What your child says without speaking

Tying yourself in knots trying to grasp what your child is saying? You may well find actions speak louder than words.

Do you speak “toddler” or “kiddish”? It’s quite a skill, especially when the person you speak to has a restricted vocabulary, displays a warped sense of ego, is usually impatient, and can have anger management issues. Welcome to the world of translating a young child.

Quite often the way to communicate with your child is not through words at all, but through nonverbal body language. If you can decipher this, you will be able to understand more of what your child is telling you, and at the same time, help her to understand you better.
Babies use body language to communicate their needs right from the start: your baby might reach out her hand, point, touch, make eye contact, shake or nod her head, push something or someone away, or pull them closer.

Psychologist and author David Chamberlain observes: “Both premature and full-term babies read faces so well that they can immediately imitate a wide-open mouth, a protruding tongue, or mimic expressions of happiness, sadness, or surprise.” Children are natural communicators.
By two or three months, your baby can communicate with a dazzling smile. By 10 to 12 months, she might put your hand on the toy she wants to set in motion, she will lift her arms to ask to be picked up, and may wave “bye-bye” when you both say goodbye to friends and family.

As children get a little older, nonverbal language becomes more refined. They start to use single words or short sentences to emphasize meaning, while also using body language. Your child may point to a toy, and say “me play that,” for example. As her attempts to use words increase, this can cause frustration when she isn’t understood.
You may see more body language as she expresses irritation, with pouting, hitting, crying, and stamping. The best way to avert these displays of frustration is to become skilled at “reading”, your child’s unspoken language as it evolves.

Tuning in to your child’s growing repertoire of gestures and signs and showing her you understand is hugely rewarding for him as she sees her message getting through.

For instance, if a small baby averts her gaze, she’s telling you she’s overwhelmed and needs a break. An older baby, who has developed the capacity for self-conscious emotions, such as shame, might look away if she knows she’s done something wrong.
“When a young child refuses to look at you, it means she realizes that her actions may have disappointed you,” observes psychologist Kristin Lagattuta.

If your child covers her face when she meets a new person, she’s anxious, rather than rude. Similar actions might include chewing on clothing or hair, clutching your leg, or sucking her thumb.
If your child is bouncing around, then she is ready to go outside, but if her shoulders are slumped and her movements are slow, it is time to rest and recharge. You might notice your child using body language when with her peers. Babies and toddlers don’t actually play with each other, but engage in “parallel play” where they play next to each other, often mirroring each other’s actions.

The body language involved complements language development and helps your child develop social relationships. Given that your child is telling you so much without even speaking, what can you do to give her as much information as possible back again?

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