How to teach your child the art of conversation

At a time of LOLs and SMHs, it’s never too early to teach your child the value of witty, intelligent conversation. Here’s how. By Lisa Witepski

Today’s nursery school teachers share a common complaint: their learners are unable to follow a thread of conversation. Ask them what they did over the holidays, and they’ll answer with a convoluted description of how awesome their dad’s drone is. And while the drone might certainly be remarkable, holding a conversation is one of the most crucial social skills your child can acquire and is vital for helping them land everything from a job to a partner.

ALSO SEE: How to develop your child’s social skills

Follow these tips to help your child develop into the ultimate dinner party guest:

Look into his eyes

Eye contact is about giving attention – something that’s often lacking as we run around, trying to answer emails while cooking supper and dress toddlers, all at the same time. But taking a moment to look into your child’s eyes when she’s telling a story shows her that, yes, you are interested and, yes, you are listening.

Don’t interrupt

Refraining from interrupting is good manners – cutting into someone’s anecdote makes them feel frustrated and undervalued. But more than this, shows your child that dialogue is a two-way activity: you have to listen as much as you speak.

Get the basics right

Before anyone dazzles with their general knowledge or insight into obscure facts, they need a solid foundation of good manners. As quickly as the world changes, there will always be a place for people who say please and thank you.

ALSO SEE: 10 manners kids should know

Don’t do the talking for them

You’re at a restaurant, and your daughter tells you she’s thirsty. If your instinct is to flag a waiter and order on her behalf, try to rein it in. This is an ideal opportunity for her to grow confidence and get used to speaking to people who are older than her. The same goes for any other interaction with adults: the sooner she feels comfortable talking to people who aren’t her peers, the better.

Ask more questions

Asking your child how her school day was will inevitably produce a single word: “Fine”. Ask her why, probe for details, get her to talk about what really stood out or what she didn’t enjoy – because being able to elaborate and go beyond one-word answers is crucial if you are to engage and enchant your conversation partners.

ALSO SEE: 6 tips to get your toddler talking

Start a culture of conversation

When you’re dashing between extramurals or concentrating on essentials (getting that lunchbox packed, making sure that homework is done), it’s easy to lose out on opportunities to really chat. Beyond simply asking for news, how about swapping stories? Telling your child anecdotes from your own nursery school days, or reminding her of funny things that happened when she was a baby, helps to bring you closer while teaching her that conversation is an enjoyable, entertaining pastime.

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