Talking to the kids

Lost in translation…

Have you ever tried to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak your language? It can become an entertaining game of charades or a confusing and frustrating mess. The same is true of our kids. Language can be a frustrating barrier for them. Most preschool kids who have language delays also have disruptive or aggressive behaviour. It makes sense. They might be incredibly frustrated too.

Learning language

Babies learn language by listening and interacting with people. They can’t pick up new words from TV shows, language apps, or even audio programs. Toddlers learn in the same way. This makes talking to your child incredibly important. Yet the number of words a child hears varies significantly from family to family. By age 3, some kids will have already heard 30 million more words than other kids. Simply talking to your baby is one of the best ways to prepare them for school success. Studies show we are more likely to talk to our kids when we turn off the other background noise (radio/TV/etc.).

Another excellent way of developing your child’s language skills is to read books together. You don’t even need to stick to the story line. You can ask questions about the characters, hunt for colours, or interact in any way that seems like fun to you. The quality of these interactions is a predictor of school success. It teaches abstract thinking (how, why) and gets kids interested in reading.

Talking and books are important. But what you talk about and how you communicate also teaches your child about the world. It teaches them what is/is not ok to talk about. They learn if truth or politeness is more important. They even learn about trust.

Nonverbal vs Verbal Communication

As you already know, babies can pick up on emotions and toddlers on facial expressions. And they know when something is out of sync. Dr. Edward Tronick did an experiment with babies and parent reactions. He showed just how important the parent’s reaction is to the baby. You can find a video of the experiment by searching for “Still Face Experiment”. They start with showing the parent and baby interacting. Then, when mom (or dad) keeps their face neutral, the babies become increasingly agitated. In a second experiment, Dr. Tronick showed that it’s not the neutral face that causes baby to get upset. Anytime the parent’s reaction doesn’t match the situation, the baby gets upset.

Other researchers have shown children need consistency between words and nonverbal messages. If you use angry words with a smiling face, your child will be confused. They won’t know which to believe. So whenever possible we need to be consistent – what we are sharing verbally and nonverbally should match.

This week we are going to be digging into language. We’ll be looking at the language we use with our kids and how it can make life easier – for parents and for kids.

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