Top Tips to Get Your Children to Talk

By now, you’re a professional parent. You know how to swing into a supermarket on your way home to pick up a few groceries with the children in tow (put them in the trolley – the children as well as the groceries); you can fashion a Halloween costume out of your robe, a stick and some reading glasses and the three-second rule has long since become the ten-second rule.

Things are wonderful, everything seems to be moving along swimmingly with you and your little ones. They are eating, they are happy, toilet training has been a breeze, they are sleeping through the night but then suddenly it hits you. My child isn’t talking. You then observe other children in their class or on playdates and you begin to compare and get worried and concerned as every child seems to be chatting and talking happily. You begin to worry and think there is something wrong. Your child should be saying a lot more now not just nod or shake their head. I mean everyone else is speaking.

At this stage, parents may then ask their child’s teacher or me what we think. Have we noticed it? Does he talk at school? With his friends? Shall we see a speech therapist? Is there something wrong with my child?

In almost all cases, no intervention is required apart from a few changes to the parent’s behaviour. If a child is speaking at school and verbally interacting with peers and teachers in an age-appropriate way, then it’s best to explore how the child is using language with the parents. What I ask parents is for them to go through mealtimes with their child with me. Normally, mealtimes are the perfect opportunity for a lot of verbal interaction between parents and children.

So often, when a parent, usually a loving, caring mother, describes the mealtimes, there is one glaring fact, as the mum knows her child so well, she anticipates his every need. The child does not have to say, “May I have some water please?” or “More please?” He does not have to speak as everything is automatically given to him. Hence, he doesn’t practice using the language as there is no need too. His every need is anticipated and catered for without the need to verbalise it.

The simple fix is to wait for him to use his language to ask for whatever he needs instead of anticipating his every desire and providing it for him without him asking. When you lay the table, do not put out his cup of water, or do not lay out his spoon, or plate but wait till he asks for it. Of course, the language used will depend on his age but even if he just uses one word, “More” or “Cup” he is still speaking.

You can apply this to other things like dressing themselves. Often, children do not dress themselves as it is done for them. They just stand there and parents dress them. It’s faster and more efficient, yes, but you are denying your little one practice in the mastery of fastening zippers, buttons and Velcro; in pulling shorts up and putting shirts on. Of course, help them when needed, but let them practice doing it for themselves. They will get a kick out of being able to accomplish something and you will be happy as in the future, your child is gaining in self-help skills.

If you’ve ever seen the movie, Field of Dreams, the “build it and they will come” analogy works well – by cultivating environments and situations where children are compelled to practice their self-help skills, you are providing them with an environment where they can practice and master these skills and you will raise happy, confident and independent children.

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