In the fourth in our series outlining the “7 c’s” from Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas’ book Educating Ruby, we’re turning our attention to communication.
One of the major frustrations between children and adults is a perception that they cannot communicate with each other. Kids don’t listen; adults don’t understand.
As a consequence, one of the most valuable things you can teach your child is to be an effective communicator – knowing when to speak up and when to listen; being comfortable talking to people of different backgrounds, cultures and ages; and being able to express their own emotions clearly.
Much of this skill builds on a foundation of confidence. A confident child will not be frightened of asking a ‘silly’ question, or saying the ‘wrong’ thing. They will be brave enough to approach someone who seems different to them and try to find some common ground. Perhaps most importantly, they will value their own feelings enough to see them as something worth expressing.
Once again then, creating a supportive and open atmosphere at home is one of the best things you can do to help your child. Encouraging discussion of feelings – not just those of the family, but also those raised through reading or watching films and television together – is wonderful practice for a child learning to navigate the world. Showing them how to listen effectively and to offer opinions in an appropriate way is another way in which you can have a huge influence merely by setting an example.
Beyond this, it is worth remembering that, at some point, we all have to have some sort of a stab at ‘public speaking’. Whether it’s for “show and tell”; the oral requirement of a GCSE language exam; a part in the school play or a presentation at work, your child will be forced to speak in front of people. Being comfortable doing so will be a wonderful weapon in their arsenal as they go through life.
So, once again, what can you do to help your child hone those communication skills?
Obvious this one, but amazingly difficult to do. Remember to tread softly – bombarding your child with questions the second they walk through the door from school is unlikely to yield results. It’s far more effective to simply create a culture of openness in your family. Eating together is always helpful so try to make time for family dinners. Car journeys are often great times to talk too, so try to keep the music low and take the opportunity. (Some studies have shown that sitting next to (rather than opposite) someone makes it easier to discuss our feelings as we’re not having to make eye contact.) More than anything, be prepared to be open yourself and sympathetic to what they have to say, even if it’s hard to hear.
Playing games like “Just a Minute”, “Call My Bluff”, “Articulate” or “Taboo” together will help children get used to speaking in front of people under (relatively!) high pressure conditions. They are easy enough to create at home, or you can buy board game versions of Articulate and Taboo, as well as similar games. Playing these games with varied groups of people will help them get used to dealing with their audience – understanding that they may need to use different examples to help their grandma guess the word in Articulate than if they’re playing with their sibling, for example.
We’re all busy, and sometimes kids talk A LOT(!) but remember that all that chatter is important to them. Maintaining that level of communication throughout the school years will be really helpful for the whole family, and it will be invaluable for your child. If you can continue to be a person they feel comfortable talking to, you are best placed to help them in all areas and stages of their life. Don’t judge. Don’t feel you always have to have an opinion. Sometimes it’s enough to just listen.
Next time we’ll be looking at creativity. But right now, we’re off to play Articulate… let the shouting begin!
Have a great day!
If you’d like to explore these ideas further, we highly recommend you find a copy of Educating Ruby or visit their website www.educatingruby.org . The book is enjoyable, informative and uplifting and we think it would be of benefit to every parent and teacher.