It can be difficult to respond to a child’s first attempts at communication when it sounds as if she is speaking an unknown language. How do you turn your child’s first attempts at communication into recognizable words?
Listen for sounds that are repeated in a given context. For example, if your child says “mmmmmm” whenever she holds up a cow, consider that a “moo” and respond to it as such. Simply repeat what it was you think she was telling you and acknowledge it or comment on it. “Oh, yes, the cow says ‘moo’.” The key is to treat it as conversation, not insist that she say each sound in each word correctly.
As children learn to express themselves, they incorporate combinations of pointing, grunting and jabbering to tell you what they are asking for. When these attempts at conversation are encouraged and responded to, the child learns that communication has value. Words can manipulate a child’s world.
Often times, a child’s frustration is compounded by not being able to communicate what they wish to say. If you have an idea of what a child might want, offer two choices–even better if those are something you can show (milk or juice, cereal or toast) and let the child choose.
Rest assured that when a child is better able to communicate what his needs and wants are, the tantrums that are associated with the “terrible twos” often decrease. While you are waiting, keep listening and encouraging.
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