A common mistake parents or caregivers make when communicating with their child is leading the conversation. If you allow your child to start the conversation and then respond to their interest, you will experience a more meaningful conversation with your child. Asking too many questions, not giving your child enough time to respond, and forcing topics they are not interested in can all be conversation stoppers. In order to communicate more effectively with your child, try the OWL approach from It Takes Two to Talk by Jan Pepper and Elaine Weitzman.
OWL approach stands for Observe, Wait, and Listen.
Take the time to observe all of your child’s actions, gestures, and facial expressions throughout the day. Begin to understand what your child is interested in and draws their attention. Once you know what your child is focused on, the communication will be two ways. Sometimes what you think your child should be interested in, they do not have any desire to talk about. For example, if your child received a new toy you may want to explore the toy with your child only to find out they are more interested in opening and closing the box it came in.
Stop talking, lean forward on your child’s level, and look at your child expectantly. Let your child share information with you before asking your child questions to prompt talking. Your child is used to caregivers doing the talking for them, but they will respond if you allow enough time for them to think. Once your child thinks of something that is worth sharing, they will share it with you! Patience is the best attitude. If you are uncomfortable with silence, count to 10 silently to yourself, and look involved in what your child is doing. When your child does communicate with you, respond immediately about the topic your child is interested in.
Listening means to be engaged in what your child has to say without any interruption. Your child will gain confidence if they know the listener is paying attention and giving them adequate time to finish. Even if you already know what the child is trying to say, let the child complete their entire thought before commenting. If it is difficult to understand what your child is saying, use context clues and make an educated guess. If you have no idea, mimic the word or phrase back to your child to model imitating.
Interaction is when two people have a 2-way communication. In order to have more interactions with your child, they need to lead a conversation. If your child has a difficult time initiating conversation, speech child therapy is encouraged. If you would like more information on how social skill development can be facilitated in individual treatment or small group treatment please contact Step by Step Care Group.
Pepper, Jan, Elaine Weitzman, and H. Ayala. Manolson. “Let Your Child Lead.” It Takes Two to Talk: A Practical Guide for Parents of Children with Language Delays. Toronto: Hanen Centre, 2004. 16-20. Print.