Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Communication Skills

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Yesterday, my doorbell rang and I went to the door to find three good looking teens that I had never seen before.

Without any introductions, the boy that seemed to be the spokesperson for the group said, "Do you have an egg?"

Perplexed, I answered slowly, "Yyyyyesssss..."

Long pause...

He finally got the hint that it was his turn to talk again, so he said, "We are doing a scavenger hunt and we need an egg."

Me: "Oh! Really? How fun! Are you doing this with a youth group?"

Him: "no"

Long pause...

Me: "So you just woke up this morning and decided to have a scavenger hunt?"

Him: "We are doing a scavenger hunt and we need an egg."

I finally gave up any attempts at communication and went to get the egg. The whole thing reminded me how important it is to encourage children to communicate effectively.

Here are some ways I do that:

When we go to the store, the children are allowed to bring their own money to buy candy (which is the only way they get it.) I stand by, encouraging them to communicate with the cashier instead of doing it for them. I sometimes have to prompt them to say, "I am paying for this separately." or "I don't see a price for this. Will you tell me how much it costs, please?"

When we go to the library, each child uses his or her own card. I have them talk to the librarian with any questions or concerns. If they are confused about which books are overdue, I prompt them to ask about it. If they would like to recheck a book, they must tell the librarian themselves. I don't do it for them.

I have them make phone calls whenever I can. Sometimes this can be to RSVP for parties or reschedule piano lessons. I go over a practice conversation with them before they make the call.

These are simple things to do that will help even young children feel confident in communicating with adults.

Admittedly it takes longer to let a five year old pay for her own candy or recheck her own library books, but those extra minutes aren't wasted. They are preparing her to interact with her world independently.

And not go door to door asking strangers for eggs with little to no explanation.

What do you do to encourage your children to develop good communication skills?


Lora Lynn @ Vitafamiliae said...

ooo, good ideas. but my kids can't see over the library counter!

Brenda said...

I'll have to push the little one, but my 9 year old reserves her own books at the libary. I'll just look up and there she and the librarian go doing goodness knows what. I send them to get re-fills at the fast food place--when you have to ask for them. I send them to ask for mild sauce or whatever. Even my 5 year old will do that while I watch and wait. And they take about 400 messages down the street to my parents every week!

karen b said...

good thoughts, connie. we started out having our kids order their own meals in restaurants. many kids tend to only hear the oversimplified rule of "don't talk to strangers" when what they really need to learn is how to distinguish between adults who are helpful (waiters, store clerks, librarians) and those who might be harmful...i see it as a safety issue as well as a social one...

Amy said...

That is such an important thing. We are still at the point of making sure we look at people in the eye and respond to their greetings and questions, usually at church or other places we go regularly.
I like your ideas!

Shari said...

Thank you for posting this. I now realize that I need to teach my children how to communicate better. May I print these out or write them down?

Kara said...

Oh, I'm still laughing over the kid wanting the egg. I would cringe when some of my students would just stand at my desk and look at me like I just knew what they needed.
My girls love to order their own food and have been buying their own items with their money. We're working on the phone skills, like when you call someone to say "Hi this is Kara may I speak with..."
Okay, I'm babbling. But I agree it's just really important for our kids to be able to communicate!

Aunt LoLo said...

lOVE IT! When I was a kid, my father had a script for us (all five of us kids) to use when the phone rang. It went something like this:
(Name changed to protect...well, anonymity, I guess)
"Hello, Jones residence. This is Sally speaking. May I ask who's calling?"

Oh, and if I took a message for my father, he would make me call the person back, wait for them to pick up, and then say, "Please hold for Mr. Jones."

That one always cracked him up. I didn't think it was so funny. ;-)

Kim said...

This is such a great reminder. I think that parents often forget the vital skill of communication and how to teach and enforce those skills daily.

When my girls were small and painfully shy, we had a greeter at our church who gave out candy and held the door. My oldest at the time (about 4) refused to say thank you but would gladly take the candy.

Um. No.

We made her march back and hand the candy over. It only took a week of forgoing the goody before she found it worthwhile to utter the itty-bitty "thank you" ;)

The whole eye contact and body language issue is huge thing too. So many kids at the middle and high school level struggle with this and it gives off such a disrespectful attitude, even without meaning to.

Thanks :)

Kendra said...

Great tips! I do some of these but need to incorporate more...

I don't know how you let that guy walk away with your egg and no other info. I'm still curious about the story behind the hunt!

Nikki said...

Oh great post! I have a personal pet peeve about certain family members that mumble and when asked to explain just clam up. I can see how painful it is for them with what seems to me to be basic communication skills. I thought perhaps it was that they are much more introverted than my side of the family. But I think it's much more than that. I think it's lack of training.

Thanks for the ideas on how to prep my own children.

Jenn said...

i agree with kb entirely. we let our kids order for themselves, too. we also, when they are older around 8 and sometimes with a lot coaxing have them order and pay (we give them money)for themselves at chick-fil-a or mickyd's when we are inside. i am a biggie on telephone etiquette. if you are able to speak to someone on the phone properly ie without them looking at you it's great practice when they ARE looking at you. :o)

Abigail said...

I LOVED this post! I can't believe you just gave them the egg though! :)

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