Today I want you to take a minute and picture yourself chatting with your best friend. Really picture it....where are you? In your house? Starbucks? What are you both doing and not doing (verbally and nonverbally)? How is the conversation flowing (smooth and balanced)? How do you feel when you are chatting with this person (happy; peaceful)?
Now I want you to picture yourself in a conversation that is going badly. How is that different than the first one?
There are so many things that go into a good conversation. I am going to focus on turn taking today because that is a key to having a good conversation with another person. When you are talking with your best friend the conversation flows. You stop and the other person starts. You balance one another. Sometimes one person has a burst of talking and the other person is actively listening and supporting. There can be laughing, touching, tears, and lots of sharing of information. In a great conversation it is balanced...easy...effortless. What a joyful time together. And in that bubble of a great conversation it feels like you can talk for hours, you don't have to think about it, it just happens.
With our children we need to encourage them to understand the concept of turn taking as a base for a conversation. Another presenter that I was so impressed by and one that I actively search out is Dr. Stanley Greenspan. I would encourage you to read anything and everything by him :) He has a term called "circles of communication" which is exactly what we are trying to establish with our child.
Basically it's "I do something and then you do something, which I then respond to". That is a circle. That is turn taking. And you need to understand the concept of turn taking to understand how a conversation works. So, how do we teach someone how to do this? We start in a playful manner.
Look for your child to initiate something, for example, they put a block on the floor (their turn), you take a block and put it on their block and say "up", (your turn); the following turn could be so many things. They might smile at you; they might put a block on top of the other blocks; they might knock the blocks down; they might even say "up". And then you respond to whatever they give you. Let's look at the examples and think how you could respond.
1. They smile at you. You could smile back, or laugh. You could smile (with good eye contact) and then do something unexpected like knock the blocks over and say "uh oh" and then wait to see what your child does. You could say/sign "my turn" and then take a block and put it on top.
2. They might put a block on top of the other blocks. You could catch their eye, say "up" or "my turn" and place another block on top. You could do the unexpected from the last example. You could grab a block and say or sign "more" with a question sounding tone to your voice and hand the block to your child.
3. They might knock the blocks down. Actually you know that they are going to do this! You could say "uh oh" or "oh no" with animation. You could bang the floor with your open hand and say "down". You could share the moment with a laugh.
4. They might say or sign "up". Woo hoo!! You would say "yes, up" with a happy tone of voice and quickly repeat putting the block on top and say "up" again. And then hand your child another block. Or you might say "my turn" with a question tone to your voice and see if your child grabs a block and puts it on to show you that, no it is not your turn :)
These are not the only options, just some examples. But the idea behind each one is that you want the turns to continue as long as you can. It's not a forced activity, it's a fun time where each person involved is feeling equal in the turn taking. There is not wrong or right, just enjoying eachothers company and taking turns. This sets up so many opportunities for your child to communicate.
Enjoy this week of "my turn" "your turn" and let me know how it goes.