Talking to children: initiate, narrate and elaborate

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It should not come as a shock that it is parent-to-child communication which actually teaches children to speak, not just to utter words, but even the fine art of conversation. Though many parents speak to their children often, there is a marked difference in the types of conversations that occur most frequently. Studies have shown that the more parents talk to their child, the greater the child’s vocabulary. The more creative the parents’ speech, the more the child learns about language and the more varied the child’s speech. Recent findings have validated what mothers have instinctively known: babies recognize their mother's voice and are learning and understanding long before they utter words!

It is through a daily narration that parents, particularly stay-at-home mothers, teach their children a great deal about their surroundings. There is a marked difference in the IQ of children who are exposed to constant, creative narration and children who are raised without it. Parents, particularly homeschooling parents, often take advantage of what are often referred to as teachable moments. Simply put, these passing moments are opportunities to talk to children about various things in a relaxed manner—while going through the motions of everyday activities. Language is often best learned in a relaxed manner. Though small children have yet to study grammar, write essays, or engage in formal debates they are capable of correct speech, able to dictate stories and, most certainly, can engage in informal debates! How do they learn all of this without books? Children learn from listening to their parents and siblings on a day-to-day basis. Children are simply soaking up the daily narration of their lives.

While speaking and conversing comes naturally to some parents, to others it is often a daily challenge.  It has been said that, “Communication is depositing a part of yourself in another person.” Your daily deposits in your children will reap benefits in years to come…not just in teaching speech and communication, but in building strong relationships with them. Here are some hopefully helpful ideas for various ages—in a nutshell: initiate, narrate, and elaborate!

  • Narrate your activities with creative language.
  • Talk to your babies from the womb and up.
  • Pray with your children daily.
  • Sing to your babies and small children.
  • Talk about God and point out the wonders of His creation!
  • Talk in “motherese,” that special voice mothers use to communicate with their babies!
  • Talk to babies and toddlers, narrating your activities continually throughout the day.
  •  Initiate conversation with your children.
  • Engage babies in discussions, even before they can respond fully, assume they can understand you!
  • When babies begin to talk, repeat the words they try to say, pronouncing them correctly each time the baby voices them. Example—child says, “me see lellow duck.” The parent smiles and responds, “Do you see a yellow duck. Mama sees the yellow duck, too. What does the yellow duck say?”Elaborate!!
  • Respond to any babbling attempts and question what the child is trying to express, based on the context, making suggestions about what they may be trying to communicate. Example—child is babbling and pointing at an animal. The parent says, “Do you see the pretty bird? What does the bird say?” “CHIRP!!”
  • Continue to repeat back their words and statements, using correct pronunciations and grammar throughout their childhood. This is the easiest way to teach correct grammar and to build your child’s vocabulary.
  • Make opportunities to speak to your children throughout the day!
  • Tell them that you love them often and pray with them daily. Listen to their prayers.
  • As children reach adolescence and young adulthood, continue talking to them as you do chores together.
  • Be available for any questions or just to chat. Make yourself fully approachable so your children come to you naturally with their questions.
  • No matter how disinterested you may be in various pursuits, listen to your children when they talk about things that interest them. You may end up listening to countless strategies about video and computer games, details about books from less-than-favorite genres, trivia about various topics that you may have never researched yourself. This is a beautiful way to show our love to our children: show an interest in what they share because it interests them. This is an effort, at times, but will reap rewards!
  • Discuss the many books you read aloud to your little ones. For more information on reading to your children, consider “Instilling a Love of Reading.”
  • Read some of the same books your children and young adults read. Discussions about favorite books can provide hours of stimulating discussions. This can be said for listening to the same music they listen to and watching movies that interest them. This can be the foundation of wonderful discussions.
  • Use discussions to teach various academic concepts. One can learn a great deal about analyzing literature from simply discussing favorite books. The more you do in relaxed conversation, the less structured work will be required to “get the job done” academically.
  • Eat together as a family, enjoying table conversation with your meals! Encourage deep discussions!
  • Encourage your children to talk about various topics by questioning them about what they think and feel.
  • Make sure that your children feel free to share what they are thinking and feeling, even if it is not exactly what you would like to hear.
  • As your children learn to speak always be careful to LISTEN, make certain that you are not always the one doing the talking.
Category: Musings
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