We all want our little ones to be good communicators. From the moment they learn to speak, we dream about listening to their valedictory at graduation or TED talk. However, communication is much more than becoming a great public speaker. It’s an essential part of expressing ourselves, developing social relationships and learning. How can we support preschoolers to go beyond ‘a’ for Apple, and develop communication as a life skill? Let’s find out.
Use verbal praise in a meaningful and effective way
We often praise children to show our approval, commendation and affection for them. The interesting thing is praise does not only facilitate positive behavior. It also helps children to learn how to express their own feelings in a positive manner. Therefore, when praising kids it’s important to show how ‘you’ specifically appreciate the ‘child’s behavior or action’. In return, they will develop the skill of evaluating themselves as well as others, and communicating their feedback in a positive way. To learn more read our post on the best way to praise your child.
Learn to disagree respectfully
Learning to express our opinions is one of the most crucial elements of communication. It is important for children to know that an opinion is how we feel about something, and there is always more that one way to feel. Therefore, while your little one loves fried rice, her friend might like pizza instead. Key is to help them understand that neither one of them is right or wrong. It’s alright to disagree as long as you express it in a respectful way. Which means saying, “Eww… melted cheese on tomato juice. Gross!” is definitely not alright. Guide them to be constructive and polite. More importantly, help them to understand that you can like different things and still be friends.
Give active and constructive responses
Being good at talking is not the same as being a good communicator. There is a clear difference between having a monologue and a conversation. The best way to show children the difference between the two, is through example. When your child comes home from the kindergarten and shares the biggest news of the day, show genuine interest.
Little human – “Tommy said broccoli looks like brains!”
Instead of saying “that’s nice” try
You – “Really? That’s a funny thing to compare broccoli to. What did you tell him? Do you think the same way?”
Whether it’s good news or bad news, help them to embrace their emotions, feel understood and valued. On the other hand make sure to share your events of the day with them too, and help them to reciprocate. According to studies, sharing positive events can promote our overall well-being and strengthen the connection we have with others. This makes the ability to respond in an active and constructive way a key part of communication.
Read between the lines
A large part of communication happens without using any words at all. Reading facial expressions and body language is one of the most important and challenging skills to develop. This has a lot to do with empathy, and the good news is it can be taught. Start by acknowledging your little ones facial expression and body language. For instance you could say, “I can see from your face that you are feeling sad. Are you upset about something? Would you like to tell me what happened?”. It will be a long winding process of repeating this over and over again. However, it will help children to pay attention to the people around them and understand nonverbal cues. Most importantly, it will also enable them to effectively navigate through cultural differences, establish consent and resolve conflict situations in the future.
By developing communication as a life skill small children can establish positive relationships and learn to express themselves from an early age. By paying attention to the way we interact with kids and people around them, we can lead through example, starting today.
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