Does your child make requests?

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The mistake parent’s make?

When you are the parent of an infant you learn to anticipate your child’s needs because they are unable to communicate these needs to you. So when your baby cries you feed it, when your infant winges you get them a drink, when your toddler points at their favourite DVD you put it on for them right? This is a necessary part of supporting your child’s growth and development up to a certain age.

Expect more

As your child begins to get older (1-2years) you can begin to expect more from them. Expecting more from your child teaches them the purpose and importance of communication. The difficulty lies in learning to STOP anticipating your child’s needs and wants, or more accurately stop showing your child that you can anticipate their desires. Because if you continue to anticipate your child’s needs then they will have limited motivation and opportunity to communicate with you.

Play dumb
To encourage your independence in your child’s communication “play dumb” or deliberately give a vague or incorrect answer at those times when you know what your child wants but you want to teach him to communicate it to you in an appropriate way.

Choose the right level
Consider the level of response that you know your child is capable of giving and this is where your expectation should lie. So if your child is requesting a drink consider if they are up to the level of using gestures (pointing, miming drink), saying part of the word such as ‘dwi” for drink, is using single words “drink”, is using two or more words together “juice please.” Setting your expectation level is critical for this strategy to have a positive impact on your child. If you set your expectation too high then your child may become frustrated and angry and if you set it too low your child may not be challenged to move to the next level of communication. If your expectation is just right then your child should be able to respond appropriately while being slightly challenged. Sometimes you can also use sabotage AND modeling to give your child a nudge to the next level of communication e.g. from single words to 2 words.

The best way for you to learn this strategy if for me to give you some examples:

Example 1
Child (C) – brings a packet of chips to you
Parent (P)- knows the child wants his chips opened but instead uses sabotage and says “what do you want?” and ignores the child’s gestures
C – continues to try and give the chip packet to parent
P- what?
C-  “open”

Example 2
C – hands you a toy that they want you to buy
P- knows the child wants you to buy him the toy but instead uses sabotage and says “oh that’s nice” turning to look at something else
C- persists and asks “buzz come home?”

Example 3
C- points to juice
P- Uses sabotage “what?”
P- parent models “juice please”

Requesting at home
If your child has access to everything they need at home then there will be limited opportunities for him to make requests. Just as your child may be independent in their self-care skills due to loads of opportunities the same applies to their communication skills.

To increase opportunities change your home environment. I recommend choosing a few things that you would like your child to be able to request and placing them out of reach or using child locks. For instance if you want your child to request food install a child lock on the fridge, if you want your child to request a drink keep their drink bottle visible but out of reach. You can also use the same technique for your child’s favourite toys or computer games.

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