Communication is vital to passing information to other people and understanding what is said to us.
Communicating, therefore, is seen as one of the most important developmental skills in young children.
Any child perceived as “non-verbal” or a “slow talker” is placed under tremendous pressure to attain the set language milestones for their age.
Communication, however, is never limited to the spoken word, and research has shown that non-verbal behaviours make up a large percentage of our daily interpersonal communication.
Therefore, a relevant question to consider is whether children should be guided to use and understand non-verbal communication more effectively rather than just emphasizing language usage?
Non-verbal communication conveys important information that is not put into words. It includes eye contact, facial expressions, hand gestures, touch, positioning and posture (crossed arms), tone of voice, or other body language movements (including intimidating behaviour).
As young children are still learning to use their language effectively, they subconsciously use nonverbal communication frequently to express their attitudes, needs and feelings.
They too quickly note if an adult’s words and actions agree. It is sad that a skill that is so well developed in a young child is left and seldom nurtured to its fullest potential.
How can a parent help to develop non-verbal communication to its fullest potential?
• Become observant of how you interact and respond to non-verbal cues in other people.
• The tone of voice is the most powerful nonverbal tool. Is your voice enthusiastic and encouraging or full of disapproval, anger, and irritation? Children copy what they see and hear.
• Eye contact is another important tool for connection and communication. Teach your child to look at someone when speaking and being spoken to. Moms and Dads should often get down to their child’s level when talking to them.
• Facial expressions and how hands are used can communicate without a single word being said. Teach your child how to be friendly and compassionate.
A better understanding and use of these skills can help relate, engage, and establish meaningful relationships.