You are the one who teaches your child to talk and to communicate. You begin doing it from the time she is born. You do it every day and with surprising frequency. You talk with her when you drive her places, when you are making dinner, when she is picking out the book she wants to have you read to her tonight, and when you tell her about grandma coming for a visit tomorrow.
You do it by asking her what things are when she is under the age of 1.
You talk about how she feels by talking about being tired, hungry, happy and sad when she is under the age of 2. This is a conversation about feelings.
You teach her about communication when she plays and shares her toys with others when she is under the age of 3. You talk together about how she felt about playing with her friend.
By the time she is 4, she will want to be involved in adult conversations you have, will be making up stories, and will discuss things that she likes or does not like.
Her communication skills are significantly influenced by her interaction with you. But your role in teaching communication and talking skills is also important.
Every time you say “no” to your child be sure not to forget the other part: “why.” Don’t just say “no” when she jumps on the bed. Tell her the other part. She needs to hear the part that talks about how easy it is to fall off and hurt herself. This makes sense.
Don’t just tell her she can’t have a snack; tell her that dinner will be on shortly, so you don’t want her eating just before dinner. She can understand the “why no food” a bit better when you explain the reason.
Don’t just say she can’t have a friend come over to play. Tell her how you have to get ready for a meeting and it won’t work for today. Explain to her that it would be fine tomorrow if that would work.
When she hears your explanation and your willingness to have a friend over another time, that is easier to hear and accept.
As parents we sometimes forget to put as much effort as we need to into our conversations with our children. Every time you talk to your child, you are teaching her new things.
A hint on whining
We each need to pay attention to how we are talking with our children. One mom had a great thought about how to keep her child from whining. She discovered that she was whining herself. When she complained a lot about her child not doing what he was supposed to do, she found that she sounded just like he did. She felt if she wanted to stop him from whining, she needed to stop herself first. You can see that she learned an important lesson about herself.
Check yourself. Are you teaching your child the wrong way to communicate.
Spend the time it takes to make your lesson on talking and communication really work. You are a very important teacher.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. For more information, email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-681-2250.