Thursday, July 24, 2014

Teaching Your Toddler To Communicate Effectively


I am so excited about this week's topic! The past few months have been so much fun as my 18 month old has really began to communicate. She can now repeat (or attempt to repeat) nearly every word we say, and her independent vocabulary is also growing by the day. 

It is so refreshing for her to be able to tell me when she's hungry, tired, wants to read a book, use the potty, and go outside rather than her crying, whining or screaming to communicate! So how did we get to this point?

Well, it started way back when she was born. I believe the best way to teach your child to communicate is by communicating well with them. Kids learn by example more than anything!

1. Talk With Your Children Like They Are Humans. Because they are! Even though they may not have the full capacities that we do, they are still human beings who like to know what's going on. Some people may think it's silly to have conversations with a baby who has no idea what they are saying, but studies have shown that babies understand more than we realize! Tone, facial expressions, mouth formations, and volume can communicate a lot, even to a baby! Plus, the more your child is exposed to words, the sooner they will pick up on them. I have had conversations with sweet pea from the very beginning and I believe that has paid off with her communicating back at an early age!

2. Begin With Sign Language but don't stop there. I have heard many opposing views when it comes to sign language. For us, it worked wonders in teaching our daughter early communication and she transitioned so nicely into using her words as well as the signs. As early as 9 months, sweet pea has been using signs to let us know when she wants to eat, wants more, is all done, and please. This eliminated a lot of crying early on as she learned she got what she wanted a lot faster by signing. As sweet pea began to use her voice, we encouraged her to sign and speak the word with her mouth. She still signs as she says some of her words, and I don't see an issue with that!

3. Listen To Your Children. Why would they try to communicate if they are going to be ignored or shushed? Even crying and whining are forms of communication that beg to be answered. That gibberish coming out of your toddler's mouth is them trying to talk to you, so bend down, get eye-level with them and let them know that what they are trying to say is important to you, more important than your work, that text message, or dinner cooking on the stove. Once they see that their words are valued, they may start using them more!

4. Teach Appropriate Communication. I had a friend suggest a while back that I start to give sweet pea consequences for whining. I immediately replied that whining was her way of trying to communicate with me. If I punished her every time she tried to express herself to me, she would eventually stop whining, but in the process stop talking to me. As frustrating as it can be, whining is the natural transition from crying to talking. Rather than punishing for whining, or worse, ignoring it, use their whining as an opportunity to teach appropriate communication. If your child is whining because they want to eat, tell them to say "eat please" and do not answer their request until they have asked for it appropriately! This way you are not punishing them for trying to communicate, you are training them how to communicate in a less annoying way, much less annoying!

It's a long process, but these steps have paid off for us as we have a happy, very talkative toddler who knows how to express herself loud and clear. 
Oh yes, she lets us know what she wants alright!

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Colossians 3:17 
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17 comments:

  1. #1 and #3 are a big deal in our house!

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  2. Thanks for sharing these tips! My son is almost a 1 1/2 years old and the sign language is definitely coming in handy!

    Amy @ http://livinglifetruth.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks Amy! Yes, we love being able to use that early form of communicating!

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  3. Love these!!! Especially your last one on teaching them how to respond without the whining. I was so confused on what to do there but what you wrote made perfect sense! :)

    Sign Language has worked wonders on Evelynne. It has taught her so many words. When I sign with her I always say the word I'm signing. And that teaches her "Okay, there's a word with that". :)

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    1. Thanks Heather! Yes, I think sign language can even help kids talk earlier because they realize that they are able to communicate their needs at an earlier age!

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  4. I love how you point out that whining is a form of communication and they are just letting you know that they need something. Obviously, it is preferable for them to use their words, but we can't just ignore them if they cry or whine. Love your tips! :)

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    1. Thank you Hannah! Yes, I often want to block out the crying or whining mentally, but I realize that is sending my daughter a message that I'm not interested in what she's trying to communicate! It takes much more patience to teach them to use their words, but the results are worth it! Thanks for your encouragement :)

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  5. it's so true and so important to remember that they're little people and we need to communicate with them that way! I also love how you acknowledge crying and whining as forms of communication, it's hard to remember at times!

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    1. Thank you Shaunacey! It's not always easy to remember, but it's so true!

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  6. So needed this today! My little still doesn't talk much since she's bilingual - which makes it so much more difficult. She knows what she wants but can't communicate it to us! Love these tips.

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    1. Oh that does make it so much more challenging! You hang in there mama! When she starts communicating well with you, it will be worth the wait :)

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  7. Thanks for sharing the tips. My two year old is making life quite difficult. His whining and screaming is getting out of control. My daughter didn't have this same issue so it has thrown me for a loop. I am going a bit crazy. But I appreciate this reminder that he is trying to communicate and I realize that I need to be patient and communicate appropriately back to him. (Easier said than done.) Praying....

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    1. Ah yes, whining can drive you insane...it just gets ya in the right place! Patience is key, I believe. Praying for you mama! The whining won't last forever :)

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  8. I like the part about talking to your children like they are human. That is so crucial. I have always talked to my children like that. They always seemingly are curious. So while talking these are teachable moments. Children watch and model what we do. I would get so excited when I saw my toddler modeling the good things.

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  9. 4 is such a great reminder to me to embrace the ways Mia knows how to communicate with me right now, because she will learn and her ways of communicating WILL change as she grows! You're such a great momma!

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  10. Great tips! And good for me to know we're on the right track with our first little one! :)

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  11. I am totally the crazy looking mom who has a one sided conversation with her baby while grocery shopping, HA! It always seemed more natural to me than just ignoring her the whole time we shopped, and I find myself dying and being so shocked every day at how much she really does understand! It's amazing how much these tiny brains soak up!

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