As our little people learn language, they can begin to express their wants and needs verbally. Finally, all our efforts into promoting speech production pay off! All those activities of pointing, modeling to identify objects by name, and exchanges between adult and child has culminated into…. Being bossed around by 2 year-olds. "I want milk. Give me a cookie. I need my jacket. Not that jacket!" And so it goes…. So, how do we continue to encourage positive verbal communication, without feeling like our lives are being managed by tiny drill sergeants, who follow us around all day, and belt endless orders to meet their ever-changing needs? By helping them learn how to convert their needs, problems, and wants, from statements into questions.
Michael: (a thirsty 2 year-old) Mom, get me milk.
Parent: (A patient Mommy) Sounds like you need help. Why don’t you ask me a question with manners?
Michael: Mom, can you please get me milk?
Many times, in their egocentric world, children make requests with loud volume and demanding tone. It comes out in curdling ways. The first part is teaching kids to ask with manners. Initially, whenever coaching them to use the words please, thank you, excuse me, in daily interactions; add the phrase, “with your manners.” Eventually, you can drop the first part (please, thank you, excuse me, etc), and ask them to use their manners and they can come up with which manner to use. The second part is to coach them in converting their statement into a question. Putting it all together sounds like:
Parent: Danny, we are about to leave, can you please find your coat?
Danny: (a vivacious 4 year-old) after a few minutes of looking
I can’t find my coat. Ugh. It isn’t anywhere.
Parent: Sounds like you have a problem. Why don’t you ask a question?
Danny: Where is my coat?
Parent: I am not sure. Sounds like you need help. Why don’t you ask another question with manners?
Danny: Mom, can you please help me find my coat?
Parent: Sure, let’s go look.
Coaching children to convert their demands into questions also affects their emotional state. Demands usually are saturated in a problem- lacking the item of desire, whereas questions are saturated in the solution of getting a problem solved. Once your child becomes familiar with the model, they will begin to internalize the process. Granted, it may take a
L O N G time for them to internalize the model, and even still revert back to the curdling demands from time to time. But the times when they remember what to do, stay calm, and ask for help are so validating that all that coaching is a total WIN!