Every baby is a gift, even if the wrapping is a little different.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sharing Control

The next idea in Play to Talk by James MacDonald and Pam Stoika is to share control with your child.

As adults, we tend to dominate conversations and take control of situations, especially with children. Kids who are late talkers may be intimidated and instead of contributing to a conversation will allow the adult to dominate. In order to encourage late talking kids to participate, we need to allow them to control the conversation or lead the play 50% of the time. Maybe we don't want to talk about SpongeBob or play Barbies but if we allow the child to control what we do or talk about half of  the time he or she will be more likely to participate.

As a mother of ten, I've found that what my kids find interesting and what I find interesting are usually worlds apart. They don't want to talk about plotting, characterization, or story arc and I generally don't like to dissect cartoons, but if I want to reach my son and encourage him to talk, I need to be open to what he wants to talk about, including SpongeBob (which I think makes kids' brains fall out their ears).

Instead of asking questions all the time (something I do regularly to initiate conversations with my older kids) the authors suggest that we limit questions to only 20% of the time and use the rest of the conversation to make comments. They also suggest allowing the child to take the lead 50% of the time so that the child feels in control and feels like an active participant.

I know I'm guilty of being too bossy. It's so much easier to direct everything, but it's not helpful to always tell my kids, especially my son, what to do. I can be a control freak--I like everything under control and I like to know what's happening, when, where, how, etc. I need to work on that.

Here's a suggestion:

Try commenting on what the child is doing without asking questions and be sure to match the language level of the child. Try this 5 times a day for about 5 minutes each.

The point of this book, and what parents of speech-delayed children are hoping, is to encourage verbal communication. My son can communicate almost anything. He picks up signs so easily, but the world we live in doesn't cater to signs and since he's capable of speech I need to do what I can to encourage him to use his verbal skills.