Your children need to develop great conversational skills. Not only will it help them in any occupation they choose to pursue, but it can also make them a more effective Christian. In order to serve others and share their faith, our children need to be able to communicate effectively and listen actively.
Christians can’t help others in meaningful ways if they don’t understand what the people they are serving really need. Our children can’t share their faith effectively if they can’t communicate it in a way that impacts the hearer. We aren’t reflecting God’s love to others if we speak in ways that make the other person feel unloved.
In my last post, I listed some of the basic communication skills your child needs in order to have meaningful conversations with others. How can you help your children practice these skills without making them dislike speaking to others at all? Here are some fun things you can try with your children:
- Make an appointment with a local politician, watch a political clip online or sign your older child up to page during your state legislative session. Encourage your child to observe how politicians interact with other people. Although adults may fairly question the sincerity of the interactions, politicians generally have a great understanding of the firm handshake, smile and “warm greeting”. Have younger children pretend to be a politician and greet their “voters” around your house. The “election” results can be based on the handshake, smile, greeting and sincerity of the interactions with “voters”. Have several children compete against each other for the “office”. Hold as many “campaign” events as necessary to give every child a chance to win a contest. The winner of the election gets to choose what is served for dinner the next night.
- Use conversation starters around the family dinner table. You can find many lists of possible questions online. Although many of the questions would be a little strange if asked in a normal conversation, they can give your child practice in answering questions people ask of them. It can also give them practice in asking follow-up questions. When a person answers one of the questions, the others can take turns asking questions related to the answer of the original question. For example, if the person says reading was their favorite subject in school, someone may ask what the person’s favorite book was.
- Play the “Distraction” game. Two people attempt to carry on a conversation while the others try to distract them by doing crazy things in the background. The judge determines who is the first person to look away from the conversation and be distracted by the action around them. The winner is the person who can stay focused on the conversation and the other person the longest.
- Play the “Name Game”. This game is more fun when played with a lot of people, but you can also play it with a few people and some “costume” pieces like hats, coats, etc. The person who is “it” goes around the room and introduces himself to everyone there. The other players can make up a silly name or become someone else they know. After “it” has met everyone, the players mix themselves up and the person who is “it” must go around and compliment each player sincerely while using the correct name in the compliment. This could easily dissolve into nuttiness, but the object is to encourage the children to pay attention to people’s names and use those names in pleasant ways.
- There are a lot of good materials out there with specific information about communicating various topics or in particular situations. One of my favorite sources is Art of Eloquence. I have used her materials on sharing your faith with older elementary children. She doesn’t address a lot of specific theology, but does a great job in helping young people understand how to articulate what they believe while encouraging others to actually hear what they have to share. (Instead of starting an argument.) She also has a variety of communication materials on other subjects.
- Have interesting people over for dinner or meet them somewhere for ice cream. Let them know you are helping your child learn good conversational skills. Encourage your child to think of appropriate questions before meeting the person. Help your child focus the questions on a particular area of interest. Try to minimize your part in the conversation. If you should have to help your child re-start or re-focus the conversation, do it is quickly as possible and then encourage your child to continue. Later discuss what happened and what “tricks” you used to get the conversation back on track.
- Although this is not particularly fun for anyone, make it a house rule that all devices are off during family times. A set amount of time each day should be electronics free, whether it is meal times, family game time or just swinging on the porch and talking about your days. Only people expecting true emergencies (doctors on call, etc.) are allowed an exemption to peek at their phone when it buzzes, dings or sings!
Have you found other fun ways to help your children practice their conversational skills? I would love for you to share them with us in a comment below.