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Conversation skills for children

Helping children develop conversation skills

  • Smile, make eye contact and use friendly greetings.
  • Talk with your partner in positive ways, and handle conflict constructively.
  • Use body language and tone of voice to show interest and attention when you talk to others.

Learning how to talk with and listen to other people takes time and practice. Some children pick this up quickly, and others might need more practice, prompts, reminders and guidance. For example:

  • Have practice conversations with your child where you take turns asking questions and listening to answers.
  • Use clear and gentle reminders when you need to.
  • Suggest how your child could begin a conversation about someone else’s interests.
  • Suggest or brainstorm what your child can say when they have to meet someone new.
  • Praise children when they’re communicating well.

Managing interrupting

  • Let your child know when it’s OK to interrupt immediately. For example, if something dangerous or urgent is happening, they should be allowed to interrupt.
  • Teach your child to put their hand on your arm if they need to say something while you’re talking. Then you can put your other hand on top of theirs to let them know that you’ve understood.

When your child gets older and you know they can wait, you can try some or all of these ideas to manage interruptions:

  • Remind your child of your family rule about interrupting. Then continue your conversation until your child says ‘Excuse me’ or uses the nonverbal cue.
  • Praise your child when they say ‘Excuse me’ and wait for you to give them your attention.
  • If you have an important call or activity that really can’t be interrupted, try distracting your child with some special toys or an interesting activity.

Dealing with talking back or backchat

  • Respond calmly and remind your child of any family rules you have about speaking politely and treating each other respectfully.
  • If your child keeps being rude, give a consequence for the rudeness.
  • Avoid laughing or giving your child a lot of attention. If you do, you might accidentally reward your child for the backchat.

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