Growing a child who is comfortable and confident in speaking and listening to adults will benefit your child in the future. I have noticed that some of the most successful students are the ones who possess the ability to speak openly and directly to their teachers and administrators. Develop active listening skills early. Just like an instrument or a sport, kids who practice these skills at a young age will have an advantage and will be remembered for their mature conversational skills.
Eye contact can go a long way in building confidence children need. Teach your child to always look people in the eyes when talking to them. The more comfortable children get with eye contact, the easier it will be as they get older to engage in conversation with a variety of people. Eye contact is not only polite but can also help keep focus when listening to a speaker.
Speaking of listening, we should all listen more than we speak. Listening doesn’t just mean being quiet; it is thoughtful acknowledgement that what the other person is saying is important and has value. Everyone wants to be heard when they speak, but that begins with listening to others as they speak. Oftentimes, kids’ conversations become an overlapping mess when they all talk on top of one another. Listen to how your child talks with his or her friends and remind them that what everyone has to say is important, so wait your turn to talk.
Eye contact, thoughtful listening, and waiting to speak are all skills that take practice. Take the pressure off your kids when they are speaking with adults by focusing on a few of these habits at a time. Praise your child when they exhibit these skills on their own without being reminded, and over time, well-developed social skills will become second nature.