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..."
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?"
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?