Communication skills is a phrase that is thrown about a lot but seriously, what is it and how are they important to a child’s development? We note that communicating effectively is a key skill for children and it carries throughout the rest of their teenage and adult lives. Are some children just better at communicating than others or is this something that we can hone and develop for them to become excellent communicators who gradually improve over time?
What are communication skills?
Communication is an effective method to transfer and receive information. This can be done verbally, through gestures or with the help of visual aids. But it certainly does not stop there! How we communicate is also extremely vital to being effective communicators. Sure, we can send a message verbally, let’s say through talking, but what if our tone came across as rude? That would still be considered a form of communication however we would not necessarily think of it as effective. Decorum and the adage saying of “the right place, at the right time,” is something that we can all relate to. We would not bring up congratulatory news at a funeral or talk politics at a ball game hence we need to let our children learn the best ways to understand situations and surroundings and then respond appropriately.
Examples of good communication skills.
Infants start communicating through their cries from the instant they are born, telling us if they are hungry or need a diaper change. Gradually, they string words together and we reciprocate by teaching them what we deem as good behaviours. They pick up these communicative skills by observing their parents, other adults or their peers and add them onto their list of skillsets. For example, through verbal communication, they learn how to ask for something and not scream for it, quickly understanding that adults may be more receptive to politeness.
As we have learnt in early primary years, body language takes up 70% of all communication methods and is one of the most recognizable ways of picking up signals. An example of non-verbal communication is having a child cross their arms and roll their eyes. Through this behaviour, we can easily pinpoint that the child is clearly not able to reciprocate nor ready to absorb whatever information you are dishing out to them. Alternatively, when they lean forward and are attentively listening, you understand immediately that you have caught their attention and can confidently relay what is on your mind knowing full well that they will be able to absorb the information efficiently. Visual communication is another way to express a child’s behaviour. Writing, drawing, and play are all effective methods. Writing allows the child to communicate clearly through words while having a higher chance at succeeding academically. Drawing allows young ones to express themselves creatively through shapes, patterns and colours. Playing well with others is also a type of communication skill. Do they share their toys or sit in a corner hoarding them all? As parents, being observant to your child’s attitude can give you a hint of an insight into the kind of individuals they are shaping up to be and allow you to correct whichever misplaced behaviours right at the onset.
How to curb negative behaviour early on.
Allowing your child to express themselves freely is a great way to communicate positively. Letting them act on and understand their feelings enables children to process how different scenarios and people make them feel. They tend to get more familiar with their feelings over time and can personally weed out the negative from the positive as well as identify this through observing the reactions of the people around them. However, if you constantly tell a child how to feel, this can cause repressive behaviours which may emerge later on in life.
Being a good role model is a very healthy way for kids to communicate as they often imitate their parents or the people around them. Speaking in encouraging and positive tones with constant words of affirmation builds confidence in a child and results in them being kinder to the people around them and better humans in general.
Likewise, purposefully correcting and criticizing your child each time they make a mistake can develop into sensitive, introverted, and shy characteristics. They will not be emboldened to try new things as they constantly need to seek the nod of approval from others. This could possibly make them less adventurous and meek when it comes to social situations and communicating confidently. They have it etched in their brain that they are going to mess up somehow so bodes well if they cease to speak what is on their mind. This is especially harmful and can be set to hurt them whether academically in project or presentation settings which can later spill onto their professional life, hindering career progression by not voicing out ideas and letting others take centre stage while advancement opportunities pass them by.
The benefits of communication in the long run if exercised from a young age.
Conclusively, studies have shown that effecting communication skills from an early age allows children to build and strengthen relationships with those around them as well as contribute to their self-esteem. Children are able to connect on a deeper level with the people around them rather than just the tip of the iceberg. This creates a sense of understanding and trust allowing them to establish long term relationships as opposed to shallow ones.
Effective communication also teaches better problem solving in different aspects of their lives. Kids are able to articulate sentences, gestures and their observations accurately with proper and constant practice. This helps to get rid of any unwanted conflict and promotes healthy resolution. As most children have very limited attention spans, fostering listening capabilities is another one such benefit to boost their focus and concentration. It also sharpens their memory as the art of listening and relaying back an exercise allows the child to retain information for much longer. Processing this newfound information calls for parents, teachers or adults dealing with children to encourage active as well as passive communication skills in order to obtain its lasting benefits.