I never used ‘baby talk’ with my children – I could never see the point – they would have to learn the proper words eventually, so why not start as you mean to go on?
I was especially careful when it came to Freddie, who I knew from the get-go would have more difficulty acquiring speech and language skills. Why make life harder by giving him a set of ‘milk words’ that would become redundant once he reached school age?
I have realised that I do make too much of a baby of him in other ways, though.
He has a developmental delay, a learning disability and a short attention span. It is often much easier and quicker to do things for him, especially during the course of a busy day when our schedule is dictated by school times, appointments, etc. Freddie is small for his age. He still has a baby-face, a button nose, and a toddler’s Teletubby-shaped physique. It is almost natural to perceive him as being younger than he actually is.
His difficulties with communication mean that it is difficult to gauge just how much understanding he has of the world – it may be more than he can communicate to us. I suspect that this may be the root cause of some of the behaviours we have been getting lately. He is, perhaps, frustrated because he is ready to take the next developmental step, but in order to do that he needs us to stop viewing him as a baby, and challenge him more; challenge him to progress.
I would like to say that my parenting style is ‘instinctive’ – that I do first whatever comes most naturally and let my children’s learning flow organically from there. But to be honest, I think it is because I am lazy, and like an easy life, that I tackle the little things and the fun things first; and in the first instance I teach my children by rote. In other words, I just get my kids into habits.
Freddie is particularly good at getting into habits – usually ones you’d rather he didn’t. So, during the summer holidays I have decided to try to get him into one or two ‘habits’ that I do want to encourage. Like sitting nicely at the table – starting with coffee shops. Believe me, this is no excuse to pose about in my summer frock and shades, behind a dessert-like mountain of froth, pretending to be a lady of leisure and lunches. No. I started with coffee shops because there I’m not distracted by chores, I can sit down and focus on Freddie. It doesn’t take all that long to finish a cuppa and a biscuit, so the length of time he is required to sit is short, and manageable for him, so it is easy to be successful.
At the moment, a long-winded explanation of why we don’t run around in cafes would mean very little to him. But the repeated experience of going into coffee shops, of being placed in a grown-up seat to have his drink and snack instead of a baby seat, spending a pleasant time chatting with mummy; and of being put back in his buggy with the straps fastened as soon as he starts to run around or act up, should eventually become a routine, the thing we do in that situation.
Hopefully it will eventually translate into the thing we do at all tables.
There are no quick fixes when it comes to Freddie’s behaviour and development. Everything we do is geared towards long-term goals rather than instant results.
But working towards these eventual goals has given me back a sense of control and of purpose, and allows me to look forward with optimism.
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