My mom has always said that all kids are smart, you just have to work with them. Please indulge me while I take a moment to brag about my kid, in order to illustrate this point: My daughter, at 25 months, is talking in fairly complex complete sentences, and using words such as “actually” and “delicious.” Yesterday, when she saw me for the first time after I got dressed, she looked at me with excitement in her face and said, “Wow! Mommy you are wearing green!” I asked her if she liked my shirt, and she replied, “It’s so HAPPY, Mama! I do like it.”
The final chapter of this book is about children’s language development. Some kids take much longer to speak clearly than others, and most of this variation is not caused by genetics, which means that we can contribute to our children’ progress. I am sure most of you know about the research showing that children’s DVDs may hinder language development. Interaction is a vital part of language acquisition, and they seem to learn more when we respond to what they say than they do listening to us speak.
When our daughter was an infant, she seemed to be fascinated with watching us speak. Just like in the laboratory settings described in this chapter, she would increase her attempts at communication when we gave her positive feedback for trying. She would also study my mouth as I was speaking to her, and sometimes she would even reach up and touch my mouth while I was talking. Then she would try to imitate my lip and tongue position to recreate the sounds I was making. This was always amazing to me that she was actively engaged in trying to learn how to speak, so I always gave her as much time as she remained interested whenever she watched me speak. For all of the “rookie errors” we have made as first-time parents, it looks as though we did this one right – we have helped her become so effectively communicative at such a young age.
She doesn’t know all of her ABCs by sight, she mixes up her colors, and she obviously isn’t reading yet (which some of those infant DVDs promise), but she speaks at a level way beyond her age, which is great for her – it is rare that she says something we do not understand, so she experiences far less frustration than if she spoke less clearly.
The chapter emphasizes that, in language development, we can definitely help our children advance, and very quickly at that. We should give positive feedback when our infants attempt to speak to us, and we should also give them the names of objects accompanied by shaking the object in order to help them connect the word to the item. At the same time, we should give them plenty of quiet time, and time to practice babbling on their own without pummeling them with feedback so their brains can process all that they are learning. We should also avoid trying to guess what word they are attempting to say if it refers to something outside of their sight, because we might end up hindering language development in the process. (The authors did a great job of explaining this – parents of infants should probably read the chapter, as I am trying to simplify the explanation, and am probably leaving out vital information.)
As for the DVDs, I personally think that they are probably fine if parents use them sparingly, as long as we spend time interacting with our kids, or “working with them” as my mom says.
I will review it eventually, but I want to say that I highly recommend this book, even if you do not have children. For me, it has lived up to its hype – it’s very helpful to have current developmental psychological data in one place, particularly since it also provides suggestions for parents to help encourage healthy development.
Other posts about NurtureShock:
Post 1: NurtureShock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
Post 2: Your Brain is a Muscle
Post 3: Sleeping Makes Kids Smarter
Post 4: Race is a Tricky Topic
Post 5: Tattletails and Liars
Post 6: IQ Tests for Toddlers
Post 7: I Love My Sister
Post 8: Those Wacky Teenagers
Post 9: Learning Through Play
Post 10: Daddy, Hug Mommy Now
Post 11: I am Raising a Little Chatterbox