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"The word gap" suggests your child will lag behind others because of their background...so does talking to your kids really make much difference?
There’s nothing more stressful than trying to figure out how to raise a child to be smart.
As parents, we want the best for our little ones. This means equipping them for a bright future by investing time and energy into nurturing their talents and intelligence. According to studies, the early years are the best time to do that.
But it raises the question for you on exactly how to raise a smart child. Do you help them learn a few instruments and languages while growing up? What about exercise?
While all of those activities and skills are important, what if we told you that you just need to talk with your child and he’ll grow up to be pretty clever?
Is it really that simple to raise a smart child?
Your little one’s future is full of potentials. And there are so many factors that go into shaping your child to become a well-rounded person who can think quickly on his feet while constantly learning new things.
Conventional wisdom involves keeping your child busy with lots of extracurricular activities and plenty of tutoring to supplement their hectic school schedules. So exactly how does talking to your child boost his intelligence?
One thing to note is that we need to be careful about what we say to our kids. Overpraising children can lead to your little ones growing up to be narcissistic while scolding them too harshly might lead to repressed feelings and immature social skills when they grow older.
But it wasn’t that long ago when we believed no matter what we did as parents, our socioeconomic backgrounds dictated our children’s future.
30 million words – anyone can do it
The results were believed to show that children from better backgrounds spoke 30 million words more compared to kids born into poverty, which was believed to be an indicator of success in later life. This caveat became know as “the word gap”.
Thankfully, it turns out that good parenting trumps how much we earn in raising smart kids!
Harvard study offers new insight behind parenting
A recent Harvard study has helped dispel this myth of predetermination. Researchers found that children aged 4-6 who spoke more at home performed better in language, grammar, and verbal reasoning tests compared to kids who spoke less with their parents at home.
John Gabrieli, the lead author of this interesting new study, told MIT news that the paper “provides the first evidence that family conversation at home is associated with brain development in children.”
The so-called word gap seemed to disappear when kids spoke to their parents. In fact, the social and economic background are said to have no bearing on kids’ test performances in the study. This suggests that as long as your little ones have frequent conversations with you at home, they’ll reap the benefits!
7 tips on how to encourage your child to talk back to you
This is great news! This method seems simple and straightforward. But the key to this strategy isn’t just to talk to your little one. It’s to talk with him!
The goal is to create a running dialogue where each speaker gets a turn to speak, like a tennis match. To keep the conversation going, there is definitely a right way to talk to your child. Here are some simple suggestions you can follow to encourage your little one to keep talking.
1. Ask open-ended questions
By asking open-ended questions, you give your child a chance to think and respond. However, he might not respond with proper answers initially. That’s normal since it takes time to develop a skill.
Stick with it, mummy, and be patient as you wait for him to learn how to answer open-ended questions!
You can set the example by answering your own question to show your child what it looks like. “My day was really fun! I went to work and did some drawings. How was your day?”
2. Ask how was school
If you need to narrow down your line of questioning, try asking how school was. This gives your little one a chance to reflect on the day and what he learnt, reinforcing the information he learnt.
3. Work backwards
While we just suggested you ask open-ended questions, you can start simpler as you build your way up to those bigger and broader questions. By working backwards in your queries, think about what you want to hear and learn about so you know what to ask.
It might involve asking your little one to list out the three reasons why school was so fun, or how playing football made him feel. Children might not be able to answer questions so easily, but you can coax out those answers by starting from the endpoint.
4. Mind your body language!
Parents, your kids are really observant! Even though they might not show it, they notice everything! So when you sit down to talk with your little one, ensure you remain attentive and show you’re engaged. Speaking with him while you’re in the middle of doing something and not making eye contact sends a message that he’s not important to talk to.
Avoid distractions by putting your phone on silent and turning off the TV. A little consideration goes a long way!
5. Keep learning about your child – and yourself
Remember that it’s a learning process for both of you. Take it steady as you find out what makes your child tick. As you experiment and ask different questions, take note of how he responds and what’s easy for him to talk about.
As you learn about your child’s strengths and weaknesses, yours’ will also come to light.
6. Vary the topics you talk about
Don’t avoid any topics! When you talk with your child, it doesn’t have to be a purely academic exercise. Keep it fun and talk about silly things. But also remember to talk about feelings.
As you develop your parentese, you’ll learn how to use language that your child understands to facilitate smoother conversation.
7. Listen to understand, not to reply
Naturally, a conversation needs two to tango. We know the pressure to use this new-found knowledge on how to raise a child to be smart to its maximum potential. But remember to savour the moment. You’re talking with him, not just to him.
Give your little one space to express himself, and use the time to grasp his feelings. He’ll appreciate that you actually listened to him and will be more willing to engage in future conversations.
The word gap has now lessened! This new Harvard study reveals all children can grow up to be smart. It just takes parents to have great conversations with their kids.
Republished from theAsianparent Singapore