As many of you know, I attended a fabulous training course for work a couple of weeks ago. The course wasn't so much new material, but a concise, parent-friendly method of packaging a lot of what us Speech Pathologists are often going on about...
One thing that really struck me in the course, and, something that I have not given enough emphasis to in previous parent-training, was the importance of allowing our children to initiate.
We often think about the quality and quantity of language that we are modelling to our children (too much? too little? too complex? too simple?). But sometimes, we are so concerned with what we are doing when we interact with our children, that we forget to allow them opportunities to initiate.
Do any of these sound familiar?
"Sam, come to mummy. Let's read. Here's your book. Look, a duck book. Quack quack. What does the duck say? Quack Quack. No, don't touch that one. Look over here. Where is the duck?...."
"What's this one? What colour is it? Where is the duck? Show me his feathers. What does the duck say?..."
"Look, here comes the ducky... quack quack... the duck is going to get you... the duck wants some worms... ohh, yum yum..."
"Uh-oh. You dropped your drink. Here, mummy will get it. Put it back here. Mummy will hold it..."
"Quick, quick. Get those shoes on. We have to hurry. We'll be late for play-group. Lets go"
6) Watching/ Commentating
(from the sidelines) "Oh, you've got your truck. That's great. Are you putting your blocks in the truck?"
There is nothing wrong with any of the above, in the right place. I do all of these from time to time. Sometimes my kids need more direction. Sometimes they need me to help. Sometimes we need to be somewhere on time. Sometimes I find them playing well, and comment, without joining in their play.
But the problem is when we are always directing, or always watching, or always helping. We do not allow our children the chance to initiate, and therefore, we do not get opportunities to respond to our children's communication. When our children initiate and we respond, their desire to communicate increases more and more. When our children initiate and we respond, they get information about what they are interested in, and their focus of attention - our children need this information to continue to improve their communication skills.
Instead of directing, testing, entertaining, helping, moving or watching, trying tuning in more frequently. Observe your child, listen to him/her and wait until he/she initiates... You are likely to find that this will impact not only your interactions and relationship, but your child's language skills and behaviour too.