Why taking time to have a conversation with a child matters

Category: Bookbug

Children are increasingly passive recipients of speech. Throughout the busyness of everyday life, taking the time to sit and chat to a child has become a rarity. As we spend more time on our mobile phones, browsing the internet and simply running around from one activity to the next, children are losing the opportunity to develop communication skills.

Roughly 65% of all communication children hear is purely functional. It’s directional and conveys information about what they’re about to do, what they’re expected to say or do and what they will be doing. There is rarely time to engage in conversation that reveals more about the child and the parent to deepen a relationship. Conversation becomes a tool to communicate purely about practical elements of the day. And while the practical is important it’s necessary to stop and think what this kind of communication is teaching children.


One of the biggest hazards of purely functional speech is that children are learning that the only time to speak is to convey instructions. Communication becomes devalued. It is no longer a skill which connects us to other people, but rather it is a mundane function. Purely functional speech means that children are missing out on the chance to learn new words.


This continues in school where 75% of the speech children will hear from the teacher is practical and a set of instructions aimed at the whole class. If a child is the recipient of directed speech in the classroom, it is usually not a form of praise, but instructions from the teacher.


Teachers also don’t have time to chat with pupils. If they ask a question to the class a child is given roughly 3 seconds to answer, but if they haven’t started a coherent answer by about 1.5 seconds, we move on. As adults we process the world faster and with a determined productivity.


So it would seem that children really only have time to chat to other children. Adults are busy being adults. Crossing things off our lists, making sure everyone gets where they need to go and making sure everyone has everything they need. But maybe it’s time we all just slowed down for a minute. Take time to look at a book. After you’ve read it, don’t just close it and tick that off the list of things to do, but talk about. Ask those important questions – what if the character did this? How would you feel? Because taking the time to listen to children and speak with them will re-instate communication as a function that connects us emotionally and socially as opposed to a function that conveys purely practical intentions.

Have a look at this video. It sums up basic parental communication with those phrases that every parent can’t help but use.