Your Experiences as a Language Student can help your kids learn to talk

It’s amazing how you can make yourself understood with very few words when you really need to. Knowing just the words for ‘where is’ ‘I need help’ and a few nouns for everyday objects I could get myself out of most mishaps in Central America when I was travelling.
So I look at my toddlers situation in the same way. He knows these basic phrases and has a good understanding of names for everyday things. So I try to use what he knows to have concise but meaningful communication.
we have a lot of conversations between us that sound like repetitions – “where’s the car?” “It’s there” etc but I gradually include new words, for eg, it’s under there, it’s gone, or if the situation seems right I might introduce a new phrase ‘I don’t know where it’s gone?’ I only do so when I know my toddler is really familiar with the meaning of the surrounding words and phrases and the context. Then we bring this new phrase into our conversation and repeat repeat repeat. Using body language and facial expressions he gets the meaning. We use games to make it fun, we hide things and ask “where’s it gone?” We then apply his new words and phrases when he needs to express himself. For eg. You’re a hungry boy. Where’s your dinner? It’s in the kitchen. Let’s go to the kitchen”
It can be painstaking and my husband has asked me how I manage to keep up this kind of conversation all day without getting bored. But my little budding student is gaining so much confidence and it’s thrilling. As we climbed downstairs after his nap the other day he suddenly throws his teddy down and says to me “it’s there, go get it!” I was amazed he had learnt a new phrase. He’s only eighteen months but he has the building blocks for conversation and he’s so happy about it.
Once he has a new word or phrase under his belt we apply it to as many situations as we can. I know he understands ‘mummy help you’ because I say it when he brings me his Lego to help him, so I use this word wherever I can. For eg, when I said mummy help your nose he all of a sudden allowed me to wipe his nose when previously it had upset him. This made me realise that learning to communicate verbally really impacts a child’s understanding of what is happening to him and around him. The sooner we can do this the better.
I really believe that backing up the things that happen around us with verbal explanations that children can understand, helps give them a sense of inclusion and control in a world they are just beginning to make sense of. I can empathise with the sense of not being able to communicate from my times spent traveling parts of the third world where nobody spoke English. We can all remember what it was like being in a language class where we couldn’t keep up! As well as everything being new to a toddler, they have this to deal with. Looking at it this way can help us really get involved in helping them learn to communicate using basic words and phrases and really bringing our conversation down to their level of understanding. There is so much you can actively do to help your little one learn to talk!

Tantrums – why the goal isn’t to stop them but to acknowledge them

Just imagine that every time you feel upset, annoyed, bored, cross or worried, your partner would say “it doesn’t matter” “come on, you’re making too big a deal of this” or “look I need to do something else right now, I can’t listen to you”! Imagine that you didn’t have the tools to figure out what you were feeling on your own and that the things you were talking about were a really big deal to you. Do you think you would become more upset and anxious? We all would!
Essentially a tantrum is a child’s immature way of expressing their feelings. According to Adele Faber, author of ‘How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk’ the best way to deal with children is to acknowledge their feelings and give them a name. So for eg. You’re feeling sad because Daddy left for work. You’re feeling jealous because your baby brother is taking Mummy’s time. I read her book whilst pregnant. She says her methods work better than all the yelling and pleading in the world, something I’m keen to avoid.
So one day when my baby who is really only just a toddler and starting to speak at 18 months started to scream when Daddy left for work, instead of ‘its ok darling’ or ‘let’s play lego’ I said ‘yes it’s sad when Daddy leaves for work isn’t it. You miss him. You feel sad. Come on let’s cuddle.’ I have no idea how many of the words he understood but it worked. I think he appreciated my understanding tone and patience and I’m glad because that lays the foundations for good communication between us. And the tantrum stopped!
I’ve continued to use the method and have seen the look of ‘oh ok, she understands’ and ‘oh ok so this is a thing’ in my toddler’s eyes and although the tantrum may not immediately disappear, it does not escalate. I believe respecting a child’s feelings, and taking a few moments to help them learn what is going on inside them is their right just as teaching them the names of colours, shapes and words. It may not be so enjoyable but it certainly will pay off to have an emotionally intelligent person developing in our home who will gradually be able to figure out their own feelings. And in years to come they will hopefully become individuals who recognise their feelings and deal with them in a healthy way, rather than impulsively acting on feelings of rage or hurt.
Of course there are times my little boy does need to be distracted from something upsetting and times when we are in a hurry.
But on the whole so far I find Adele is right, and I hope what she says about kids responding by opening up will also happen in our home.