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A gesture, a facial expression, a precious first word. These are the very beginnings of early communication. Often subtle, these clues offer a window into your child’s world. Naturally, you want more. Communication is powerful and you want to encourage any and all forms of it! How you respond matters!

Think back to a time your child made a first request. With urgency in their tone, you hear them proudly declare “CAR!”

This is your chance!

Your child is inviting you into their thoughts. They are communicating their innermost desires, because obviously cars are EVERYTHING to them at that moment! You could meet this request and silently place the car you know they want in front of them, ending the interaction.

OR

You could capture the opportunity to keep the communication flowing! Imagine, you respond instead with, “CAR! Ooo, you want a car!” while picking up an obviously less desired truck and saying “Here you go.” Now comes the hard part.

STOP TALKING!

Your child needs the chance to respond to you, to continue the communication. To potentially say “Blue car” with a gesture instead of settling for the less desired truck. I know what you’re thinking. What if my child doesn’t say anything? What if they get upset? Sure, this might happen, OR, it might not. It is incredibly important to be playful in your interactions. Watch for cues that your child is eager and remaining engaged with you to keep the momentum going. We also would never obstruct a child’s communication like this if it was the first time they made that request.

Regardless of the response, a beautiful opportunity has been created. Maybe you notice your child’s facial expression change while you anticipate a response. Maybe they point and you choose to wait for another word. Possibly you misread their cue when they swatted at the car in an effort to communicate non-verbally. I get it; you don’t want to misstep and I totally relate! It can be overwhelming to know when to step in and when to hold back.

Communication is an artful dance made even more intricate when your child may not yet know all the steps.

If you are like most of us, eager to increase your child’s communication, try these:

 

CONNECT →

  • Lower yourself to your child’s level
  • Eliminate distractions
  • Keep your body position open and inviting
  • Increase your use of affect
  • Draw your child in with your expressions

ENGAGE →

  • Join your child in their favorite activities
  • Follow their lead
  • Mirror their actions
  • Share genuine interest in their ideas
  • Offer slight variations of the play, being careful not to veer too far from the path

WAIT →

  • Understand it’s natural to want to keep talking if your child doesn’t
  • Recognize if you are repeating yourself or asking questions
  • Commit to STOP TALKING, and that is without judgement!
  • Allow your child to be an initiator and not just a responder
  • Understand the gift of time, especially to process

WATCH →

  • Look for subtle signs of communication; a reach, a grimace, a glance
  • Observe when your child is most engaged
  • Notice what lights them up or leads to them retreating
  • Log hours reading your child’s cues; verbal and non-verbal.
  • Attend to them without the need to “do” or “fix”

WONDER →

  • Imagine what your child is thinking
  • Allow your mind to wonder about all the possibilities
  • Think quietly to yourself and grow into wondering aloud with your child
  • Ask questions only when your child is at the capacity to understand them
  • Stay curious and watch the communication grow
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