We spend so much time talking to our kids.
Lecturing them about why bonking their brother over the head with a block is not a good idea.
Debating with them about whether 8:00 PM is too late for another snack.
Giving them a spiel on how to be polite at Grandma’s house
Completing a discourse on how to make a bed
Reciting the Golden Rules of our home
When all is said and done, parents can feel like they are talking in circles and going nowhere fast…
Children can easily get lost in all the language that comes at them, and
odds are, you are losing them after the first few words or statements.
So, if you need to catch your child’s attention and do it quickly (within the first few seconds of communicating with them), keep it simple, direct and clear. This is especially true if you are in the heat of a power struggle with your child. Keep your words short and clear. Your phrases should be key phrases that you use regularly and you should repeat them a few times in order to get their attention instead of going on and on in lecture format.
Here’s a quick example of WHAT NOT TO DO…
Tommy!!, what are you doing? Don’t hit the doggie on the head. Be nice to the doggie and pat her on the head nicely like this or stay away from the doggie and go play with your toys.
If we really need to get our point across without a lot of words and emotion, then
try to bring it down to a more direct approach like this:
No No Hit the Doggy
Yes Yes Love the Doggy
Yes Yes Pat the Doggy (gesturing gentle patting)
No No Hit the Doggy
Make sure to repeat the same phrase and actions every time that situation arises again. If you repeat the same phrase every time it happens, your quick key phrases will become THE STANDARD, the predictable routine, and your “policy” for the situation. Your child will come to count on these phrases as cues, and at one point, they may even begin to say it back to you before the words leave your mouth.
When you are dealing with schedules and routines, you can use the same kind of simple phrases and avoid the long drawn out dissertation that describes your schedule.
Here’s a common example of WHAT NOT TO DO:
After you eat your breakfast and put your clothes on, we are going to go to Grandma’s house, but first ,we will drive by daddy’s office and drop off something for daddy. At Grandma’s house we are going to go swimming and have fun.
Try this approach instead and add simple images drawn on a scrap piece of paper for even better communication.
First Breakfast (with image of #1 and breakfast foods)
Second Get Ready (with image of #2 and kids getting ready)
Third Drive to Daddy’s Office ( with image of #3 and card driving to Daddy’s office)
Then GRANDAMA’s to go SWIMMING! Yeahhh FUN FUN FUN ( with image of #4 and grandma’s house)
This may seem like a cold and simple minded communication style approach, and you may worry that it won’t help foster language skills in your child, but I have found that the opposite is true. When a child can clearly hear you and clue in to what you are talking about (even the brightest child), they can successfully maneuever through their day in more positive ways. In turn, this will open up more opportunity for positive language interactions with them as you read books, share stories with description and help them describe their emotions. This is not how you will talk to them all day long. You will just use this style when it is important that they listen.
Here’s one more thing to consider…
Support your simple phrases with “EXTRAS”.
-change in voice tone and inflection to catch their attention
– simple visuals (like pictures of routines or how they should act),
-sing song tones
Add all of these things so you can avoid adding… MORE WORDS!