Parenting young children takes a lot of effort and hard work. There are long days and endless nights sprinkled with meltdowns, fickle appetites, laughter, and rushes of pure joy watching your child reach developmental milestones. Being a parent is one of the few occupations where you will literally feel every possible emotion out there—all within a 24 time period! Remember, however, you’re not the only trying to navigate through an emotional gauntlet each day; so is your child. When you feel like you are at your wits end, keep in mind that there is a child watching you and taking in data from the behavior you are exhibiting. When you are feeling at your best, again, your child is watching you and trying to make sense of how and why you’re emitting such energy. The hard part for young children is being able to identify and decipher emotions. This is where our communication skills as parents steps in to the rescue to support brain building in everyday interactions and conversations. Below are two ways to easily enhance communication with your child to encourage brain building.
Practice private speech. This is a concept by Lev Vygotsky where young children sort of talk to themselves as they play. Many adults still do it (I do!), as a form of self-guidance and staying focused. Make it a habit to put into words your actions and your child’s actions as it’s happening. Yes, it may feel a little silly or awkward at first but the more you practice, the more natural it will feel. It’s as easy as saying, “Oh, it’s time for me to put my coat on. I better go check the weather outside to see if it might rain again. I felt frazzled yesterday getting caught in the rain without my raincoat.” A comment like that will trigger your child to grasp cause and effect of how weather dictates our outerwear selection, how to be prepared before you leave the house, how to anticipate weather by simply looking out the window, and a new emotion (frazzled). What may seem like an innocuous comment, really has many hidden lessons for young children. The key is bringing all of these lessons to life with your words.
Ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions differ from close-ended questions because there is no right answer; responses are not black or white, yes or no. Open-ended questions inspire critical thinking and elaborate answers. For young children, open-ended questions spark creativity which strongly engages social emotional and cognitive development. The kicker to open-ended questions is being patient for a response Be cautious of quickly answering for your child. Allow your child to hear the question, decipher what it is you’re asking, and then have the time to respond. Pay attention to your body language and facial expression. If your facial gesture is too focused with furrowed brows, you could be sending an message of impatience and judgement. Examples of open-ended question typically start of such:
“What do you think would happen if. . .”
“Tell me more about. . .
“Why do you think. . .”
“How could we try this. . .”
One final recommendation about open-ended questions is to make sure to have a pen and paper handy. I’ve found that open-ended questions provide parents with vivid stories of how their children are processing the world around them and they make the greatest memories to dictate.
The Parenting Hub would love to hear how you turn everyday interactions into brain building opportunities with your child. Please send your open-ended questions and responses to : firstname.lastname@example.org