“But that is not what you said mommy!” Hearing a childish treble pipe up with those words in the middle of a social conversation may be what most moms fear, but there is more to teaching a child about conversation than when to ‘shusshh’ or keep quiet. So where do you begin and how soon is soon enough?
The ideal place to start finishing school is at the family dinner table. Yes, you read that right! If you want to teach your kids about conversation the family dinner is what you start with. And no, no one can speak with their mouths full and listen to others while chewing loudly or even with an open mouth. The family that eats together does not just appreciate good food; they also learn to share their thoughts and ideas with one another which is the basis of all good conversation no matter what your age.
Studies suggest that all conversation is good for your young ones. What can you start with? Talk about your day and encourage your little ones to talk about theirs. Did the lunch box have enough food? Did they learn a new word today? Did they play hide and seek and how long did they stay hidden before being caught?
Now that you have enough to talk about, who gets to tell it first? How do you teach excited children to wait their turn to speak and not interrupt others? Well, you do it like you always must – take turns yourself and not interrupt them when they speak. You may have to step in a few times to curb the excitement and stay on course, but eventually everyone appreciates an audience that listens patiently and learns that they must be one to have one.
A conversation might happen anywhere. When your little one speaks, don’t be distracted or engaged somewhere else. Some things are ‘caught and not taught’. So do not get on the phone or engage with other things when your child is talking to you. We can't emphasise it enough. Nothing kills a conversation faster than a digital device. So make eye contact with your child when they’re talking and do not multitask. Listening attentively will inspire them to do the same when it's your time to talk. Always remember, they learn from you.
The best conversations are wrapped in stories that stay with the listener. The best orators, successful entrepreneurs, leaders, teachers have stories in common. They transform the ordinary into the magical through storytelling. Children are born storytellers and encouraging them to continue on, will be a great asset as they grow up. So go ahead and listen, they may have their own version of Harry Potter to hold the world spellbound.
Everyone enjoys a good conversation. Engage your little one in a conversation today and watch them grow up to be engaging conversationalists. An added bonus? Their language skills will blossom and they will know what is happening in the world as well! So what are you waiting for? Start talking now!