Updated: Feb 18, 2019
Having strong verbal communication skills has many benefits. When someone is able to demonstrate the ability to speak clearly, they are going do better in many facets of their life. Strong communication skills can help with fostering positive relationships with family, friends and peers. It can be helpful with advocating and standing up for yourself or others If you notice that your child is struggling with their ability to verbally talk with others take a look at some of our tips for improving their verbal communication skills
Social Skill Groups. Enroll your child in a local social skills group. These programs can provide great opportunities for your child to verbally communicate with their peers while being coached by trained counselors.
Recognize Tone of Voice - Teach your child how to be aware of their tone of voice and pace of speech. Often times, kids who struggle with communication skills are not aware when they are too loud for their environment or when they are speaking to fast for the situation. To improve this skill you can use a 5-point scale with your child that provides a visual of how high or low their tone of voice should be depending on the setting.
Talk About Body Language - it is important that you teach your child the different nonverbal signals they may send to the people they speak with and how others may perceive it. For instance, where are their eyes when they are speaking or how is their posture. Are they smirking, smiling, frowning etc… When you talk with your child make them aware of their body language by pointing out specific details in the moment.
Introduce Small talk - practice with your child on how to conduct small talk with others. Teach them some of the basic categories or topics like the weather or similar interests which they can have brief conversations about with other people. At the same time, explain to your child that their are some hot topic issues that they should stay away from like politics or religious beliefs. By teaching your child how to engage in small talk it will give them more confidence to initiate conversation with others. In order for your child to feel more comfortable with initiating small talk or engaging in conversation they must know what are appropriate topics to bring up when approaching a peer not familiar with them.
Reinforce Whole Body Listening - to be able to demonstrate good verbal communication it is essential that you teach your child how to demonstrate whole body listening which was a term developed by Kristin Wilson. Teach your child that when they are speaking with others their hands, feet, and bodies should be calm. In addition, how their brain should be thinking about what the other person is saying and using their heart to show a genuine interest. When your child is able to demonstrate whole body listening they will better able to respond to others comments or questions. This term also can remind your child to put away any devices or distractions that might interfere with them being fully engaged in dialogue.
Review appropriate questions - to help your child improve their verbal communication skills, it would be very helpful if they learned how to ask appropriate questions for the conversation or situation. When your child demonstrates the ability to ask thoughtful questions, it shows the person they are speaking with that they care and are interested in what is being said. Teach them how to ask open-ended questions which usually begins with a how, why, or what. By teaching your child how to ask appropriate questions, it will also help them learn how to extend conversations with others.
Read together. To foster your child’s verbal communication skills, read books, newspapers or magazines together as this will help them grow their vocabulary. The more your child is familiar with different words and how they are used, the more confident they will be in using them in their own speech. When reading with them, this will also give you a better understanding of the words they struggle with and a chance to help them with pronunciation. Ask your child questions about the literature you read and have them explain what is being said. This can enhance your child comprehension and ability to communicate their understanding.
Utilize the power of music. Similar to reading, allow opportunities for your child to listen to music as this will also increase their vocabulary and self-expression. Encourage them to sing and practice saying out the lyrics. This will again, help them learn different ways of expressing themselves and gives them more opportunity to practice articulating different words.
Share stories. Some of my favorite memories as a child was hearing the stories from family, coaches, and friends. When you share stories with your child, it not only teaches them literacy skills, it also models for them how to organize their thoughts and how to think before speaking. When sharing your own stories with your child, encourage them to share stories about their day, past experiences or even dreams of their future. By modeling and teaching your child how to share stories, it teaches them how to sequence, structure, and articulate their experiences
Encourage Advocating. Often times, children will act out when they don’t know how to ask for what they want or need. Next time you see your child reaching for something, or struggling with a task, stop them and ask them to use their words and model for them how to fully state what it is they might need. For example “Mommy, can I have the markers on the countertop” or ”Daddy, can you help me with tying my shoe?. Explain that we all situations where we need to request or ask the favor of someone else.
Make Manners a Habit. Teach your child how and when to use their manners. This will make them more confident using words like “please” and “thank you”. The more accountable they are held at home, the more they will use it in public or at school.
Express Thoughts and Feelings.. Often times, children will express their feelings through their body language, like smiling, folding their arms or rolling their eyes. Children might also express their feelings through their behavior like giving a hug or hitting. When you notice your child moaning or groaning, ask them to use their words to express how they are feeling. During this time, you as the parent can teach them about different feeling words that might explain their experience. For example, if you see your child is yelling and pushing another child stop them and go over what it is they can say like “Johnny, it makes me angry when you grab toys out of my hand”. To help your child express their emotions, you can also teach them to use “I” statements like “I feel” or “I think”.
Ask For Their Opinion. Give opportunities for your child to offer their opinions. Often times, when asked a question, children who struggle with verbal communication will respond with “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” or “it doesn’t matter”. When this occurs explain that you value their opinion and you want them to be apart of the decision making process. By allowing your child to offer their opinion, it encourages them to have to think through what it is that they want to say. When you ask for your child’s opinion support the conversation by asking follow up questions like “why did you choose this brand of cereal”.
Play games. Engaging with your child in different board or card games can give them many opportunities to practice using their words. Schedule time for you and your child to play different games or engage in different activities together as this will help foster their verbal communication skills.
Extracurricular Activities. Sign your child up for different after school clubs, programs, or teams. If they are shy they might be hesitant but the high level of social interactions that typically occurs can really foster your child’s language capabilities.
Use conversation starters. Look up online or go to the library and find different conversation starters you can use with your child. Often times, conversation starters can be a great way to capture the interests of your child. It can be helpful with getting them more engaged in a conversation. They can be helpful for dinner time or car rides.
Introduce Journaling. Sometimes in the moment children can struggle with finding the right words to express their thoughts, feelings and experiences. One way to help your child to be more clear and concise with their speech and having them journal or writing down what it is they would like to say first. This allows them to figure out exactly it is they want to say before saying it and gives them to be aware of any confusing
Conclusion. The key to be able to get your child to improve their verbal communication skills is by giving them as many opportunities to practice. Depending on their ability and level, there are certain suggestions above that can be more beneficial than others. As their parent, be there to encourage, support and teach them the words that can guide their speech. Model for your child the language necessary to articulate their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and vision. The more they have you as a foundation, the more they will take their own risks with improving their verbal communication skills.