This is What You Should Not Do When Encouraging a Child to Talk and Read

Studies show that most mothers respond appropriately to their baby’s attempts to communicate. However, there are four ways of responding which do not help your child learn to speak and, later on, read. Learning to read is dependent on learning basic skills when we are babies and toddlers. You can help your child on the road to literacy by avoiding these behaviors.

1. Ignoring your infant. These mothers meet the basic needs of their baby like feeding and changing the diaper, but they do not talk directly to their infant or interact with their infant in a positive way. Infants are actually starting to learn about language when they hear their mother’s voice while they are in the womb before they are even born. Babies need infant-directed talk to continue to learn the language. Even though they can not speak themselves, they are figuring out your language by listening to you talk to them. Infants need to watch your mouth and face so they can create sounds like you do. They also need to hear the sounds which make up our language, the more the better. Because an infant’s brain is still working on the wiring of the brain to the auditory nerves, you need to speak loudly (not shouting) and clearly from about 12 inches away from their face.

2. Dominating the interaction. This mother constantly puts her agenda into action and ignores the baby’s wish to explore a particular object or concept. She will take away a toy and substitute another before the baby is finished with the first one. Even very young babies respond poorly to a non-interactive relationship with their parents. They simply shut down. Instead, if your baby is interested and happy with a toy, let her continue to explore it. When you talk with your infant, pause at natural turn-taking points in the conversation, acknowledge any grunt, ooh, or aahh as your child’s part in the conversation and continue on.

3. Using prohibitions to excess. No! Stop that! Don’t! Of course, you need to protect your child from dangerous situations. The problem here arises from the amount and negativity of the prohibitions. Children who hear lots of prohibitions also tend to get very little positive feedback. Neither condition contributes to open conversations with anyone. Instead, redirect the action and keep the negatively charged emotion out. Hey there, sweetie, don’t put that in your mouth. Mommy doesn’t want you to get hurt. Where is your rattle? Can you find your rattle?

4. Failing to engage a passive infant. You won’t help your child to learn by putting your baby in a highly constraining infant carrier and going about your own business. It’s OK when the baby is asleep, but when the baby is awake, help him explore his world. Allow your child some freedom of movement in either a playpen or a room which you have set up specifically for your baby. Your child is free to scoot, pull, and eventually crawl around and explore. A few simple toys make for good use of fingers and mouth as the baby practices grasping and releasing, feeling the object, shaking, and other body motions. Talk with your baby, sing with your baby, and play with your baby. Your baby is building the motor and language skills during this period.

Children whose parents showed none of these behaviors had larger vocabularies at 13 months than children whose parents showed any one of the above behaviors. Children are born to learn interactively and parents are their first teachers.

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