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Are we losing communication skills?

Posted on 13 July 2012

Before the days of mobile phones, texting, computers, internet access, game consoles and endless television channels what did people do?  The answer is that they used to communicate face to face.  They used to sit down and have a family meal together at the end of the day and talk about what happened at school and work.  If you wanted to talk to a friend you had to phone them and often speak to the person who answered the phone and ask if you could speak to them.  Children would play interactive games with their siblings. Parents would sit on the floor and play with their children.  Parents would take their babies out for a walk in the pram that faced them and Parents would talk to their children.

In this modern world of instant messaging, internet access and texting there is something missing.  The need to talk, face to face, and take turns in a conversation. Is it any wonder that our children are having difficulties communicating?

5 Key Communication Tips:

  • Talk to your child - Children learn from the words they hear.  One Mum once said to me I don’t know where he gets that bl***y bad language from!  Some children hear a word once and are able to repeat it and then use it themselves in conversation.  For other children they may need to hear the word repeated many times and in different contexts.  The majority of a child’s brain development happens between the ages of birth and two years.  As new sounds are learnt, the learning connections in the brain become stronger and multiply, if these connections are not used enough they may be lost.  Talking to your baby and child is the best way for them to learn and absorb new words. 
  • Be a good listener - Before we can learn to talk we have to know how to listen, after all this is the way in which we are going to learn new sounds and words.  Tune into your baby, when they coo or babble, stop and listen.  Look at your baby, make good eye contact and then respond just as you would in any 2 way conversation.  To your baby you might say, ‘that’s a great story you are telling me’.  Children want what they say to be validated and acknowledged, by doing this we give them the confidence to want to communicate more. By listening to what your child has to say, not only are you building their confidence, but you can then also use those opportunities to expand on their utterance or model the correct sentence/word if an error was made.  Child “I gotted a sticker at school today”.  Listener “Wow you got a sticker at school today, you must have done something really good”. 
  • Be a good model - As children are learning to talk it is common for them to make mistakes as they learn new words, just as adults do when learning a foreign language.  Whilst some parents may think that this is really cute, unless the correct word is modelled back to the child they are going to get to nursery or school and still not know the real work for “dinky” (drink) or “baba” (bottle or blanket).  Without telling your child that they are wrong, you can model the correct word for them.  Child “I want my baba”.  Adult “you want your blanket, lets get your blanket, here’s your blanket”,  Some children may need to hear the word a few times before they then say it correctly, remember to speak clearly and correctly.  Demonstrate and model your listening skills to your child by listening to them and others. 
  • Praise your child - Children thrive on praise, it helps them to feel good about themselves, build self esteem and confidence.  As a baby, praise may be earned for smiling, saying “mama” or good behaviour which will, most likely, make the child want to do it again.  As children get older praise should be descriptive, for example when your child has just finished doing a jigsaw puzzle instead of saying “well done you are so clever”, say to a younger child “you did all the pieces, that was great” or to an older child “I like the way you kept trying until you got all the pieces in the right place”.  When talking about school work, remember to praise the effort that was put in to the revision of the test rather than praising the outcome.  Instead of saying “you are so clever” say “you really worked hard for that test. 
  • Know what to expect from your child - By having realistic expectations of our children’s language, play, social, behavioural and physical development, we should be able to seek help when it is necessary.  It is very easy to compare to other children or siblings but not all children learn to walk or talk at the same age.  If you are unsure about whether your child is following the recommended guidelines for development, contact your health visitor or Speech and Language Therapist.


Tamar Pearlman, Speech and Language Therapist - Employees Matter