Welcome back readers,
Communication. Something that is a necessity in life and also something I believe is taken for granted. Sure, as we deal in our daily interactions, it is hard to go through the day without SOME kind of communication. But, do we do enough of it? What exactly quantifies enough? Isn’t it fair to say what’s a good amount for one is different for another? Am I finally going to get to the point? I guess there really is no right or wrong answer for these questions (except the last one. I’m getting there, don’t worry!) It truly is based upon the individual to determine how, when, and why they communicate. I have learned something recently, however, that I feel is worth writing about. The amount and way we communicate with our infants is a very important and delicate part of their growing process.
You know, when I decided to stay at home with my son, I did not realize that at his ripe old age of nearly eight months he would be such a chatterbox! If you are a stay-at-home parent and this is your first child, maybe you were like me and figured the silence in the house from the newborn stage would not change much for a while. How wrong we were. But you know what? It’s amazing to hear my son’s vocalizations as he belts out all sorts of sounds. Even though he is becoming comfortable in finding his voice, there is of course the whole communication barrier between infant and parent which can turn a peaceful moment into a horror movie. And now, I present to everyone, “A Common Daily Exchange…OF DOOM!“:
Baby babbles, you smile on as a proud parent. Then, suddenly, the babbles turn into a slight grunt of frustration, your smile starts to fade, fearing what is coming next (that’s right, fear. I know I’ve never been so terrified of a child in my life). Then, since you are sitting there frozen in a half-smile-half-confused limbo, your child starts to bawl. Now, as you try to calm your child to no avail, he or she is crying. Then, you are in a corner, rocking yourself and crying. And that proud moment you had only a few minutes before seems like a lifetime ago…
Horrific, eh? Of course, I exaggerated. Kind of. But all joking aside, how does communication with your child at this early stage help with growth? Well, I truly believe that my son has tweaked his cries based on my response. I learned how to “read” the different inflections in his cries and he learned how and when to use certain ones to get certain things like comfort, food (happens A LOT), or nap time (wish it happened more).
Another way communication can help is with teaching your child how to handle frustrating situations. Talking calmly with my baby boy when he is in DEFCON 1 does the trick (most of the time). For instance, this past weekend was his second swimming lesson. The first week went pretty well. This week? Total. Nuclear. Meltdown. My wife was with us this time and between the two of us, we were able to soothe him. But it took a lot of communicating and encouragement. And when my wife and I talked about it later (I know, we are a whole family of chatterboxes. You all are probably thinking, “Do these people EVER shut up??”) we realized his body language was not great from the beginning. So, for me it seems like not only verbal communication helps but also keying in on the nonverbal cues my son emanates could possibly prevent this from happening again. Possibly. And perhaps catching it all before he turns into a scene from the “Exorcist“will eventually help him learn that difficult situations are not so bad once you work your way through them.
So of course, learning the babbles, coos, mean-mugs, and body language of your baby can help, but eventually they will start forming words and children need encouragement with this. Yeah, that’s right. We as parents are the ones who encourage the cute infant to someday become the back-talking teenager. Oh, what fun! My son is starting to run the gauntlet of differing sounds. And I try to encourage him as much as I can with my own babbling back at him. He gets a big kick out of it and it keeps him vocalizing, which is the point. I just always have to remember to leave my babbling vocabulary at home when I’m out communicating with adults. Had a few close calls where I’ve gone out to order food and when asked what I would like, I’ve nearly responded like Taz, the Tasmanian Devil. I’ve also realized that just talking normally with my son gets him chatting away now. And to continue to inspire him with his vocabulary, I have begun teaching him sign language. Why would I do this if he isn’t deaf? I’ve read that it is a good way to introduce new words to an infant and also provide a way to communicate while still finding his or her voice.
So, for those of you who have infants, just keep talking with them. Then just enjoy the conversations you will have and marvel at how amazing it is to watch this little person continue to grow. As for me, I will sit back and await my son’s first word, and also his first signed word. I just hope that they BOTH aren’t curse words. I am almost positive one of the two will be. But with my luck (and sailor’s mouth) he will be able to offend people with both his mouth and hands. Until my next post, “Blahblueblahbleh (blows raspberry).” Oh sorry, that was baby and Taz speak for, “Until next time, everyone!”