BRAG ALERT! On the way home from school recently my oldest son was telling me about his day. He was describing a situation with one of the teachers at his school and said:
“She’s different than all of the other teachers. She’s not mean. I wouldn’t call it mean because she is fair, but she is… well… intimidating”.
I was so proud of him for taking the time to articulate his thoughts and observations. So many times it’s easier to throw out the word “mean” because even a toddler knows that word, but to really process whether it was simply being mean or something more complex takes a lot of maturity and I commended him on that. I am proud of how my kids can speak out and express themselves. Every single one of them at some point was labeled as “strong-willed” by someone with an opinion, to which I eventually just rolled my eyes (at least internally). It’s easy to be frustrated with a child that isn’t super compliant when you want them to be, but there are so many benefits to raising a strong-willed child and I believe one of them is that they are more inclined to articulate their thoughts and needs. The key is teaching the appropriate and most effective ways to do this. So in this article I would like to explore 10 ways to help your child become more articulate.
Don’t Dumb Down Their Vocabulary
It’s okay to use big words with young children, just make sure you are explaining those words and that they have an understanding of what you are saying. There are so many great resources for how to implement this, such as the picture book “Big Words for Little People” or the books or show “Fancy Nancy“. I also give an example in number four on this list.
2. Early Intervention therapy is a blessing
Please hear me out, when I write about raising articulate kids this isn’t coming from the queen of high tea. I’m the messy mom, so let’s keep it real. THREE of my four children have had speech therapy/early intervention. As someone who had to fight hard for my deaf daughter to be able to communicate, I understand the value of intervention and giving kids the tools they need to advocate for themselves and articulate their thoughts ideas, and feelings. There is absolutely no shame in reaching out for help if your child needs. It is also important to recognize that effective self expression can present itself in many different ways.
3. Give opportunity for the child to speak
I just wrote a blog post about intentional pausing to allow children the opportunity to process, ponder, and respond. Even with my husband I will literally look at the clock and make sure I wait at least a minute to let him finish his sentence before I jump in. Sometimes he pauses for so long I think he is finished but he isn’t. He is an introvert and his brain takes longer to process things (this is not a slam against intoverts, it can definitely be a benefit).
Whether introverted or not it is important that we allow a space/break in conversation for our children to articulate their thoughts.
Research continues to show that the more children are exposed to reading, the richer their vocabulary becomes. I like what scholastic says about using books for vocabulary boosters
“Put as much expression as possible into your reading. When you come to a word that is sophisticated, draw it out. Take the word “scrumptious,” for example. Say it slowly as part of the sentence and then add a comment like, “Scrumptious. Hmm, that means really, really good. Look at that apple pie. It sure looks scrumptious to me.”
5. Get them in front of a crowd
I am a believer in using public speaking as a way to build a child’s confidence. It teaches a child important life skills such as how to speak with clarity, conviction, and confidence! Whether it is at school, church, a play, or some other creative method, find ways to give your child an opportunity to speak in front of a crowd.
Talking out loud and narrating what you are looking at or doing is especially important for babies. You might be at the grocery store with a baby in the shopping cart and you start explaining everything that is happening. “Let’s go over to the bananas. I am going to pick out a big bunch of bananas. This one looks nice and yellow. These bananas are going in the cart!
It doesn’t stop with babies though, it just changes a little. You may not be narrating anymore, but it is still important that our kids hear us express ourselves and observe how we interact with our spouses, their teachers, or even when we are going through difficulties.
7. Congratulate and encourage
I used the example of my son describing his intimidating teacher. I was able to commend him for choosing his words carefully. Another example was at a Doctor’s visit. The pediatrician made sure they directed the questions at my child and allowed him to answer. After describing his feelings the Doctor said “You speak well for yourself. That’s important.” That happened years ago but the value of it has always stuck with me.
8. Ask open ended questions
It’s so easy to ask yes or no questions and allow our kids to keep it short and sweet, but if we really want to know how they are feeling it’s better to prompt a discussion. Here is a list of examples.
9. Limit screentime
I think it’s even more difficult to raise articulate children these days than in years past because teenagers and kids are spending so much time online or texting. Meanwhile, their communication skills are plummeting! A way to combat this is by having boundaries and limitations on their screen time. I know some kids get phones for emergency situations and such, but I think we need to take a great deal consideration in how early we introduce the use of digital interaction (texting, DMs, or social media).
10. Teach Them the Power of Words
For our family, as Christians, we are teaching our kids what the Bible has to say about the words we choose. For example:
Proverbs 20:15 Wise words are more valuable than much gold and many rubies.
Proverbs 18:21 Your tongue has the power of life and death. Those who love to talk will eat the fruit of their words.
Those are just some of the ways that we can help our children to clearly and appropriately express their thoughts. Even with all of those tips though I think the most important way is leading by example and then having listening ears when our children are trying to tell us something.