Talking with Toddlers #5: Timing is EverythingMay 02, 2018
Waiting is difficult. Waiting for other people is the hardest kind of waiting.
Toddlers can be some of the slowest people around.
Sometimes they are slow simply because they are easily distracted. The distraction is a built in brain design for learning, get use to it. Other times they are slow because they don't want to do want ever is being asked of them. But mostly, they are slow because the toddler brain processes at a slower rate.
The neurological system of the infant is extremely immature. The toddler has come a long way, but is still working to create the more complex pathways of knowing. This makes the speed of the neurological connections slow. Especially when your toddler is processing language.
When someones talks to you, your brain goes through a lot of steps to make meaning. First, you hear the words, then your brain interprets them as words. Then you code the words for meaning. Once you understand what was said you decide how to react. Finally you act in response to what was said.
In some situations this seems instantaneous. The older you are, and the more experience you have, the quicker your response time can be. Your toddlers response time is much, much longer.
Limit the ingoing information
The time it takes your toddler to compute the information can look like your child is ignoring you. So you keep talking or restating your request.
If you keep talking to them, asking more questions or providing more information, you are jamming the system. An overloaded system will result in either a breakdown or a shutdown.
You want to give a request and then wait for the response. Really stop talking and wait. Then wait a little more. You may be amazed at how well your child listens and follows your directions when they are given enough time to code and interpret what you have said.
Close the Gap
Young children are surrounded by conversations that don't involve them. They will often shut out the adult conversations going on to focus on what they are doing. Or they have learned when the adults are talking to stay away.
When you are transitioning from talking to others or on the phone to talking to them, you may have to cue them in. Saying their name across the room is likely not quite enough.
Its good practice to walk over and touch your child before you ask them do something. Make sure they know you are talking to them.
Trust and Respect
Giving your child time and space to process and respond, also shows a level of trust and respect. When you give them time it means you trust them to do what you ask. You respect their rhythm.
Unless a clear answer is given or action is taken, your child needs more time to finish processing. Give them the undisturbed time to process. Model what it looks like to wait for someone else to make a decision.
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