There are two small tweaks you can easily make which will have a big impact on your communication with your child. It will boost their language development. And it’ll help them calm down when they’re upset or angry. They’re so simple but so powerful. For language development and communication, all you do is make sure you are face to face with them. So you hunker down or squat so that you’re at their eye level. When they’re upset, you need to be below their eye level. For what this might look like, have a look at Talk Nua’s Facebook page here.
‘That’s all’, you ask? Yes, but it’s really powerful! How so? Read on to find out!
2 reasons why being face to face is good to do:
# 1 It helps language development
Children learn to take turns very early on- when they’re feeding. So while they’re feeding all is generally quiet; we tend not to talk while they’re feeding. And all that lovely eye contact starts there too. Then, when they stop feeding, we start to talk to them; we take our turn. When our children are babies, there’s a lot of face to face interaction. We pick them up and wiggle them to make them laugh; all the while looking at each other. They laugh and we respond by wiggling them again. But gradually as they get older, we tend to forget to be face to face. We may take the lead more often than not by asking questions or trying to get them to perform in some way. ‘Say ball’ and so on.
One of the best ways to help their language along is by giving them opportunities to start the conversation. And that starts by being face to face and waiting. Following what they’re interested in makes them want to interact with you more and it lets you get to know them better. That goes for adults too I think! We like it when the person we’re talking to shows interest in what we’re talking about rather than them trying to steer the conversation to what they want to talk about. Being face to face is the first step towards more connection in interaction and one of the key strategies in the Hanen It Takes Two to Talk programme. That programme is for children whose speech and language are not developing as expected but it’s a good principle for interacting with any small child.
If we use too many questions or direct the conversation too much, then they’re missing out on opportunities to practice the new words they’re learning. They learn words better if we comment on what they’re interested in rather than trying to draw their attention to something else. They need experience of both initiating and responding in conversation. When we’re face to face, it’s easier to hear each other and they get to see our facial expressions more clearly. And we can read their expressions better too.
#2 It helps regulate them when emotions are running high
So let’s say your child has done something that frustrates or annoys you. It’s written all over your face, your body language, your tone of voice– you’re fuming. And they know it. When emotions get high like this, it triggers what Daniel Siegel and Tanya Payne Bryson call the downstairs brain. They feel threatened which sets off a fight, flight, freeze, or faint reaction. They can’t think straight. This is not a teachable moment and no problem solving is possible. When you hunker down and put yourself below their eye level, their brain stops perceiving you as a threat and their physiology calms down. Then their upstairs brain can engage and they can handle themselves better. For this type of situation, you need to be below eye level not at eye level. Now you’re the opposite of threatening. Depending on the situation, this might mean sitting on a chair, lying on the bed or floor. Your body needs to be relaxed with open posture too so the message you’re sending is I’m here for you. I’ll help you.
If you do this regularly, you will see a difference- you can’t help but connect more with them when you are face to face.
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Be sure and leave a comment below to let me know how you got on when you tried being face to face or below eye level.
Let’s get talking!