When Daniel was only a tiny baby we spoke to him like he understood what we were saying. We’d talk to him at nappy changes about what we were doing or explained what doctors were going to do before various tests (blood tests, heart scans, hearing tests). One day, when he was much older, my mother said she’d found it unusual the way we explained everything to Daniel but she could see how it had really helped him and actually was a great way of communicating with babies.
The fact is communication begins at birth – smiling, eye contract, facial expressions. And research shows that the amount and quality of talk babies are exposed to plays a massive role in their language development. Normal conversation with our children throughout the day – at the shop, out for a walk, at home doing chores – helps them understand the world around them better. By making communication intentional I have found everyday activities like going to do grocery shopping are largely enjoyable tasks. Most people dread taking young children to the supermarket but my boys from babies, have had fun learning about the food we eat, talking about what days we’ll be eating which meals and now making choices between certain items (apples or pears, the yellow or orange washing up liquid?). By treating them like they are their own people who we can converse with from birth has really helped us all communicate better.
Communication is the one guaranteed ‘tip’ at hen dos. “Make sure you keep communicating” and “Don’t go to bed on an argument”. And so it is key for so much of parenting too. Communication between the parents and between parents and children. It moves on well from discipline as often when kids play up it’s as a result of them trying to communicate, in fact some say that all behaviour is communication!
And that’s why I think treating our babies and toddlers like they understand more than they actually do starts us off on the right path, showing them how to communicate well, modelling back and forward interactions and makes them feel valued. All of which should help not only with their language skills, but also the foundations of the relationship we have.
I suppose I can't avoid the fact that good communication is key between us as a couple too and that also helps our house flourish. I try hard not to play games with my words - or doing that indirect thing that us women can be pretty expert at! And Colin knows to use his words carefully with me and to be encouraging.
I'm definitely not a shouter anyway, but we make sure we keep arguments away from the boys' earshot as much as possible. I grew up thinking my parents never fought because they were so careful to not raise their voices or argue in front of us. Now I think there's a place for good communication and disagreements to be resolved in front of children too, so they learn the skills for their future relationships. But anything that could escalate or is around a subject matter children shouldn't hear (financial problems, family relationships/issues for example) should be resolved in private in order to keep your home flourishing.