confidence. Here are some excellent examples of modeling active listening:
- Use verbal clues when your child is speaking. Phrases like “I understand” and “That sounds interesting, tell me more” encourage kids to keep going and show you’ve been listening.
- Reflect and paraphrase what they’ve said, for example, “So, what you’re saying is…,” or “What I’ve understood is…”.
- Ask questions if you need more information or want to show them they can share their perspective and opinions in a safe place. For example, “How did that make you feel? Or “What do you mean when you say…”.
- Resist the urge to finish your child’s sentence or interrupt them when speaking, especially if they get a word wrong. Instead, you can paraphrase what they said using the correct vocabulary after they’ve finished. That way, their flow won’t be broken, and you can politely add your thoughts and corrections.
Practice Speaking with Clarity and Grace
When talking with others, kids will shine even brighter if the person they’re talking to speaks clearly and intentionally!
Children react well to world-building and storytelling, so speaking with a rich vocabulary allows kids to latch on to cool words and fall deeper into conversational ebbs and flows. Positive language makes everyone feel good, and giving children clear and genuine feedback will support them further.
Embrace Non-Verbal Communication
What we take from non-verbal clues is almost as important as what we receive from verbal. Non-verbal forms of communication include body language, gestures, intonation, and tone of voice.
We’ve all experienced a moment where we’ve noticed a disconnect between what someone is verbally saying and what their non-verbal clues are telling us. While what we communicate aloud is essential, non-verbal signals add nuances to our interactions.
You can help kids understand and embrace non-verbal signals by playing games utilizing non-verbal gestures. Activities like charades, guessing emotions, or learning about reading facial expressions through books. These are all engaging ways to teach kids about the significance of non-verbal communication.
Champion a Play-based Approach
Learning through play is a great way to engage kids. You could use word games, word finders, and books to fuel conversational learning, allowing children to have more fun and grow their confidence. Learning through play doesn’t need to be competitive either; collaborative play is often a better way to increase confidence when communicating, as it helps kids problem-solve in a safe environment where they don’t feel overwhelmed.
Try out guessing games like I Spy to encourage them to talk, or for a bit of independence, activities such as reading aloud and drawing can be suitable reflection tasks for children to solidify their learning. You can even label and point out objects when you’re out and about, turning everyday moments into learning opportunities. And, for a touch of theatrical magic, embrace puppetry to bring characters to life and spark imaginations. The idea is to get your child speaking and feeling confident, so start small by encouraging them to talk and build up from there.
Learning through play is flexible and can be adapted using games and activities that your child loves, so don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and try new things.
Embrace Pauses and Breaks
As adults, we often push ourselves too far in pursuing learning, but one of the most understated parts of the educational journey is taking breaks. Managing the time between active learning and practical pauses is crucial for kids!
Overexertion can lead to frustration, and kids should be encouraged not to force their words or ideas but to let them flow naturally. Pauses provide room for reflection and mental processing, essential for effective communication and learning.
Resting is one thing, but staying hydrated is another. Humans are made of over 60% water, so taking the time to stop and have a drink completely changes your learning experience. Water can soothe the vocal cords, prevent headaches, and increase cognitive retention!
We touched on feedback previously, but let’s dive into the three things for giving good feedback to kids learning how to communicate.
- Always uplift, never push down. Learning is about making mistakes; kids will make a lot, but always try to find the positives and learn from the negatives. Kids need support, not harsh criticism.
- Be specific. The biggest lesson to learn from communication is that words can be powerful. Offer children specific feedback instead of falling back on generic phrases. Ditch the ‘good job’ or ‘well done,’ and tell them what they did correctly. Being less generic with your language will give kids a framework of vocabulary to work from when they speak.
- Get Involved! Kids are clever and often already know what they need to work on. Ask children what they think they’re good and bad at, and you’ll probably be surprised by their responses.
Nurturing Confident Communicators
By incorporating these tips into your daily interactions, you can help your child develop practical communication skills and the confidence and self-assurance needed to navigate a world where communication is important for successful and meaningful connections.