Saturday, October 5, 2013

Say What !??!

I often meet first time moms who are worried about their child's language development. They wonder when kids will understand proper use of pronouns or at the very least begin to pronunciate clearly. 

I always assure them that language will eventually come. In fact, it is normal for toddlers to speak in their own native tongue and most kids stop saying "Me want!" and transition to "Can I have it?" without any difficulty. 

In my mind the challenge is not when will our kids get a proper grasp on language but it is this; will our kids use language properly. I mean it's cute when your tyke gets his tr's mixed up with his f's when he's talking about his truck but it's not so adorable when he's a pimply faced preteen with a mouth like a sailor.

Research tells us that in the first years more language is learned than in the rest of a child's life combined. And since we know babies and toddlers can't read there is only one way their vocabulary grows; children learn to speak based on what they hear. This is why reading books is so important when children are young. Stories contain words not used in everyday language which expands their language development.

This is also why most babies' first words are bottle, mommy or the name of a family pet. These are the words we expose our children to repeatedly in a day. Incidentally, if your discipline technique includes telling your child no, you can expect they will, in turn, back talk and tell you no. Don't get mad when they do. They learned it from you.

No one ever said parenting would be easy.

It is imperative that we utilize language properly and be aware of what we watch and listen to. Children, despite appearing aloof, are always listening to the words around them. I know because once my daughter called me a "Dumb baby" thanks to Angelica, a bratty character on Rugrats, a cartoon that aired on the Nickelodeon network in the late 90's. 

Unfortunately dumb is only a bad word when they are three. Fast forward into adolescence and, from what I've witnessed recently, young people are using foul language at an alarming rate. If that isn't concerning enough I'm also finding they adamantly refuse to censor themselves when in public places.

I can't say for certain if I swore less than today's generation but I do know that I was afraid of what would happen if I got caught swearing. Anybody remember being threatened to have your mouth washed out with soap?

While I'm pretty sure that is not the best answer to curbing today's kids and their foul mouths I do have one suggestion. I think, just as it did when our children were young, the answer begins with parents. 

I know how I talk and what movies, TV shows and songs I listen to sets the standard for how I want my children to conduct themselves. I can't hold them to a standard I'm not willing to uphold myself.

In addition, parents should expect that kids will experiment with cursing but our reactions to foul language should be swift and consistent. But don't wait until you catch them being bad. Be proactive. Have conversations about your expectations and teach your kids about the power of words.

Language is a beautiful thing really. Just like it has the ability to be foul and disgusting it can also be a glorious form of expression and encouragement. Let's teach our kids how to use their words for the benefit of others. It would just make the world a better place. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so. That's why!

Q. what completely inappropriate, rude, drop-your jaw-in astonishment has your kid said? C'mon fess up in the comment section & give us all a laugh because we've all been there!

(This article appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series for The Review Atlas. You can access back articles by starting here)

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