If you have heard of the term, “The terrible twos and threes,” then you would know that people were referring to the years of the toddlers.  Many people claim that tantrums and defiance reign during this time of a child’s life, but I honestly feel that these are also the years children can become the most frustrated; wouldn’t you be upset if you thought you were communicating clearly in your mind and no one seemed to understand you?  It is practically the same as moving to another country with another language where no one understands you.  Taking care of our basic needs would become a frustrating struggle for us.  This theory came about through years of reading and in observing my own child through her toddler years: her tantrums were usually upsets based around a communication barrier.  She knew what she wanted, but conveying this to me turned out to be a frustrating endeavour at times.  One solution would be to teach your child to talk early on in their development; a process that will support you as their parent and them in finding more harmony, balance and peace in day-to-day affairs.

As babies, children learned to communicate through crying, cooing and mimicking noises they heard from people around them.  If it was something serious they needed, such as food or a new nappie, they would cry in order to get our attention.  This worked quite well for them as babies and as a toddler, this behaviour usually would not have been trained out of them.  They have learned that in order to get something they really want, they just have to cry, we will somehow understand what they want and POOF!  What they want unfolds before them.

But let’s be honest, by the time they are toddlers we don’t want them to cry every time they want something.  We want them to tell us what they want.  One reason is because it can be quite embarrassing to be in a grocery store when your two year old suddenly throws herself on the ground when you refuse to get her the cereal she wants!

What stops children from communicating at a young age?  And more importantly, what can we do to teach our child or children to talk early?


Adult Behaviours That Stop Children From Talking Early

As a parent, everything you do impacts your child in one way or another.  For example, if you know that your child wants water because he or she is pointing to the faucet and you simply get them water without having them tell you verbally what they want, you are communicating to them that they don’t need to tell you what they want; they simply have to point the way and they will get what they want.  Effective communication is a key to the healthy development of children.

My little sister was a late speaker.  She didn’t start forming sentences until she was about four (4) years old.  Was it because she was slow?  Actually it was because she had two (2) older sisters who knew what she wanted before she ever said anything.  My parents didn’t help my little sister in speaking either; whenever she would say something in baby-talk, they would look at me and my older sister and ask, “What does Kady want?”  At the time my family unintentionally became a crutch for my younger sister; a barrier to her learning how to communicate properly.

Another barrier that keeps children from actually learning how to speak, would be when adults give them whatever they want when they want it.  I know this may sound completely unrelated to communication, but when a child throws a tantrum after being denied something they want, and are then given what they want (in order to stop them from crying or making a scene), they are missing out on some amazing communication and comprehension skills.  Not only are the adults reinforcing a behaviour that will cost the parents peace of mind in the long run, but the children are not grasping why they are given or denied something.  In short, they are missing out on cognitive comprehension, reasoning and also the ability to negotiate for what they want.

Working at Little Human Scholars, an International preschool and playschool in Petaling Jaya near University Hospital, Jaya 33 and Jaya One, I have seen a few students display similar behaviour as my younger sister.  Instead of saying what they want, or at least trying to say what they want, they either point at what they want, cry or do both!  Luckily, at our school and daycare centre, we have a system in place where we encourage the children to talk and communicate despite behaviour they have learned outside of the school system.

What Can We Do To Teach Our Child To Talk Early?

I have a friend whose son could speak impeccably from a young age.  When I asked him what he did to encourage such behaviour, he said that even though he knew what his son wanted every time he pointed to something or murmured a baby word, he would sit with his son a few extra minutes and say, “What do you want?  Tell daddy what you want.”  If his son would start crying after his father denied him something, his father would sit down and explain to him why he wasn’t allowed to have what he wanted.  In short, despite his son’s age he spoke to his son as though the son understood what he was saying.  After a minute his son would calm down and move onto other things.  The only downside to this, if you would call it a downside, is that now his son has amazing cognitive and negotiation skills as an older boy; something the father wasn’t quite prepared for!

In short, there are three things listed above you can do to start teaching your child to talk early:

  • Encourage them to speak properly from early on.
  • Talk to them as though they understand you even if their vocabulary or comprehension doesn’t match yours.
  • Take the extra time to work with them now so you can enjoy the fruits of your labours later on.

Additionally, the side effects of doing these three simple things are:

  • Less tantrums (which makes for happier parents).
  • Your child or children will speak earlier and more confidently.
  • The ability to deny your child something in public with fewer upsets and “scenes.”

In summary, I have always believed that if a parent sets their child up for success early on by taking the extra time and initiative, they will enjoy the benefits of their actions later.  It is normal for children to cry in order to get what they want, but unfortunately this isn’t necessarily how the world works.  Think about it, if you cry to your boss about something it doesn’t guarantee that he or she will give it to you.  In fact, making a scene in his or her office may have the complete opposite effect!  If a parent trains their child in such a way that they are given anything they want whenever they cry, I feel that this action actually sets the child up for failure later on in life.  They may be more inclined to have high expectations and may also have major emotional whiplash when things don’t always go their way.  Additionally, they may also be less inclined to understand another person’s point of view when they are denied something they want which leaves less room for compassion, understanding and empathy.  Bruce J. McIntosh, M.D. states in the journal Pediatrics, indicates that spoiled children are prone to temper tantrums, can be insensitive to the needs of others, and have trouble deferring gratification.

The good news is that it is never too late to start setting your child up for success, especially in terms of effective communication.  Taking the extra time to sit and work with them through whatever communication blocks they have not only affects them in a positive way, but you as a parent as well.

Wishing you and your child success in all your endeavours!


Jana Moreno