Waiting: this is often difficult for parents – we want to jump right in and start directing play. But if you can train yourself to observe first, figure out what your child is interested in (or make an educated guess), then you are well on your way to becoming a responsive conversation partner. Waiting not only encourages your child to initiate interaction, it gives them time to respond to questions.
Did you know that adults typically give children only one second to respond before either repeating/rephrasing the question or providing the answer? I can believe it; I am guilty of this one with my older children big time. But expecting children to answer so quickly is an unrealistic expectation. Children, especially younger ones learning language, need much longer than one second to process the question and figure out their answer. This is a good thing; children who reflect and take time before answering have been shown to do better in school than those who respond quickly and impulsively! So give your child some breathing room; it will take the pressure off of them, give them a sense of control, and you will likely get an answer that you can build upon to further develop the conversation.
Okay, so now you have observed your child and waited for them to initiate….but what if they don’t? Initiating doesn’t have to mean that they say something to you or look at you. Their initiation doesn’t have to be directed at you. It could be something as subtle as banging two toys together. So what do you do? Two things: get down on their level so that you are face-to-face, and then do what they do. So in this case you would pick up two same/similar toys and bang them together. You may even say something such as ‘bang, bang’. Then, you would……you got it: wait! Wait to see how they respond to your attempt to engage with them.
If you have an older more verbal child you could make an observational comment about what they are doing. Remember, no questions! With a little practice, you can turn almost any question into a comment. Here are a couple of examples: Instead of: ‘What are you doing?’ try ‘Oh, I see you are (fill in activity).’ Instead of ‘What colour is your flower?’ try ‘I see you are colouring bright yellow daisies.’ Did you notice that commenting also exposes your child to a greater variety of vocabulary? Give it a try. It takes a little practice but once you get the hang of it, it will become second nature.
Wow, that was a lot! If you have any questions about the information in this blog post or any previous ones, please send me a note at http://www.kidsvale.com/contact/
More next time on what you can do to be a good conversation partner. See you then.
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