Too many choices and too many words can be confusing for children. Children speak best in gestures, because gestures are the first language. Babies instinctively reach for and nuzzle their parents. As they grow, babies imitate language by babbling without knowing the meaning of words. A few words, followed by a gesture, are the easiest for them to understand. ‘It is time to put on your shoes’, followed by assistance with the shoes is a clear way of communicating. Linking movements with language teaches what words mean. Giving a child a choice about putting on the shoes will lead to a battle of wills. A gently sung reminder that ‘it is time to put our shoes on, not to talk’ is all that is needed. As Rahima Baldwin Dancy writes, “If you want to teach a certain behavior to your child, one of the best ways is to actually do it in front of (or with) him. This demands that we as adults get up and actually do something, instead of giving the child orders or directions.”(253) Sometimes the only answer to the constant speech of televisions, radios, computers and electronic toys is.. silence. Children imitate the speech they hear in the media. However, the living adults around them are their primary example. Quiet insistence on acting on our words and being true to them is vital to a child’s executive function, or ability to recognize their right to choose.
In the play yard this morning, the caregivers were discussing how they bring simplify and create space for the inner voice. A fireplace or a candle altar as the center to a room instead of a television, spending the weekend quietly at home, or observing nature together were some ideas. After all, the influx of advertisements that families see driving down the street is enough to be exhausting. A simple fall spent watching the wind sweep away the leaves creates space for big and small people to grow. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I will see you lovely families taking hikes in the fall woods as always!