There are some parts to this one.
Part 1: No need to use baby-talk
Children in the first 6 years are absorbent minds. They can understand and can absorb language as it is. That’s why our babies, in their own time start speaking exactly the language that’s present in their own environment. Therefore, it’s highly beneficial that we reserve our clearest and purest form of language that we can speak, for our children.
Think of it like this, if you intend to learn French and enrol yourself in a class. And on the first day your teacher starts talking to you in baby-talk French. Wouldn’t you think that’s what French is? And that’s how it’s spoken? The same logic applies here.
We can choose words that are simpler, of course. If you think you used a complex word, just explain it with some simpler phrases, define that word in a few words. All of this is certainly great exposure and 100% respectful way of talking to a child or for that matter, anyone.
Another way in which we use baby-talk is when we use the third-person narrative.
“Will you wait here till Mumma gets you your food?” Says Mumma!
Could you please help Daddy clear up the table?” Says Daddy!
So many of us have done this or do this on a regular basis. Again, something we never do with adults.
A parent once shared a story of a distant relative’s 3 year old who constantly referred to himself by his own name instead of the appropriate pronoun. “Ab kya karega Manu?” Manu would say (“What would Manu do now?”). It’s funny to hear things like these from children but where do they pick these up from? As was observed that particular situation: Everyone around treated it as something cute that the boy had just said where as in reality, Manu was asking for help!
Using appropriate pronouns is an important part of language development and the only way that can be picked up by our children is if they hear it used appropriately!
Part 2: Wait for a response
Again, something that we do (or is helpful) while communicating with adults. A bit of wait time. There are so many times that we catch ourselves shooting instructions after another, or worse, repeating the same instruction several times before getting a response.
It sounds like it’s an obvious thing to do. But we tend to not wait for a response while talking to toddlers. Waiting for a response (even with infants who can’t yet verbalise) allows children to process what’s been said and think of a response (verbal or non-verbal) and respond! It also exposes them to great conversation skills.
Sometimes toddlers choose to do things we adults, wouldn’t usually do. When they do such things, could we take a pause and trust that this act, as long as it’s safe, is serving some purpose they deem important?
A Chartered Accountant by chance and a school teacher by choice, Aditya is an AMI Montessori trained guide. He owes his parenting philosophy and values to Dr Maria Montessori, Magda Gerber & Janet Lansbury and tenets of Buddhist philosophy; though he believes that his most insightful parenting moments have come with his kindest teacher – his two year old son.
Helping parents and being a school-teacher are his ways of bringing more respect, choice and freedom to children.