Every parent has their own idea about what it means to have a child who turns out “well.” In this article we present ideas about how you can use this relationship to help your child develop skills and personal qualities that are linked to learning good communication skills.
The ability to communicate well is a quality associated with children who feel understood, have good relationships, and have success at school. Poor communicators not only have difficulty getting their point across, they frequently don’t understand why they are misunderstood.
Children communicate differently at different stages of development. Your child’s language skills grow daily. Receptive language (what your child understands) develops more quickly than expressive language (what your child can say).
- 18 months – 2 years: Your child may say very little but they understand a lot
- At 18 months an average toddler has a vocabulary of 50 words.
- By 24 months, the average toddler can say about 200 words and starts putting these words into sentences of two or more words.
- By 3 yrs, the preschooler’s vocabulary increases to about 500 words and most of the speech is coherent and understandable.
- By 4 or 5 yrs, preschoolers speak clearly and can describe events in long and detailed sentences.
What is good communication?
Good communication is knowing when to speak and when to keep silent. It is being able to understand what your words may mean to another person and to be a good listener.
- listen attentively
- listen empathically
- think before they speak
- communicate with consistent body language
- speak appropriately and tactfully
1. Help your baby communicate
Learn what your baby is communicating through their gestures, body language, and vocalizations.
If you are having trouble understanding what you child is trying to tell you, try the following:
- observe their body language carefully
- get down to their level and look into their eyes
- be attentive, nod your head, make eye contact
2. Model good communication skills
Communication skills are more easily caught than taught. Children say what they hear copy others’ gestures. What comes out of your mouth, the way you use your hands, your facial expressions, and your tone of voice will powerfully influence your child’s communication skills. You are your child’s first and most important speech teacher.
Note: Don’t interrupt your child’s narrative to correct grammar. They will pick up the fine points of grammar when you speak back to them and when they are ready to do so developmentally. Trying to get a child to use consistently perfect grammar too soon can lead to a reluctance to communicate at all.
Think of every possible opportunity at every point in a day when you communicate with your child. List some of these below.
When listening to your child communicate, do you give them your undivided attention?
What specifically can you do to convey that you are interested in what they are saying?
3. Keep informed about your child’s interests
You’ll have more opportunities to communicate with your child if you are informed about his/her interests. What do the like to read? Watch on television? Play? Do you know enough about these things to talk about them?
List ten of your child’s favourite interests or activities (e.g. computer games, books, music) and use these as a starting point of conversation.
Suggestions for communicating:
Even if your infant cannot understand you, tell them about the family’s plans for the day, the sights you see when you’re out for a walk, what you’re cooking for dinner. Talk to them as if they can hear you.
- The younger the child, the shorter your sentences. Simple short sentences are the most effective, don’t use big words and don’t ramble.
- Use an animated way of speaking (video analysis of young mothers communicating with their infants demonstrates that they adopt upbeat tones and facial gestures, raise their pitch, slow the rate of speech, exaggerate vowels and main syllables. For example “Shhhh, whaahhht’s wroooooong?”).
- Choose topics that your child will get excited about, that really matter to them, and ask questions that require more than a yes-or-no answer. Ask for specifics (e.g. “what was the Listen patiently and don’t rush your child or interrupt them. Wait for the child to invite you to respond.
- Notice times when your children are most likely to talk (e.g. bedtime, before dinner, in the car) and be available.
- Find time each week for a one-on-one activity with each child and avoid scheduling other activities during that time.
- Listen to your child’s point of view, even if it’s difficult to hear.
- Let them complete their point before you respond.
- Repeat what you heard them say to ensure you understand them correctly.
- Soften strong reactions; kids will tune you out if you appear angry or defensive.
- Resist arguing about who is right. Instead say “I know you disagree with me but this is what I think.”
- Focus on your child’s feelings rather than your own during your conversation.
For more information the following resources may be helpful.
- Intimacy: The Art of Relationships. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/196912/intimacy-the-art-relationships
- Parenting Resources and Support. Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/childhood-adolescence/parent/parenting-resources-support.html
- Healthy Families BC. https://www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca/parenting
- Growing Healthy Canadians: A Guide For Positive Development.
- What do I need to know about getting a divorce? https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/life-events/divorce/family-justice/family-law/separation-divorce/what-do-i-need-to-know-about-getting-a-divorce
- Families Change: A Guide to Separation and Divorce. https://www.familieschange.ca/
- Relationships – Tips For Success. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/Relationships-tips-for-success