Instructional settings such as school tend to focus on only two aspects of language arts: reading and writing. However, most communication between people is verbal or visual, through conversation and body language. In fact, studies have shown that as much as 85% of the communication that we receive from others is through body language and only 7% of communication is verbal, so what we say is not as important as how we say it.
These verbal and visual communication channels are extremely important because they can be easily misunderstood and account for most failure to communicate.
Marriage and family counselors report that their patients’ top two complaints have to do with communication. Number one is that people don’t think loved ones listen to them, and number two is that their loved ones misunderstand what is said. Listening and observing are skills that can be practiced at home from the time children are very small.
Strange as it may seem, one of the best ways to teach observation skills is through nature study. As our children studied birds or trees or other aspects of nature and learned to recognize fine distinctions between species, they became more observant about all other facets of life too. I used to teach a nature study enrichment class to home schooling children and a common comment from parents was that their children had become more focused and observant.
Listening skills can be developed by reading short passages to a child and having the child repeat the passage back to you. Or by having a child repeat back what they think you said during a conversation.
In our grandparents’ day, children practiced elocution and debate from grammar school up. Young ladies were taught how to speak pleasantly with correct diction, and young men were trained in public speaking. Sadly, nowadays the only place you are likely to see such instruction is through the 4-H Public Speaking program.
Students mumble, slur their words, use “like” or “you know” as an introduction to every phrase, and communicate extensively with slang terms (“That, like, you know, really bums me out.”) Not only does this inability to speak correctly cause communication problems, but it causes employers untold headaches because it is so hard to find employees who use proper speech patterns and conversational skills when interacting with customers.
Our advice to you about raising children who speak clearly and distinctly and who aren’t afraid to stand up in front of a group and share: have them take a public speaking course through 4-H, provide acting lessons, or have them volunteer to be in a play put on by your local theater group.
Listening, Observing and Speaking resources
[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”0743932641″ locale=”us” height=”110″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51hhGb%2B2ajL._SL110_.jpg” width=”85″]Listening Skills for Young Children. Develop your children’s listening skills, auditory memory, and attention spans by having them follow instructions of which actions to take on a workbook page. The exercises seem so simple, but you will be amazed at the difference in your children’s listening ability after using this book.
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1568570686″ locale=”us” height=”110″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51GFMT2VSSL._SL110_.jpg” width=”73″]From Playpen to Podium by Jeff Myers teaches you how to give your children the communication advantage in every area of life. Chapters include everything from “Adjusting Your Home Environment to Focus on Communication Excellence” to “Helping Your Child Develop Poise in Social Settings” to “Communication Building Activities for Every Child.” There are also chapters on developing communication skills at each age level: infant, toddler, age 3 – 7, age 8 – 12, and age 13 and up. Each chapter has “Project Pages” with many different activities you can use to enhance communication skills. This is an excellent book that every family should use with their children. Highly recommended!
[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”0743551796″ locale=”us” height=”110″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51E0C2DVJ3L._SL110_.jpg” width=”99″]The Sound of Your Voice is an audiobook originally intended for business people, but perfect as a public speaking course for Junior/Senior Highs (Moms and Dads too). The tapes take you step-by-step through the fundamentals of good vocal technique; they help diagnose speech problems; and they teach how to modify regional dialects, get rid of annoying mannerisms, and to communicate confidently and effectively.
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1888344156″ locale=”us” height=”110″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51xgo2Du1fL._SL110_.jpg” width=”84″]Communication and Interpersonal Relationships by Dave Marks discusses the ways of speaking and body language that help reinforce the communication you have with people, that help you disagree with someone in a positive way, that help you diffuse someone’s anger, and more. Very helpful for parents to teach to their children, but can be used by Jr/Sr highs as a mini-course to improve communication skills.