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Help children speak up


By Dickson Tumuramye

Whenever I take my children to the clinic, I encourage them to explain their condition to the doctor instead of me doing it for them.

I do this because I know my explanation would only qualify as reported speech.

Besides, I trust that they can better help the doctor understand their problem while the doctor observes their gestures and any other non-verbal expressions, and interpret their feelings.

Sometimes, they feel I should speak on their behalves. However, I insist they should explain their pain.

Where necessary, I interject or give details, but after the child has explained him/herself. I have found this approach helpful over time.

Besides, after diagnosis and prescription, I make sure they do not leave without appreciating the services rendered to them.

This is intended to help them know that every service deserves appreciation.

It is also a sign of humility which encourages effective communication and promotes assertiveness.

What it is
Self-expression is articulating one’s feelings and thoughts through words or actions. The intention is for one to be heard and understood.

A child is given the choice of expressing themselves and conveying their authentic inner self.

In doing so, you as the parent would be working towards raising a confident child.

It should be noted that poor self-expression is not only a problem among children, but also adults. It is normally a result of not being motivated while growing up.

I have seen many brilliant people become very nervous and fail to make a point, especially while making a public address.

If children are motivated to have confidence while they are still young, they grow up to become good speakers with strong self-expression ability.

How to help them talk
Give children the chance to choose the words they use to express themselves. Do not limit what they say unless you believe what they say makes no sense.

Encourage the child to express their feelings without fear or shame, as long as it can communicate the reality of what is exactly happening in their lives.

You also have to pay maximum attention because some children tend to fake feelings.

Support them
Encourage self-expression activities at home. As a parent, you know your child(ren) very well.

You can tell each one’s strengths and weaknesses. You very well know who has a problem when articulating their issues.

Young children can use drawing, painting and colouring to express their emotions or speak their minds.
You can use games and role plays to help them bring out their feelings.

Promote poetry or creative writing among children. You can also start speaking competitions to ensure the shy and introverted ones gain the confidence to speak up in front of others.

Along the way, they learn to overcome nervousness when asked to talk.

Their self-confidence and logical reasoning can be enhanced through such self-expression activities.

Teach them
I usually tell my children to take a deep breath in case they get nervous in front of an audience.

This can be done calmly while maintaining eye contact with whoever they are addressing.

They should also be audible enough so as not to show their nervousness to their audience.

While expressing yourself, you should not stop just because you made a mistake.

Proceed confidently so as not to give the audience opportunity to concentrate on the mistake made.

I tell my children that making mistakes amidst public presentations should not stop them from delivering the message. Sometimes the public might not even notice the mistake.

Therefore, it is important to move on artistically without creating an alarm.

When children are encouraged and taught self-expression, you are sure they can speak in public anytime, be coherent and consistent in their expression, explicitly communicate their feelings, or make a speech and drive their point home.

Also, when you take children to school, do not be quick to speak on their behalf.

They should be allowed to speak confidently and respectfully to their teachers. This is part of the training.

Always give room for children to express their emotions even when you are not comfortable with what is said to you.
Appreciate the fact that they have dared to communicate with you.

This should make you the suitable person to give appropriate feedback that maintains the relationship between you and the children.

The writer is a child advocate, parenting coach, and founder-Men of Purpose.


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