Did you know that the way you speak to your child can improve his verbal skills and his behaviour? Let’s find out more.
The average 12-month-old can say only a few words. However, he typically understands 50 to 100 and can easily follow one-step instructions. “By age 2, your child will know what hundreds of words mean, even if he can’t pronounce them yet, and will be capable of handling instructions with two or more steps,” says Diane Paul, Ph.D., director of clinical issues for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
And that’s not all: Experts say that how you talk to your toddler – from the phrasing of your words to the tone of your voice – deeply affects his cognitive, emotional, and social development. Check out three ways a little chitchat can make a major difference in your child’s life.
- Start A Dialogue
No doubt you already knew that the best way to get your kid to talk is to speak to him. But for an even larger payoff, engage him in conversation. Make eye contact, speak clearly and slowly, and pause to let him respond. A study in Pediatrics found that back-and-forth dialogue is six times more effective at fostering language development than merely talking.
As his speech begins to blossom, there will be more give-and-take. For instance, you can say, “Do you think this ball is heavy or light?” or “Oh, there’s a dog. What colour is it?” to get him to respond. “Simple conversations will continue to expand your child’s vocabulary.
Accentuate The Positive
Of course, you are your child’s biggest cheerleader – after all, how many times have you shouted “Yay!” when she’s thrown a ball or stacked a block tower? But you may be unintentionally squelching your toddler’s confidence by scolding her when she makes a mess or by saying things like “Don’t be such a baby!” Telling your toddler ‘No’ all the time can make her afraid to try new things. You also shouldn’t label her personality: If you describe her as shy or as a little troublemaker, she may not know what every word means, but she can tell from your expression that what you’re saying isn’t nice.
Pay Attention To Tone
What you say to your toddler is often less important than how you say it. Save the loud tones for dangerous situations, such as when your child gets near a hot stove or walks too close to the curb. By doing this, you’re sure to get his attention when it matters.
Keep in mind that positive reinforcement can play a huge role in shaping your child’s behaviour. You want to praise toddlers as much as possible, especially if you see them doing something well. Children this age love to hear, ‘I really like the way you cleaned up your toys’ and ‘Good job using the potty!’