The need to speak is only an evolutionary part of the human growth process. Babies evolve, learn and pick up words, eventually understanding the complexities of grammar, diction, and more. All of this is related to speech.
However, it’s one thing to speak and the other to hold a conversation. Naturally, this is the next step in speech evolution and also building the right social skills.
For your child to be a good conversationalist, you need to lay the foundation with basics like active listening, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ and maintaining the right body language.
However, all of this can’t be achieved in one day or a single session. Instead, it takes years of practice. So, the earlier you begin investing this skill in your child, the better and more confident they will be in a social setting.
To make things easier, we’ve listed seven easy tips on how to teach your child conversation skills.
How To Teach Your Child Conversation Skills
The skill of holding a conversation can be taught. You should try the following to give your child that early kickstart:
1. Talk to your child
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Parents are the first adults that children interact with at home. Their language, vocabulary, and accent, all depend on how you and the other adults in the household.
So, unless you don’t make active attempts to speak to your child, they won’t know how to react to a situation. That is, after all, the basis of a conversation. Speaking and reacting at the appropriate time.
Experts suggest that you talk to your child at every opportunity possible. Have a general conversation about their day, likes or dislikes, or things that happened at school.
Show them what to do and react in an active conversation. While your child may seem distracted, they do pick up on the traits subconsciously.
2. Keep it short
Nobody likes to hear a story that just keeps on dragging. Children tend to do that sometimes, adding sub-plots that may not be entirely relevant to the actual story. So, when your child does have the attention of different people, they also need to learn how to hold a conversation without boring the audience.
Instead of sharing minutes of the meeting, ask your child to stick to the important bits of the story. You can prod them to understand what’s important and relevant by asking questions like what they liked the most, what their favourite part of the story is, and why did they find it interesting.
Children tend to blabber when excited and may not understand what’s worth sharing and what isn’t.
So, nudge them to keep their stories interesting without losing the audience. At the same time, do not discourage them from telling stories. They will eventually be able to fine-tune what they want to share.
3. Keep it relatable
Any conversation can only hold another person’s interest for as long as it appeals to them in some way. If the subject is a common one, it’s easier to grab the other person’s attention. But, if you make even an obscure subject relatable, that’s the mark of a true conversationalist.
It also helps to develop empathy. Put yourself in another person’s place and understand how they would listen and process what you have to say. Speak to children about how to achieve this by adding subtle relatable bits.
For instance, when speaking about movies, asking the other person about what their favourite genre is will help your child find common ground to strike a conversation.
These are subtle cues that help take any conversation forward. Meanwhile, understanding why the other person may not like a particular genre of movies will train your child to automatically not bring that up in the conversation.
4. Listen actively
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Practising active listening is extremely important in a conversation, especially when you don’t want the other person to feel bad. Even if the conversation is boring, it’s just rude to not pay attention and then show it on your face.
Children may not understand why this is complicated but as kids grow, it can be the reason for rifts in friendships or even relationships.
Practice how to actively listen with your child and a lot of it is more about having the right body language. Demonstrate what the right facial expressions look like and when to give the verbal cues like ‘Hmmm,’ ‘Sigh,’ ‘Okay!,’ and more.
Of course, this isn’t a shortcut to get around a bad conversation but more like a stop-gap measure so the other person isn’t offended. It’s an extremely useful skill to have when you zone out mentally and want to re-join the conversation.
5. Learn and learn some more
A good conversation comes from knowledge, not just the academic kind. General knowledge about things will help your child hold a good conversation even if they are shy or introverted.
Knowledge brings self-confidence and even if your little one may not be the most avid speaker, they will be able to hold the room’s attention whenever they speak.
It’s a great skill to have and is only appreciated more as you grow up, especially in a world where people tend to have no verbal filters.
6. Value silence
Sometimes, a good conversation isn’t just about saying the right things. It’s also about not saying things. Silence is extremely underrated but is necessary for any conversation.
Teach your child to be comfortable around silences between conversations. Sometimes it’s okay to share a room and not speak to the other person.
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A conversation involves two people and that means you need to wait for other people to keep their point forward before reacting to it. And your child can achieve this by practice.
Conversing at home with parents, siblings, aunts and uncles is a great way to learn. It’s also a good time to ensure your child waits for the other family member to complete their point.
An effective way to practice this is by tossing a ball or balloon between a conversation. Your child only speaks every time they catch the ball. Then, they toss it back to you and it’s your turn.
You are subconsciously training your child to understand the art of giving and receiving in a conversation.
Holding a conversation will help your child become more interesting as a person, not to forget more likeable as well. In how to teach your child conversation skills, make them understand the importance of another person’s opinion in the room irrespective of their age and stature.
As parents, you need to contribute towards their social growth process and they will thank you for life.