Thursday, March 22, 2012

Intelligent Baby Babble


Close-up view of a baby with its hand in its mouth

After having seven children, I've developed a good idea of how to communicate with little ones. Especially new toddlers.

My daughter is now 18 months old and is your typical, Miss Trying-To-Be-Independent, but naturally, isn't quite there yet. She requires constant supervision as many 18-month-olds do. And is constantly trying to touch and play with things that are inappropriate for her. I was explaining to my ten year old daughter a concept of communication and the perception a new toddler has, and I thought I'd share it here, revamped and revised for parents, with "big people" words of course :).

REMOVING AN ITEM FROM A CHILD
Assess the situation. Is the item dangerous and must be removed immediately? If so, safety is always a priority over tears. Extract the item quickly and safely as possible. You many need console the tears with a soothing back rub or replace the item with something safer. If this fails, distract your child by leaving the situation (room) and introducing another playtime concept. Creativity is always required. My eldest child loves to whip out her cell phone, play music and bounce baby girl on her hip.

If the item does not propose any immediate danger, but needs to be removed. Give your child an option to hand it over, by asking.

The point in asking is giving your child the sense of independence they are looking for at that age.
Now the key to getting a child to hand something over willingly,  is tone and building behavior-awarding habits. It's important to get the child to look directly in your eyes, by bending down to their level. Ask very firmly with a smile, and your hand out, "May I have that please?". You can reinforce your question by pointing to the object and pointing to your open hand. Ask at least two more times with the same tone, insistent, but friendly. If the child hands it over, immediately say "Yay, good job!". Clapping all the while with a huge smile. Sometimes, I even sing a song. Completely made up and personalized with their name. Remove the item completely from their line of vision. You may need to create a distraction as they may change their minds about giving up their "toy".

Close-up of a baby's face, looking off to one sideIf the child refuses, extract the item quickly (no tug of war), and still offer praises as if they handed it over freely. When you extract the item, quickly remove it from the child's line of vision. Crying may commence, but after a few more episodes of this, they will recognize the pattern of handing things over and being praised for it. You can also involve other members of the family in praising the child when they hand over items of their own free will.

I'm blessed to have such a large loving family. My older children love to get involved in praising and encouraging the younger ones. 18 months may seem too young, but I have seen it time and time again, children understand MUCH more than they are given credit for. The younger you teach a child how to follow simple instructions, the easier it will be when they are older toddlers and children. The smoother it will be for moms and dads to manage their children's safety with ease.

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