Thursday, March 25, 2010

Week 11 What's Your Name???

As a parent the one thing that we want to hear more than anything is for our child to call us by name. It reassures us that they know who we are and that they can call us if they need something. It just feels wonderful to hear "mommy, momma, daddy, dada"! So, of course as our child is beginning to vocalize we may say those sounds to our child and since they are pretty easy sounds to imitate, your child hopefully will be producing those words easily.

But what if they don't? So many times I hear parents say to their child, "who am I?" "what's my name?". Let's think about how this looks from your child's point of view. They hear you refer to yourself as "mommy/daddy" often throughout the day, for example, "give that to mommy", "give daddy a kiss", "daddy/mommy is going to work, bye bye" etc. So, they probably know who you are. But since they know who you are and you know who you are, the question "what's my name?" comes off as almost a trick question. And it might even be confusing to the child.

So, what can you do to help your child "pop" your names? One suggestion might be to play hide and seek. One adult hides in the house, or just goes into another room and the other parent and the child go looking for the hiding parent. While looking the adult is modelling "mommy, where are you? Mommmmy" once again being animated and a bit exaggerated. And of course we are having fun. So you are on your search and go to the kitchen and don't find mommy. You might say "no mommy" and then start your search again saying "mommy, where are you?". And you would continue this until you find mommy where you might say "I see mommy, hi mommy". Or "there's mommy". This sort of activity is also great when other family members are visiting to help your child learn grandparents/aunts and uncles and other significant members of the families name.

Another activity that will help is anything that is playful with the person whose name you are focusing on. For example, "let's get daddy" and chase daddy around. You might be adding models of "go daddy", "stop daddy", "kisses for daddy". Just think of the word that you would like to "pop" and then model it throughout the day and week in many different situation.

By doing these activities you are giving your child those important models to imitate and you have made it into a game so the child is having fun which will encourage more interest in trying to find "mommy" and hopefully want to join in with the words and call the adult.

This leads me to another question that parents ask that can also be confusing to their child. And that is "what's your name?" The reason I say that this is confusing is that most children know that YOU know their have been using it since the day they were born, so why are you asking them that question? I know why you are, you want them to learn how to say their name and respond to "what's your name" when a person asks them. But for you to ask your child that question just doesn't make sense.

Let's think of a different way to work on your child learning how to say their name. One idea might be to look at a photo album and and if your child's name is "Nathan" you would say "Nathan" while you point to a picture of them. You could also say "mommy" while pointing to a picture of yourself. Label, point and then wait and see what they say or do. Do they point to the picture of themselves and smile? Then your turn might be to say their name again and you might even add on pointing to them and saying their name with delight too. Yes, we are once again focusing back on the turn taking and modelling.

Once the light bulb clicks on and your child realizes that their name is "Nathan" and they start to use it, it will be much more meaningful if they learned how to use it in a way that makes sense to them instead of being asked a question that might be confusing.

One more thing to be aware of is the phrase "SAY........". It looks like this, "say cookie if you want a cookie. You can't have a cookie until you say cookie." "Say more", "say all done". You know you do this, we all have :)

But what I would like you to do is take a minute and think about how you would feel if someone said to you "say coffee", "say goodnight", "say hello to your coworker", say........". I don't know about you but I do not want someone else telling me what to say. And if I am about 2 years old I REALLY don't want people telling me what to say.

The problem with the "say" interaction is that you are setting up a power struggle. If the child doesn't say what you want them to say they are basically being punished because they won't get the item. I know that you think if you make them say the word, you are expanding their vocabulary. And how often have you heard the word at least once before so you KNOW they can say it, so why aren't they saying it now? That is frustrating for you and it can even become a worry if they don't say words consistently so you want to make them say those words again and more.

I totally understand your frustration and I also can see most children not wanting to play this game. It's not necessarily fun and you are deciding what your child wants to say instead of having your child figure out a way to let you know what they want. I know that's a close call, but the more your child let's you know what they want without you telling them what to say, the more meaningful on an emotional basis the communication is for your child.

During this week try to decrease the amount that you say "say...." to your child and once again switch it into a model of a word /sign/gesture that they can imitate and be successful on their own. The more times they communicate without being told what they should say, the quicker they will realize that THEY can communicate on their own, that they have the ability and once that clicks, they will want to do that more and more.

As always, have a great week!

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