In my house I purposely speak down to our younger children.
Conversations revolve around topics like mealtimes, playtimes, and bath times. Sentences are purposely brief, with most words no longer than two syllables. You might call it unimaginative.
I call it functional.
It gets the point across. Quickly. Everyone understands what’s being said, letting us move on to other things, like dancing in the mud on a summer’s day.
You see, my three younger children all have varying levels of language development. While their ages differ, they all have language delays ranging anywhere from six months to a year. And though most parents would rise to the challenge by immersing their children in a tsunami of words, sentences, and extended conversations, I’ve done exactly the opposite. And here’s why:
Bigger is better. Not.
A while ago my family and I relocated to a foreign country. I knew the language – or so I thought. I quickly discovered that when your language skills aren’t up to par, short and sweet wins the day.
In order for your child to understand and learn to speak better, he needs to be able to understand most of what he hears. Submerging your child in a sea of complicated sentences and multi-syllable words does the exact opposite.
Success is in the numbers.
Research shows that in order for people to learn a new skill successfully, there needs to be an 80% success rate. That means that only 2 out of every 10 words that you speak to your child should be unfamiliar.
More than that, and learning either doesn’t happen, or progresses at a very slow pace.
Using fewer words, simpler sentences, and talking about the here and now, forces you to choose words your child will understand. And that’s a win-win for both of you.
One good thing leads to another.
Once your child sees how easy it is to understand you, he’ll be more likely to test the waters and talk more. More talking leads to a better connection with you, which in turn leads to – you guessed it – more talking.
And after all, that is what you want, right?