Tag Archives: Language Development

Language Development

3 Reasons Why Your Child Has Weak Expressive Language Skills

help your child speak betterDoes your preschooler have difficulty describing to you what went on during her day?

Does she have trouble naming objects, substituting other words like “thingie” or “that round thing with cream inside,” instead of the real word? Does she seem to describe things in the wrong order, telling you what happened last, instead of first?

There are several reasons why your child has trouble expressing themselves. Here are a few of the most important ones:

Children who have expressive language weaknesses are usually very strong visually.

Visual thinkers often have trouble with sequencing, since they are associative thinkers. If you imagine the tag cloud on a blog, then you have a good idea of how a visual thinker processes information. Ideas are not necessarily connected to each other in a linear fashion, one idea following the other in an orderly fashion.

Instead, children may jump from one topic to another, seemingly in a random order. You might see this when your child discusses something with you. She may begin talking about the new dog her best friend has, move on to swimming class, and then end up animatedly discussing the trip you took last summer.

To auditory thinkers her thinking seems disorganized and flighty, since it doesn’t follow a logical, sequential order. For your daughter, however, there was a logical order. The dog is of a breed that is good at swimming – hence swimming class came to mind. Swimming made her think of water, which reminded her of the waterfall the family saw on the trip last summer.

Your child’s visual and auditory systems don’t work well together.

In order to process language effectively, your child’s auditory and visual system need to work together most of the time. Children who have trouble expressing themselves are sometimes so strong visually that their visual system shuts down their auditory system.

On the extreme end, for example with autistic children, the visual system is so strong that the auditory system appears not to work at all. Concerned parents might initially wonder if their child is deaf, but eventually notice that their child can hear sounds when they choose (are able) to.

Other children on the spectrum, for instance, children with ADHD or moderate language disorders, seem to have great difficulty paying attention. These children don’t always respond when their names are called, have trouble following directions, or have difficulty understanding what they read or hear.

A strong visual system can actually be a wonderful benefit; many famous inventors and thinkers were visual geniuses. But in order to benefit your child has to learn how to help both systems to work together.

A weak memory makes it hard for your child to remember what he hears.

One of the most difficult factors that affect how your child processes language is their ability to remember what they hear. Since there are different types of memory, different children can be affected in different ways.

For some children, what they hear seems to go in one ear and out the other. Others can practice a math fact, letter name, or history question over and over again – only to find out in the morning that it was if they had never learned the material.

Still others may perplex parents and teachers, seemingly possessed with stellar memories. These kids can remember the teeniest bit of information, whether it was 3 days ago or 3 years ago. However when you ask them to remember a particular fact, it’s as if the system has short-circuited, and they are unable to give the right answer.

All of the above can have a serious impact on children’s language skills. Fortunately, you can help your child to improve these skills. Hands on learning games that focus on these skills can make a huge difference in helping your child express themselves more effectively.

 

 

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Expressive Language Miscellaneous

3 Everyday Activities You Do Everyday That Can Improve Your Child’s Expressive Language Skills

One of the hardest things about helping your child improve their expressive language skills is getting all the materials you need to work with your child ready to go.

You can teach your child through everyday activities around the house

As a mom of 7, I know that sometimes by the time you find the game, set it up, and get ready to play, it might already time for dinner and baths! That's why I'm always looking for opportunities to build in learning that don't require any extra work- just a little bit of mental planning.

In previous posts, I wrote about improving your child's learning skills at the park, or while shopping with your child. Now I'd like to give you some easy games you can play with your child right at home.

I use these games with my own kids, and teach them to parents just like you. So dig in, and leave a comment below!

1. Help your child learn to state categories of common objects

There are plenty of sorting and categorization games out there. Most of them require that your child sort actual objects, or pictures of objects, according to the correct category.

That's a great activity, but it's really just the  beginning. Your child also needs to be able to name the category as well. A lot of children, however, find it difficult to do this with pictures; it's too abstract.

A better bet: you can teach your child the same thing as you and he clean up his room together. First sweep everything on the floor into a big pile. Then have your child separate everything out into several smaller piles: one for clothing, one for toys, one for books, and one for garbage if need be.

Once your child is about halfway through sorting, you'll be able to cue him to focus on categories as he puts his things away. For example, when he picks up a sock, say, "Oh, that's a sock. That's clothing. Put it with the rest of the clothing." Gradually as your child picks up other items, you can ask them to tell you what it is - clothing, toys, books, or garbage.

You can do the same thing when you bring  home groceries from the  store. Letting your child help you put everything away will also help her improve her visual memory, as well, since she has to remember where everything goes.

The trick to making this work is to have your child put away most of the items in a category before he starts on another category. That way, when he puts things away, you can remind him "Oh, that's a vegetable too. Put it with the rest of the vegetables."

Later when everything's put away you can point to the vegetable bin and say, "Here's where we put all the __" letting your child fill in the blank. Do the thing with the other food items: dairy, frozen foods, and so on.

2. Encourage your child to use her descriptive skills by describing lost objects.

How many times has your child lost something, and needed your help to find it? Our usual response is to just go and help our kids find it, or to have them check the last place they had it.

Instead, try asking your child to describe what the object looks like, where it was last, or what they were doing, using more details. So for example, if your child says "I can't find my flashlight!" Ask your child to tell you more: "What color was it? Can you tell me what it looked like so I can help you find it? Was it small or big?"

Even if you already know what it looks like, you can often feign ignorance with younger children, and get them to explain themselves.

For older children, you can encourage them to talk about what they were doing when they had the missing item, by rephrasing what they've said, and saying, "and then what did you do?"

3. Encourage your child to explain why they want something.

It happens probably a dozen times a day or more: your child wants something from you. But whether you plan to give your child the item or not, it's a good idea to ask your child why. That forces them to use words to express themselves, and helps them attach their feelings to their needs. This is a form of sequencing that's critical for kids with weak language development.

And by the way, did you notice these are all great activities for improving your child's sequencing skills?

Would you like to see more activities like this? Let me know in the comments below.


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Language Development

Language Development: Why is my child having trouble learning his ABC’s?

Most parents look forward with a bit of trepidation to their children learning to read. It’s a big step, and there is perhaps no other skill more important to your child’s development than reading.

So when your child finds learning to read difficult, it can be as devastating to you as it is to your child.

There are several reasons why your child might have trouble learning their alphabet. Of course all children are different, and you might find that your child’s reading difficulties are caused by more than thing on this list. However, be assured that your child will learn to read eventually.

Weak auditory memory

A strong auditory memory is what allows your child to remember what they hear. If your child’s auditory memory is weak, they’ll have trouble remembering that the m in man is the same sound as the m in map.

Recognizing initial sounds is one of the first steps in most phonics programs, so if your child has this problem, you’ll probably notice even before your child starts kindergarten.

Weak auditory – visual language association

This sounds complicated, but it really means that your child has trouble putting together an auditory piece of info with a visual one. Practically, that means that they can’t seem to associate the sound m with the letter m.

This was a minor problem for one son of mine, and a huge problem with a second. The second son also had a weak auditory memory on top of it, which made things that much harder.

Weak visual discrimination skills

In order for your child to read well, they need to be able to tell one letter from another. A child who has weak visual discrimination skills, finds this difficult to do. They may simply need glasses , which is easy to fix.

Believe it or not, this happens more frequently than parents realize, which is why I always insist kids get an eye exam before I do an evaluation. It’s not always easy to tell when a child needs glasses, especially if they’re young.

Weak visual closure skills

Visual closure is the skill that lets children put the whole picture together from the parts. So for example, let’s say you’re building a toy airplane for your daughter. A child with visual closure issues would have trouble looking at the pieces on the table and recognizing that you’re building an airplane.

Practically, if your child has weak visual closure skills, she might be able to read a word like hat, but when given the individual letters, won’t be able to make the word hat from them.

This problem is harder to see if your child’s teacher relies heavily on sight words. However in most classes, all alphabet learning involves building words, so your child would have trouble as soon as they start putting words together.

Weak auditory closure

This is similar to visual closure, except it involves sounds. So your child would have trouble blending words together(c-a-t). This can also become doubly complicated if your child also has even a mild weakness in auditory memory: by the time they get to the last letter, they might have forgotten what the initial letters were, and so be unable to read the word.

These may seem overwhelming, but don’t worry! I’ll be writing posts later on with specific activities that you can use to help your child overcome these weaknesses.

 

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Language Development

Practical Tips on How to Teach Your Child to Ask Questions

Practical Tips on How to Teach Your Child To Ask QuestionsIn my post yesterday I gave you some background on why your child finds it so hard to ask questions.

It was a bit complicated, I know, but I hope you weren’t discouraged, because there are some easy tips you can use to help your child develop a healthy curiosity in everything around her. In fact, these are the exact same methods I used over the last several months to help my foster daughter, who was severely delayed, learn to ask questions.

I actually caught myself the other day telling her, “NO MORE QUESTIONS” – at least for the next 15 minutes or so. (Okay, I wouldn’t recommend that, but hey- it was a really looooong day :)).

The tips below are really more than tips: they are alternate ways of speaking and acting with your child that will radically affect your child’s ability to question. I guarantee that if you use these methods a few times a week, you’ll see a significant improvement in your child.

Model asking questions

Asking questions might seem like a skill that comes naturally. After all, even babies and young children do it, albeit with gestures or facial expressions. However, we can not only teach our children how to ask questions, but we can teach them how to ask good questions.

One of the most effective ways of doing this is by modeling this skill for our children. There’s no need to conduct a scientific experiment in order to do so, however. There are numerous occurrences throughout the day that are great opportunities for sharing with your child the joys of why. Here are some tips on how

Create absurd situations

In order for your child to know how to ask questions, he first needs to notice that there is something unusual about the situation. You can help your child do this by using objects in ways they weren’t meant to be used, or putting them in places they don’t belong, in order to spark your child’s curiosity.

This works well for many children with language delays, since they usually have good visual memories (in contrast to weak auditory memory) and often remember where an object should be, who it belongs to, or what it should be used for – even if they don’t have the words to express themselves.

  • For example, when it’s time to put the groceries, take the milk, and put it in a cabinet. Look at your child with a surprised look on your face, and say “I wonder if I can leave the milk here.”

Even if they seem unperturbed, continue by asking your child, “Does milk go here?” If they have a hard time answering, give them a clue, “No, the milk goes in the refrigera-“ and let your child fill in the blank.

Then ask your child to put it away where it belongs. As they put it away, say with an exaggerated tone, “I see; if I don’t put it here it will spoil.”

One important thing to remember is that there’s a difference between asking questions, and knowing the answer to those questions. There’s no reason why you should expect your child to know or even remember the answers to the questions you ask.

This process of questioning is a lot like brainstorming, where your goal is to encourage as many questions as possible, without self-consciousness or censure.

That’s why the second part where you say why the milk can’t go in the cabinet is less important than the moment when your child looks at you with a question in his eyes. That look of “that was strange, Mommy” is what you’re after.

  • Try “accidentally” putting on your child’s shoes. Look bewildered as you try and fit it on your foot, and ask yourself while your child looks on, “I wonder why it doesn’t fit?” Then examine the shoe, examine your foot, measure one against the other, and look confused.

(Think of it as an audition for the clown act in Barnum and Bailey Brother’s circus).

Treat failure as a learning opportunity

Some parents rush in to correct their children when they see disaster occurring. Even when there’s no possibility of someone being hurt or something being damaged, these parents worry their children will feel badly about themselves if they experience failure.

In reality, failure is a lesson. It’s an invaluable opportunity to learn from your mistakes. Plus, it’s intimately connected to learning how to question: your child sees that something they anticipated didn’t work out as expected. Now they need to ask themselves, “why did that happen?”

Personally, I know how hard it is to watch a child fail, or even struggle. I’ve seen my LD children struggle over numerous things, and I’m not sure if it gets easier with time. I can say, however, that allowing my children to fail –even just a little bit- is key to their success. As Jonathan Fields says in his book called Uncertainty, the fear and doubt we experience when we worry about failure can serve as fuel for brilliance.

Why not let your child shine?

So next time you see your child headed for a mistake, stop. Step out of your role as a parent, and think of yourself as a coach. You don’t always have to warn your son or daughter about what “might” happen. Often, the natural consequences that occur are enough to teach your child what to do. If not, help your child use problem-solving in order to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again.

Are there any specific instances where you feel stuck teaching your child to question? Leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to help you out!

 

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Language Development

Children’s Language Development: 3 Reasons Why I Speak Down to My Child (And Why You Should Too)



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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Language Development

Language Development: Best Tips On How to Combat Summer Learning Loss

You’ve probably heard teachers moan about how much information children forget over the summer. And as a parent of a child with language development delays, you've probably seen it in action. Material that your child sweated blood and tears to learn has somehow been lost in your child's memory files.

The most common areas that children forget are the ones where –surprise- there is a lot of repetition and practice. Math and spelling are two subjects that are particularly vulnerable.

However children with learning disabilities often spend a larger portion of their time learning and reviewing material that other children acquire easily. For them, the summer "brain drain" is even more devastating.

Research shows that an average child  loses a full month of general studies, and two months of math skills. In other words, by sixth grade your child will have lost half a year of general studies skills, and a full year of math skills.

s there anything you can do - short of putting your child in school year round?

Yes! There are several things you can take to help your child retain most of the material they’ve learned during the year. Here are some tips:

1. Set a specific time to learn with your child, and stick to it.

Summertime is a busy time for most parents and children. Between camp, family vacations, and the occasional trip or family get-together, it can be hard to maintain any sort of schedule.

Children with learning issues, however, do better with a consistent, predictable schedule. Download this free daily planner to help keep your family on track.

2. Schedule a 15 minute block of time to learn with your child.

Review doesn’t need to take hours. In fact, the brain functions more efficiently when smaller amounts of material are reviewed over a period of time. You don’t need to set aside hours a day in order to help your child stay on top of things; 15 minutes a day spent reviewing a few math problems and a several spelling problems will do the job just as effectively as twice the amount of time.

3. Throw a few hands-on learning games into the mix.

The great thing about the summer is that you have more opportunities to give your child some real hands-on learning experiences. Use the extra time you have to follow up on some of the topics or concepts your child learned during the year, by visiting science museums, renaissance or history fairs, or even by performing a science experiment in your backyard.

Not only is it a great way to answer that popular question “will I ever need this in real life?” but it also gives you an opportunity to have quality time with your child.

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Math

Hands-on Learning Games: Teach Your Child the Months of the Year in Less Than a Week

Is your child struggling with memorizing the months of the year? Often children with a delay in language development have difficulty with concepts involving time. Younger children have trouble with using words like “yesterday” and “tomorrow” appropriately; you may find your child asking you when yesterday’s baseball game will be.

Older children, even well into middle school, may struggle with knowing what day of the week comes before Sunday, or what month a particular holiday falls out on. You may find that even your tween struggles with remembering the order of the months of the year.

This hands -on learning game will help your child learn the months of the year, as well as improve her sequencing skills, which are at the root of her difficulties with concepts involving time.  It can also be adapted to suit children and teens of all ages.

Materials:

-Print out two copies of a paper with name of the month on top and the picture associated with it on the bottom. Take one copy of each month, and cut it in half. That will leave you with one set of pictures with both the name of the month and its picture, PLUS a set of labels with the name of the month, and a set of labels with only pictures.


Examples of pictures for each month include: January-New Year’s Day, February-Valentine’s Day, March-wind, April-flowers, May-rain, June-last day of school, July-Fourth of July, August-hot day, September-first day of school, October-Halloween, November-Thanksgiving, December- winter, or holiday.)

* You can use your child’s picture for the month their birthday falls out on. Also, if you can’t think of a picture, simply let your child pick out a picture that they like.

How to Play:

1. Choose a large space to work at so you will have plenty of space to spread out the materials.

2. Place the copies with the months and the pictures cut out to the side. You don’t need them yet.

3. Place the page for January on the table before your child. Say the name of the month clearly, and point to the picture (no need to name the picture).

3. Do the same thing with the next month.

4.  After 2 or 3 months, mix up the pages, and ask your child to put them back in order. If she can read, she should name the months after she has placed the pages in order. If not, then you can say the names of the months and have her repeat after you.

5.   Continue until you’ve completed all the months of the year, making sure to stop after every 2-3 pages. You have a choice whether or not to require your child to remember previous pages. It really depends on how hard or easy it is for your child. So, for example, if your child can easily remember months 1-2, then when you do months 3-4 you can ask them to order the pages from months 1-4, all at once.

If this is hard for your child, you can have them do only months 1-2, then 3-4, and so on. As they get better at it you can slowly increase the number of months they remember at one time.

7.  Continue until your child can recite the names of the months in order forwards and backwards.

TIP:  Younger children can simply match the cut out pictures with the complete pages. In that case as they place the picture they can call out the name of the month that goes with it.

Children who can read can sequence the names of the months only. This would be step number 8.
 
 

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Language Development

Language Development: Improve Your Child’s Spelling with These 5 Tips

In these days of iPads and laptops for every child, spelling might seem to be outdated skill. Add to that texting, e-mail, and chatting and you might imagine that the necessity for accurate spelling has gone the way of the phonograph.

In fact, while spelling isn’t necessarily the most essential skill, those who do spell well can take justifiable pride in their talent, which displays a combination of good visual memory, well-developed language skills, and the ability to apply rules appropriately.

And while some of the most atrocious spellers have turned out to be quite successful, there’s nothing like a poorly spelled note to cast doubt on the writer’s competency and intelligence.

If your child has difficulty spelling, there are several things you can do at home that can help him improve his ability to spell:

1)  Drill, drill, and more drill. For many, flash cards bring to mind endless hours sitting at the kitchen table with dog-eared index cards, doomed to complete an entire run before bedtime. The truth is that nowadays there are numerous alternatives to index cards. There are numerous software programs for spelling that can be played on the computer or an iPod.

You can also use online flashcard makers such as Quizlet, Flashcard Machine, and ProProfs.

2)  Encourage your child to write in stages. Some children, especially those with attention or memory issues, err in spelling when they are asked to complete numerous stages of writing at once. Spelling and punctuation should be done separately from the creative stages of writing.

3) A word-family approach can help children with visual memory weaknesses. Memorizing only parts of words is easier for children who have weak visual memories. Because they can categorize words according to their word family, they actually have to remember less.

4) Play board games like Scrabble and Spill and Spell. Games are a fun way of practicing spelling without the tediousness of testing. You can even out the odds by allowing your child more time spelling, letting them look up some of their words in a dictionary, or pairing them with a partner.

5) Have your child maintain a personal dictionary. Your child writes down words he commonly misspells in a notebook. Once she becomes proficient at a word (spelled correctly 100% of the time) she can cross out that word and add another one.

The most important thing to remember when dealing with a poor speller is to keep things in perspective. Make sure your child understands that while spelling is important, what you write is even more so.

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Language Development

Language Development: Warning – Don’t Read This If Your Child Is in Speech Therapy



If you’re in the middle of intensive speech therapy sessions with your child, you’re not going to want to hear this.

Do yourself a favor. Go out of the room. Tackle that mammoth load of laundry sitting on DD’s bed. Check out that fancy new toilet paper in the office bathroom. Because if you hear what I’m about to say, you’re probably going to want to run out and engage in some really socially inappropriate behavior (I’m not saying you should do that, okay?)

You’re still here? Okay, I’ll try to break it to you easy: your child is probably going to have a reading problem. And maybe a writing problem. Math could throw him some curves too.

And although there’s no way of knowing how severe those problems are likely to be, the fact is that children with weak language development are a heck of a lot more likely to have trouble with the 3 R’s later on in their school careers than the average child.

That’s because no matter how hard you and your child have worked, the vast majority of therapy is aimed at treating the symptoms of your child’s language disorder. Most therapy programs spend a lot of time on building vocabulary, helping your child learn to communicate her needs effectively, and improving comprehension.

That’s all great stuff, don’t get me wrong. But they all make one big mistake: very few therapy programs tackle the reason behind your child’s weak language development. Issues like difficulty paying attention, poor auditory or visual memory, weak sequencing skills- all of these need to be addressed from the bottom up. Otherwise, it’s a lot like painting an antique piece of furniture without stripping the old paint underneath: at some point, the original paint is going to start showing through.

So when you choose a therapy program, don’t just consider how good the therapist is, or how many children graduate successfully from treatment. If you want your child to be successful – even years later– make sure to find out whether and how the therapy addresses the basic skills behind acquiring good language skills.

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Language Development

Language Development: 3 Tips on How to Get Your Preschooler to Cooperate –Nearly Every Time

Being a preschooler is awkward at times. Your preschooler is no longer the sweet toddler who will fight you to the last pretzel crumb, and yet he still has time until he possesses the easy self-confidence of the first grader.

Children who suffer from weak language development can be especially difficult, since they have the desires of a child their age without the language to express it.

In the meantime, your preschooler is a little bit like a moist butterfly struggling to free itself from the chrysalis. Unsure of whether he wants to be “big,” you may find him resorting to baby talk in the morning while insisting on doing everything by himself  later on in the afternoon.

Naturally this yo-yo-ing is bound to cause quite a few clashes, as you try to figure out how much space to give your preschooler, and when. However, when do you find yourself at odds with your determined preschooler, there are several techniques  you can pull out of your once-upon-a-time diaper bag that are sure to gain your preschooler’s cooperation almost every time:

1. Make him want to do it. Usually we approach things from our perspective. We want our son to eat his lunch because it’s healthy, and because we took the time to prepare it. We want our daughter to stop jumping in the mud puddles because we don’t want that new dress to get ruined.

What if instead, you stopped to consider the situation from your child’s point of view?

Instead of insisting that he eat his food because it’s healthy (so you say), why not remind him that if he eats all of his food he’ll get tall enough for that new “big boy” bike he’s been pestering you about? Of course you have to make sure he understands he won’t grow tall right away, but he wants that bicycle so strongly that he’ll probably be willing to eat cold fish soup to get it.

2. Say it with a smile. It’s amazing how simple it is, but a genuine smile softens even the worst of blows. Not only can a smile say I love you, and I enjoy you, but a smile can also show sympathy at having to break up a good pillow fight to send your mini-marauders off to bed.

3. Show how you care about what is important to him. Let’s face it: in the day to day grind of taking care of small children, sometimes your mind starts to operate on auto pilot. You don’t mean to, but at the end of the day it seems sacrifice enough to be listening at all, after having been immersed in Little People Land for several hours.

Despite this, try at least a few times a day to show interest in what your child enjoys and is enthusiastic about. Stop what you’re doing, make eye contact, and make sure your voice tone shows you are genuinely interested. You’ll probably find your child needs less attention from you.

4. Let her feel important. At the end of the day, small children aren’t much different in this than their grown-up counterparts: everyone likes to feel important, in some way.  Children try in so many ways to feel important – sometimes by imitating the grown-ups, sometimes by showing off a new skill.

But if your child doesn’t have a legitimate opportunity to strut her stuff, she’ll find some other way to do it, and it won’t always be pleasant for you.

Give your child a chance daily to show how big she is, whether that means helping set the table for dinner, folding and putting away her clothing, or helping bathe her baby brother.

She’ll not only be happier and more cooperative, but she’ll be eager to pay back the favor - and will do so by being extra cooperative, even during times when you would have expected her to balk.

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