How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter

Hello and welcome to this first Friday extract from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter.

You can read the extracts in sequence. I’ll post up one extract each Friday.

At the end of each Friday post you’ll see a link to take you on to the next extract.

About Language
Hold your newborn baby close and dream of the happy, fulfilled life you want for him. Maybe you feel determined he’ll grow up smart, happy and resilient, close to family and surrounded by a circle of friends.

It’s amazing to think of this tiny scrap as a real grown up person, with his own personality, living out there in the real world with all its stresses and strains.

Maybe you pause and wonder how to make sure he’ll be smart and successful. The world can be a difficult place. He’ll have your love and support as he grows, you’ll look after his hunger and thirst, keep him warm, pick him up when he falls down, hug him and cuddle him.

However, you long to know what else you can do to help.

Imagine a beautiful golden chest with your child’s name on it. Inside that closed, locked chest nestles a hoard of wonderful language treasure. That hoard is just about the greatest gift you can give your child and he needs your help to unlock the chest so he can use the treasures of language he’ll find inside.

You can help him find the keys to his own golden treasure chest so he can use the skills inside to become the best, smartest, most accomplished person he can be.

This book tells you how your child develops language and exactly what you need to do to help. Start now to give your child the keys to his own treasure chest, and a head start on life.

Language: a hidden treasure
Smart people have something in common. They may be different from each other in many ways. Some are engineers or writers. Some win prizes for science or make millions by selling products the world wants. Some broker deals that end wars and bring peace to warring parts of the world while others paint, sculpt or make music.

Some come from wealthy families, others from poverty, and they all have effective language skills.

Language is more than speech, reading and writing. Language is the foundation that underpins all of those skills. It allows people to talk, to plan, to share ideas and to communicate their thoughts to the rest of the world.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Sculptors and engineers? Do engineers have strong language skills? Surely, some of these groups of people are famous for their lack of verbal ability. Don’t sculptors sculpt instead of talking?”

Maths language
Think of the archetypal mathematician from books or the movies. You may know someone like him. Let’s call him John. John is difficult to get on with. He’s taciturn and unable to make relationships. People say he has poor language skills.

What they really mean is that he has poor communication skills. His language is actually highly sophisticated. He understands the language of number: a complex, abstract tool that lets him think conceptually and express the most complicated and subtle of thoughts, and he writes them down in a set of detailed equations that mean nothing to those of us without his language skill.

Yes, John’s communication skills could use some work. If he understood non-verbal cues better, he might not stand so close when he’s talking and he might learn not to spoil your best story by walking away, just because he’s had a sudden idea. He’s bad at non-verbal communication and social skills.

Nevertheless, his language skills function at the highest level. Without the language of maths, he would still be piling up building blocks and watching them fall down.

There are Five Keys to Language Learning:

  • attention skills;
  • listening;
  • understanding;
  • play;
  • speech.



Build Your Own Communication Kit 5: How to avoid the unscrupulous salesman’s language traps

When money seems short and times feel tough, you want to avoid handing over your hard-earned cash to clever salesmen and cold callers. Learn some of the tricks of their trade. See how they use language patterns and non-verbal signals to encourage you to agree with them, and use your own techniques to stay in command. When you know what he’s trying to do, you can decide whether you want to go along with him or not.

Your salesman designs his first step to build rapport with you. He wants to make a friendly relationship, to encourage a feeling that the two of you have something in common. His attempt may be clumsy. A cold caller who asks, “How are you today?” relies on your good manners and expects you to offer him an answer that engages the two of you in conversation. Cut the conversation dead at this point by shutting the door or pressing,“end call”.

More subtle attempts at rapport building include admiration of your baby, a request for help or a short anecdote about something that just happened outside. A clever salesman tends to be someone with a genuine interest in people. He stands just the right distance away from you, makes eye contact, smiles a little but not too much and nods agreement as you speak. He makes you feel comfortable.

Your salesman matches his dress and grooming to fit with his customer group. When he sells DVDs to teens he wears gel on his hair. When he targets fifty-something women he aims to dress like their husband, bringing out his M and S jumpers. He picks up on the interests you reveal, so if you talk about your school age child, he has a nephew, son or friend’s son with the same issues. He notices your language use. If you use particular words or phrases, he’ll echo them back to you in his own sentences.

He agrees with what you say. Your observations on the weather, politics or TV give him the opportunity to learn about you and adapt his conversation to you. He knows that the more comfortable you feel in his company, the more you want to please him by buying his product.

He may use verbal techniques. Researchers count up to seven separate intellectual processes involved in understanding the apparently simple “it was raining, wasn’t it?” structure. Anne Graffam Walker, in her Handbook on Questioning Children – A Linguistic Perspective (2005) explains how, amongst other things, you have to recognise the distinction between the two parts of the sentence, notice where the negative is located and realise that it does not affect the other clause in the sentence. No wonder you feel inclined to agree with him when he says, “You wouldn’t expect such a good finish for this price, would you?”

Your salesman gets you nodding along with him, encouraging you to agree with him that his product meets your needs, is good value and promises good service, before he suggests you try it and buy it.

Assert yourself
You have choices throughout any conversation with a salesman. Sometimes you choose to cut the contact short, ignoring his puppy-dog eyes. You can go along with him, enjoying the conversation but keeping the magic words, “No, thank you,” ready for use, or you can agree and give him a sale if you want his product. Make your “no” sound positive. Avoid letting your voice rise uncertainly at the end of the word, as he’ll hear that as a sign that you may not be sure you mean “no.”

Beware of using “I need to ask my wife,” or “I’ll come back tomorrow,”  to get rid of him. Your salesman has a wide range of responses ready, many designed to persuade you to hand over your phone number or address or agree to a trial with an “easy” return process.

Remember the salesman is doing his job. He may not be your friend, as he’d like you to think, but he’s not usually a criminal either. Stay polite but firm if you walk away, shut the door or put down the phone.

Never part with any money at the door unless you know exactly where it will go.

Share your experiences by leaving a comment below.

How to help your child talk and grow smarter: early language development non-verbal communication and signing

Your first communication with your baby is through body langauge: through the five senses. Touch, vision, taste and smell are just as important as hearing to a newborn.

Charles Darwin recognised, back in 1872, that humans and animals show emotion through their gestures. More recently, in 1971, Albert Mehrabian published his book “Silent Messages”, suggesting that as little as 7 percent of communication relies on words. The rest depends on body language, gesture, facial expression and tone of voice. Although your baby has no real words until 12 to 18 months of age, he communicates constantly, practising many of the non-verbal skills that will smooth his path in life, as an effective communicator.

Early communication
Your newborn baby immediately communicates with you, through non-verbal crying. By the time he reaches 3 years of age, he talks in small sentences. As he makes that speedy language development journey, he combines developing motor skills with his growing intellect and social awareness to communicate. He interacts with you, his family and his widening circle of friends in any way he can find.

His first, hugely successful cries have you running towards him at top speed to feed, change or cuddle him. Every baby’s loud, shrill screams have an instant effect on his parents. Breast-feeding mothers find their milk flowing as soon as they hear them.

He notices your voice within days and soon turns towards you when you speak to him. Your words mean nothing to him at this stage but he notices whether your voice is loud of soft, angry or loving. He makes eye contact with you, learning the valuable lesson for life that non-verbal communication builds human relationships. His first social smile appears at around 3 months.

Your baby’s vocalisations begin to change. He coos with happiness and shouts with displeasure, but his first words remain a few months in the distance. In the meantime, he tries out different sounds, babbling happily in strings of nonsense sounds.

At around 6 to 9 months, he transfers objects from one hand to the other. He learns to wave “bye bye” and clap his hands. Parents sometimes like to introduce a few baby signs at this stage, such as simple signs for “eat”, “drink” and “more”. One or two small studies, described in Dr Marilyn Daniels’ “Dancing With Words”,suggest that babies who use signing show an increase in their measured IQs at the age of 8.

However, The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) website points out that little research into the long-term benefits of baby signing exists. ASHA suggests that the IQ difference between babies whose parents use signing and other babies may be due to genetic and environmental advantages from the babies’ parents.

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists in the UK advises that signing parents should always combine the signs with the spoken word.

Whether you teach specific signs to your baby or not, he recognises your non-verbal behaviour. He knows when you are anxious or stressed, and responds by becoming fractious. By the end of his first year, he may become anxious when you leave him, because he recognises your unique place in his life. He continues to use eye contact, tone of voice and gestures such as shaking his head to communicate with you. He may say his first word, and his non-verbal skills continue to develop during the rest of his early years.

“The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals”; Charles Darwin; 1872
“Silent Messages”; Albert Mehrabian; 1971
“Dancing With Words”; Dr Marilyn Daniels; 2001
“SLTs Say Baby Signing Programmes are Not Necessary for Most Children”; RCSLT press release; 27 October 2003
The ASHA Leader; “About Baby Signing”; Brenda Seal; 2010

Build Your Own Communication Kit 4

See it from his point of view
Kindness is an underrated strength. In our competitive world, it’s easy to assume that it shows some sort of weakness. But acknowledging other people, and our relationship with them, can lead us to do things that make us happier than taking the selfish route.

One of the simplest things we can do is something for charity. Big charity events, like marathons, are incredibly popular. They let us do something that meets our personal goals, and at the same time we know that we are helping someone else.

Kindness at home
Sometimes it’s much harder to be kind nearer to home. Maybe your mother drives you mad, or your partner seems to you to be moaning about something trivial.

Quite often, the best gift you can give under these circumstances is simply listening to them, and this is often the hardest thing to do of all.

You can make it easier on yourself by learning to see things from their point of view. Here’s an exercise that can help you to ‘walk a mile in their moccasins.’

Talk to yourself
When you’re on your own, try this. Put two chairs next to each other. One is your chair and the other is for your ‘partner’ even though he isn’t there.

Sit on your chair, and explain what is driving you mad.

Then, step over to the other chair, sit in it and imagine you are your partner. Now explain how you are feeling.

Go back to your own chair and answer his points.

Continue this back and forth conversation. You’ll find that you begin to see the issue from his point of view.

That doesn’t mean that you will change your mind and agree with him, but you will find you feel less annoyed with him, and that will help you to listen more kindly next time you discuss the problem.

Build Your Own Communication Kit 2

Here’s another tool for building better connections with other people. It’s based on finding the way someone’s brain tends to function and on using language that taps into that; in other words, speaking their language.

I bet you’ve heard people talk about whether they’re ‘visual’ or ‘auditory’ people. You probably have an idea about yourself. Do you think about the things you see, notice the way things look, use words like, ‘I see what you mean’? If so, you’re probably quite visual.

If you use phrases like, ‘that rings a bell,’ and if you remember things by hearing them rather than by writing them down, you may be more ‘auditory’.

Or you may learn by doing. Maybe you notice how things feel and say things like, ‘I don’t feel comfortable with that.’ That makes you a ‘kinaesthetic’ person.

It’s sometimes surprising to find that other people are different, and that they may see/hear/feel things differently. By noticing how others think, and tailoring the things you say to them, you can get on the same wavelength as them. Here’s an example:

Jenny and Sarah are talking on the phone about their ‘girls only’ holiday. Jenny wants to persuade Sarah to go walking in France. Jenny likes to feel fit and she relates to the way she feels. She says: ‘Look, you’ve been worrying about getting fat and if you lie on the beach you’ll feel worse. Let’s have a healthy walk each day and if we get too hot we can stop for a while and have a cold drink’. Sarah’s not convinced.

Let’s rewind so Jenny can try another approach. This time, she thinks about the clues Sarah can give her. She knows that Sarah wants to appear tanned, she likes to look good and she worries about being too fat. Conclusion: she cares about appearances. She tends to think visually. So this time, Jenny talks Sarah’s language.

‘There’s the most fabulous view across the sunflower fields, and when the sun goes down the light is amazing. There are some nice easy walks, just enough to get our legs toned up so we’ll look good in shorts.’

Talking someone’s language is a great tool in your communication kit, especially if you want to be persuasive and win someone round to your point of view.