Despite having spent many years sharing my thoughts and opinions on successful communications with children, it alway gives me a huge thrill to hear about a positive outcome.
I am part of the expert team for Inspiring Parents UK and Baby College UK. Through these organisations, I was contacted by a young mother who had seen my Tedx talk “Play, Laugh, Shut Up!” on YouTube, and who was looking for advice on communicating with her one year old daughter. She felt there was little or no connection as her child failed to make eye contact and didn’t seem to be listening to her mother. Mum was also worried that there might be some underlying development issues. This was the essence of my reply:
It’s difficult for me to offer advice from a distance, but I have a couple of guidelines that might be useful to you. The first is to try and let her lead, be with her (especially on the floor) when she is playing, and watch her closely. If she makes any sound or movement, copy it back to her. Remember that she has to learn the very basics of conversation, one of which is turn taking. If she is reticent to vocalise, concentrate on the physical. Have you tried being with her in front of a mirror? Does she react to her own reflection?
Try not to panic, everyone develops at a different rate, with or without additional issues. It won’t help if you are feeling anxious as your baby will only pick up on that anxiety. Enjoy this stage of your baby's life. Enjoy the play, enjoy learning about her personality, allow yourself to play.
Two days later I received a message through Baby College that mum had followed my suggestion and said it was the first time in a year that she felt like she was actually playing with her daughter and getting a response back, with the little girl laughing with her throughout.
I share this not to blow my own trumpet, but to offer up some tangible evidence that simple techniques like this can really work. In a world full of various, sometimes conflicting, pieces of advice, it can be easy to get confused and to lose confidence. If in doubt, take a step back, be sensitive, let the child lead and they will almost always show you the best way to proceed.
I have been commissioned by Baby College to write a little something to help our young children understand the difficult times in which we find ourselves.
This is the resulting poem - I hope you enjoy it.
Here is another in my series of articles based on conversations with children, first published in Teach Early Years magazine. In each piece, I focus on one prominent theme. For this one, it’s POWERLESSNESS, which seems especially apt at the moment. My thanks to editor Jacob Stow for allowing reproduction, and if you want to know more, details of this and their other magazines and resources are available at: https://www.teachwire.net
- Is there anything you don’t like about being a child?
- You have no control because you’re not in charge. (L - male)
I interviewed this little boy with his mother and I’m sure you are well able to imagine her facial expression on hearing his reply. There was good humour in her silently letting me know that it didn’t always feel that way to her.