What Do You Do When You Can’t Understand Your Child?

What Do You Do When You Can’t Understand Your Child?
Photo by Mike from Pexels

NOTE In regards to any possible copyright infringement:

I do not claim the following as my own. The information comes from a handout I was given many years ago at a center I worked at. There was no author cited.

There are times when most parents cannot understand what their child has said. First, the adult should note the situation:

  • Is the adult feeling rushed?
  • Is the child feeling rushed?
  • Is the environment noisy?
  • Is the adult too busy to listen?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

— Maya Angelou

After noting the situation and, if possible, making it more comfortable, the adult must make certain adjustments in order to be an effective listener:

  1. Make eye contact. Bend down or kneel at the child’s level and look at the child.
  2. Tell the child that you didn’t hear. You as the adult take the responsibility and avoid telling the child you did not understand him/her.
  3. Ask the child to tell you again so you can listen. Try to be where the child wants you – i.e., he/she may gesture for you to come to him/her or with him/her.
  4. If you still don’t understand, ask the child to show you. With that, and the cues available in the situation, the needs of the child can usually be understood.
  5. Say again, in a simple sentence, what it is that the child asks for. Do not ask the child to repeat the sentence. After you say it again, make an appropriate comment to show that you want to continue the conversation.
  6. Provide a clear message to the child (who is difficult to understand) that you really want to listen to him/her and answer him/her. Remember – a child learns to talk by talking.

Typically I would send a copy of this home with the winter PreK assessments. Although it might seem like common sense to someone coming from an educational role, not everyone has been trained, educated or given experience in child and language development. Even those of us who have studied and worked in our field for awhile can always use a reminder on how to slow down and properly communicate with a child.

Respect is understood at any age.

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