The importance of effective communication
Ellen Galinsky, in her book, Mind in the Making, describes communication as an essential life skill for children to develop. Galinsky’s study asked businesses about the most common skill where new hires fall below expectations. The top two concerns listed by the majority of businesses were spoken communication skills (29 percent) and written communication skills (28 percent).
Communication is an essential skill at home, school and in the workplace. Few skills increase children’s confidence, social competence and self-esteem more because children use these skills in every area of their lives. Strong communication skills also serve as a basic survival mechanism – they help children and young people avoid placing themselves at risk of harm.
On the other hand, poor communication can create confusion, and lead to misunderstandings and conflict. Teaching children how to communicate effectively is one of the greatest gifts dads can give them. Your ultimate goal is to raise a child who converses courteously, who listens to what others say, and who is able to clearly express his or her own thoughts, ideas and opinions.
Effective communication can help children to:
- develop good relationships with others
- communicate and assert their needs
- solve problems
- resolve conflict
- proactively seek assistance when issues arise
- avoid cultural misunderstandings
Here are some Dad Tips:
Watch your tone of voice
Your tone of voice can communicate more than the actual words you say. It reflects your emotional state: whether you are happy, angry or sad. Often times, kids do not listen to your words as much as they hear the tone of your voice. By using a tone of voice that is positive and happy, children pick up on your emotions and also learn to communicate with positive emotions. Remember that how you say it means more than what you say.
Use gestures liberally
Children begin to speak with their hands before their mouths. Galinsky found that children who used hand gestures had a larger vocabulary when they were older. Dads can help children to communicate non-verbally by pointing, snapping, or using other non-verbal gestures to explain themselves and the world around them. This can create fun opportunities for parents and children to communicate. More importantly, children will learn to associate non-verbal behaviour with emotions and implicit messages.
Make eye contact and smile
Using the techniques of eye contact and smiling projects confidence, warmth and sincerity, which in turn increase children’s social success. As you talk with your child, look them in the eye rather than allowing yourself to get distracted by other things in your surroundings. Whenever your child displays a great smile, point it out and compliment them. By reinforcing these skills and role-modelling them yourself regularly, your child will soon be smiling more and using eye contact.
Listen more attentively
Attentive listening keeps the lines of communication open so that your children always feel comfortable and validated when they share their thoughts, feelings and experiences with you. Repeat key phrases back to your child so that he or she feels heard by you. You discourage your kids from expressing themselves when you act in a dismissive manner, deny their feelings, lecture, order them, roll your eyes, shrug your shoulders, raise your eyebrows, frown, turn away, or shake your head.
Teach your child not to interrupt others
A good display of interpersonal communication is allowing others to speak fully and express their opinions without being disrupted. Children must be trained not to jump into a conversation just because they feel like talking. Be respectful and polite by not interrupting your child when they speak to you and do not offer any comments or feedback until they have completed what they have to say.
Engage in dinnertime talk
Dinnertime is a great atmosphere for children to develop communication skills. However, some dinner tables have little in-depth communication occurring. Dads can encourage good communication at dinnertime by asking questions about a child’s favourite topic or telling stories about your day. Give children the opportunities to take turns speaking or picking the theme for dinnertime conversation.
Read with your kids
Reading is the foundation for learning to be a great communicator. You can probe your children with questions about the stories and the characters’ emotions. Doing so helps children see the world from other people’s perspectives. Children will also learn to anticipate what is going to happen and can imagine different stories more readily by reading widely. Reading is an excellent opportunity for dads and children to bond and talk about deeper philosophical questions about life.
Create an emotion scrapbook
Collect pictures of facial expression in a scrapbook. Include the six basic emotions: happy, sad, angry, surprised, afraid, and disgusted. You can play a game of identifying the emotions by asking, “How is this person feeling?” Help your child predict the body language and voice tone that would accompany each expression.
Educate them about cultural differences
People of different cultures communicate in different ways. Unfamiliarity with cultural communication differences can lead to misinterpretation, misunderstanding and even unintentional insult. For example, some cultures encourage individuals to be more expressive and honest in stating their feelings, which may be misperceived as hostile or aggressive by others from a different culture. Help your child understand that his or her own expectations about appropriate behaviour may differ from others and teach them to be more sensitive to diverse cultural norms.
- Galinsky, E. (2010). Mind in the Making. (1st ed., pp. 1-50). New York, NY: HarperCollins.
- Kids Helpline (2011). Communication. <http://www.kidshelp.com.au/grownups/news-research/hot-topics/communication.php#sthash.8Fn268LI.dpuf?
- Neitlich, E. Six communication skills every child should know. What’s For Dinner.
- Spencer, C. (2013). Success skills for children: communication. Parenting.
About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.
Categories: Ages and Stages