You’re having coffee with a neighbor when your youngster rushes in to tell you something that is very important to him. Since he’s not yet a fluent speaker and the urgency of the situation interferes with intelligibility, you don’t know what he’s trying to convey to you.
Here’s what NOT to do:
- Don’t belittle the child with criticism. ”Who can understand you when you talk that way?”
- Don’t threaten him. “If you don’t talk better, no one will ever understand you.”
- Don’t bribe him. “If you can say it nicely, you can have a cookie.”
- Don’t command him. “Say it like this so we know what you mean.”
- Don’t overprotect him. “Go out and play and we’ll talk about it later.”
What TO do:
- Echo back to him what he has said insofar as you can and replace the unintelligible part with one of the “wh” words. Youngster: “Sam broke too me ever.” You: “Sam broke what?”
- Assure him that you truly understand his feelings (even if you do not understand his speech). This is very reassuring to a child. None of us ever outgrows an appreciation for emotional support. For a child, a hug or squeeze accompanied by simple feedback is calming: “I know you are upset right now. I understand how you feel. Let’s have some orange juice and talk about it.”
Treating a child as a sensitive individual with his own sense of personal dignity which can be hurt or gratified will result in cooperative behavior.