Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Answer Your Baby's Nonverbal Cues

Most parents wait with great anticipation for the day that their babies can speak to them. Just because the little tyke cannot yet talk does not mean that she is not telling you something every minute of every day. Learn to pick up on your little one's cues so that you know what he wants even before he can communicate.

The best way to determine what your baby wants is to watch him or her as much as possible. Get a good feel for how he moves and what he seems to be saying. Some gestures will become familiar to you. Your little one may grunt when he has a dirty diaper instead of crying. Learn to pick up on such cues, and you can help reduce the stress in your baby's life.

You should always respond to baby. There are schools of parenting that hold parents should not run to their children even when they are very young. Failure to respond to a nonverbal baby's cues, however, will teach him that you are unreliable. Once you have a crawler, your baby can come to you with hands out if she wants to be held. Help your baby with this communication by holding her. She needs to feel that there is a point in communicating with you.

When you do not know what your baby wants, make the same gestures yourself. You may find that by reacting like your baby, it will make sense to you what he wants. Move around. Look at the world from his perspective and the answer to his nonverbal puzzle may become obvious to you.

Just because your little one cannot speak to you doesn't mean that you can't speak to him. You should talk to your baby constantly. It helps babies pick up language skills to hear you use simple words and phrases repetitively. You also will show your baby the connection between language and his nonverbal messages. For example, saying "would you like some juice? Mommy will get you some juice. Here's your juice," will help your baby to understand that you are heeding his communication and that "juice" is the word for what he wants.

Talk to your partner or the baby's other caregivers. You may have picked up on something your wife hasn't and vice versa. Talking about what baby did during your care and what it meant can help the two of you to match your experiences and interpretations of the little one's messages. If your baby stays with a sitter, you may find that she picks up on the same cues that other children there use. By talking to your caregiver, you may get an idea of what that odd little hand gesture means.

Listening to your baby before he or she can talk will help you to understand your baby. Knowing what he or she wants now, before the talking begins, can make the transition easier when baby becomes a talker. You will be helping to establish a lifetime of good communication with your baby.
By Julia Mercer

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