Whether you’re a stay-at-home Mom or working full-time, your conversations with your preschooler are precious. They are your opportunity to connect with your preschooler, teach new ideas, and familiarize yourself with his or her inner world. Too often, our conversations with children are overshadowed by the necessary “dos” and “don’ts”. These disciplinary statements can hog our bonding time and we lose out on valuable opportunities.
If you want to maximize your conversations with your child, be cognizant of your child’s “pain to pleasure” ratio within the conversation. Try to make your talks more enjoyable and less disciplinary. Sometimes the best lessons can be learned in a happy and relaxed state and messages created during meaningful bonding time are more likely to last and be remembered.
Here are a few ways to maximize your chat with your preschooler.
Play logic games with “What if?” scenarios.
Preschoolers are developing the ability to think rationally. Its both challenging and fun for them to try to answer “what if” questions. Try to level your questions to your child’s abilities. You want him to be interested but not frustrated. Here are some sample questions you may try.
What if…we go outside in the rain without a jacket?
What if…we eat paper instead of spaghetti?
What if…we put socks on our ears?
Playing this game in the context of a daily routine, like getting ready for school, cooking dinner, or getting dressed, provides an opportunity to create a language-rich learning experience from a simple routine. It also leaves room for plenty of giggles, cuddles, and silly fun!
Be an active listener.
Your child will develop a trusting relationship with you that can last a lifetime if you show her that you truly seek to understand her. Active listening is listening without the purpose of passing judgment or praise on what the speaker is saying. Rather, you are merely seeking to understand. Statements that validate what the speaker is saying are a part of active listening. Statements that evaluate the speaker’s thoughts, feelings, actions, or intentions are best left out of the conversation, unless solicited. For more on active listening I highly recommend the book How the Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.
Describe a process; break it down into steps.
Chronological thinking is part of the whole-to-part kind of thinking we want to encourage in our little people. An understanding of chronological steps of a process is crucial to the development of reading and math skills. You can talk about steps in a process in almost every daily routine, and certainly for events that are new or out of the ordinary such as a doctor’s visit, family vacation, or holiday.
Here’s Cathy talking to Jamal about picking up Grandma from the airport, breaking the event down into chronological steps with him.
Cathy: Today Grandma is coming.
Jamal: And bringing my scooter!
Cathy: Well not yet. First we’re going to eat breakfast and get dressed. Then you’ll watch TV for a little while.
Jamal: And then we can go in the car?
Cathy: That’s right! We’ll get in the car with Daddy and drive to the airport. You’ll look out the window and tell us if you see Grandma.
Jamal: And then my scooter!
Cathy: Grandma will come home with us, and we’ll all eat lunch together. Then she’ll give you a new scooter.
For some children, a visual aid for this conversation might be helpful. Mom may draw a comic-strip style illustration using stick figures to show the order of events. This visual will help Jamal stay patient during the process, anticipate the next step after each event, and feel a sense of control and independence during Grandma’s arrival.
Whatever way you chose to enhance your child’s conversation time with you, know you are giving him/her an invaluable gift; the gift of compassionate, educational and thoughtful parenting. You are doing wonders for your child.
Chaya Glatt, SI