Use their name.
The sweetest sound to anyone's ears is their name. Make sure you use kids' names when you are talking with them. That can be a challenge if you have a class of 20 kids. If you have a hard time remembering names, then make sure the kids wear name tags.
But that should be a short term fix. The goal is to know their names. I have a friend who can hear someone's name one time and then remember it months later. I asked him how he did it. He said when he hears the person's name for the first time, he says it in his head 10 times over. Once he does that, he's got it.
Another idea for remembering names is to repeat their name back to them several times when you first meet them. An example would be a new kid named Jaques. When you are introduced to him, respond by saying something like, "Hey Jaques, we're so glad you're here. Jaques how old are you? Jaques what grade are you in?" etc.
One other idea for remembering names is word association. Perhaps the child's name is Rosalyn and you notice that she has on a red shirt. Associate her with R's. Red and Rosalyn. You get the idea.
Look through their eyes and enter their world.
Children haven't changed, but childhood has changed. We were doing a video shoot last weekend. There was a 4th grader in the shoot. I noticed between filming scenes, he was over using his cell phone to text people. When I was a kid, there were no cell phones. Childhood has changed.
If you have kids, it's easier to stay in their world because it's naturally part of your world. But if you don't, you have to be intentional about looking through their eyes and entering their world. What are some ways you can do this?
- Ask them what they like.
- Flip over and watch the Disney channel and Nickelodeon channel occasionally.
- Walk through the toy aisle when you are shopping and notice which toys are popular.
Talk about their interests.
If you want to effectively talk with kids, you have to find common ground. Once you know their world, you can talk with them about their interests.
I remember there was a boy sitting in the back of the classroom. He didn't want to listen and was sitting back there with his arms crossed and a scowl on this face. I went back and sat down beside him. Instead of correcting him, I simply asked if he had a PlayStation, Xbox or Wii. Bam. He immediately snapped out of the scowl and began talking with me about video games. His attitude changed and he was able to engage with the class. What happened? Instead of jumping on his case, I entered his world.
Talk with kids about their video games, favorite movies, family, school, toys and pets. Do this and you will have their attention.
Don't look down at them.
We forget what it's like to be a kid and have to stare up at the giant adult that is looking down at you. When you talk to a child, get down on and get on direct eye level with them. This simple step makes a huge difference.
Don't talk down to them.
We have a tendency to talk down to kids. This manifests itself in our voice changing to a "baby talk" tone or a "pampering" tone. I have found that kids often respond better if you simply talk to them like you would a normal person. Because guess what? They are normal people. They deserve our honor and respect like everyone else. Instead of talking down to them, talk to them just like you would anyone else.
One weekend, I was brought a 4-year-old who "didn't want to stay in class." I sat down with him and asked him point blank, "Are you a big kid?"
He quickly answered "yes." I then said, "You're not a baby. You're a big kid. Why don't you act your age and go into your class with the other big kids."
It clicked and he went into the room. If I had babied him, I think the opposite would have happened.
Of course, I am not talking about using big words or being harsh or unkind. Our words should always be spoken with love and care.
Here's the bottom line...
Kids don't care what you have to say until they know you care about them. And the way you show you care about them? All of the above. When you do these things, they will open their heart to receive what you have to say.
The floor is yours. What are some other tips for effectively talking with kids? Share with us in the comment section below.