It takes two to tango
Holding a conversation can be one of the most socially demanding tasks for anyone – adults included. However, it is still a very important skill to build and no matter how socially awkward one is, it is possible to become a natural conversationalist. But why is it important for children to hold conversations well?
Children build up their social skills from a young age. Their habits, way of being, style of interactions and character begin to take form at this stage. Moreover, conversations, especially good conversations require a lot of trial and error as well as practice for it to feel natural. The earlier these skills are developed, the quicker they start to enjoy and reap the benefits life has to offer.
Have you ever noticed who the leaders are in your workplace, in your child’s school? They are usually the ones who can inspire people through their words. They are the ones with charisma, charm and just the right amount of confidence to draw people in. And the reason they have this easy confidence is because they have built up these traits from a young age to the point where when they reach adult life, they have already jumped through the hurdles of discovering who they are when interacting with people.
On another note, conversations are a huge part of social life. If your child is able to interact well with others, he or she will enjoy social events, networking and being curious about people without feeling insecure.
So what are some ways we can build up our children’s conversational skills?
Include your child in “adult” conversation
Are you inclined to shift your mealtime conversations to suit your child? Do you change the tone of your voice when interacting with your child? While these are definitely not wrong, they do however, impact the way children view themselves when surrounded by adults. They begin to view themselves as different, not smart or intelligent enough to join in on the adult conversations. Subconsciously, they begin to switch off, when in actual fact, this is where the growing takes place.
I like to encourage mealtimes as the starting point for building up on conversational skills.
Rather than switching into your “child” mode, keep the “adult” conversation going with your dining partner or friend. Then, include your child in the conversation by directing some questions to him. Initially it could be just drawing his attention to the conversation such as “Derrick, this is something that you’ll find interesting.” Then, take it up a notch by getting him involved – “Do you agree Derrick?” or “How does that make you feel?”
These type of questions instil a sense of self-worth and confidence because children start to believe that their opinion matters and is worth sharing. That what they have to say is something even adults want to listen to. The more you do this, the more eager children become and the more expressive they get, regardless of the topic.
Stay engaged, even when they drift
The first few times children get roped in to “adult” conversations, they will tend to drift. Children naturally talk in a round-about way, going through every detail just to get to the point. If your child is like that, do not despair. In time, they will learn to fine-tune their stories with more practice.
The important thing for adults however, is to stay in the conversation. Even when that little child starts to go off tangent, listen and listen intently. Rather than nitpicking or correcting what they say, let them lead. Let them express themselves and then gently veer them to the topic again. The more responsive and engaged you are, the more back-and-forth the conversation can go. This undoubtedly encourages children to keep sharing and interacting.