Updated: May 26
How much does my child understand?
Many parents assume the child’s understanding is limited. We think they do not understand many things which is a real pity because that limits our interactions with them.
Infants understand more than we know.
I have the habit of drying out my child’s ears with a cotton bud after their bath. While it is normally just to clean the outer ear, I do sometime, go deeper to clean it more thoroughly.
My young ones never like it. They would shake their heads or cover their ears as they grow older. Being a respectful parent, I will assure them I to stop, and promptly honour my word.
Over just 2 consecutive times, I noticed they would stop shaking their heads or covering their ears as soon as I say “Ok, I know you don’t like it, I’ll stop now.” It is as if they knew there would be no continuation of discomfort just because I had given my word.
What is even more amazing is their lack of reaction even when I bring my lips close to kiss their ears. Their absolute faith in me to honour my words meant they expected no ‘ear-clean’, and were not even threatened when my lips were close to their ears. Their lack of reaction shows they understand what I mean long before they can speak.
So I take time to explain things to them. I tell them why I do certain things. I share my reasons for specific actions and watch for their eyes to light up with understanding. While it was a surprise when my firstborn complied with certain requests I made without a fuss, it soon became a real joy to watch each toddler promptly taking actions aligned with their understanding.
She would totter off to wake daddy by pushing him off the bed. He would share his lollipop with his sister when requested because he knew it was just one lick. She would return the toy to the shelf when I explained why “No” was my answer.
Children are smarter than we think. They may not have the vocabulary to express their thoughts, but they understand. Engage their reasoning skills at a young age. Here are 4 things to do for that brilliant Einstein to show up!
Explain the “WHY”. It may take a few seconds and sometimes, parents avoid explaining because it could turn into a power struggle. Power struggles stem from something else altogether. When you logically explain the “WHY” it actually develops their reasoning skills. And yours too! Be open to consider your answer could be different if you gave it some consideration from their angle.
Be consistent. The reason why many kids seem to not understand is the mixed signals they get from us. We tend to be more forgiving when we are in a good mood and erupt suddenly with dire punishments when we are having a bad day for the same misbehaviour. Being consistent gives them a certainty of where the boundaries are, so they can choose to stay within or push the boundaries with pre-communicated consequences.
Expose them to a variety of people, places and experiences. The child’s mind is largely in their programming stages in the first 7 years. So, you will be doing them good the more you expose them to the variety of life’s experiences. From the bark of a tree, to burying them in sand. Let them explore the world with their 5 senses. That is how they ‘take in’ the world.
Read to them. Read to them with expressions, intonations and varied speed. Read to them like a big kid. Impersonate the main characters, stop for a dramatic silence, sing heartily. Make the story omy alive as you connect reading with them. Readings will be something you’ll both enjoy more I promise.
Your child’s understanding will be limited by yours. The more you expand your mental faculty, the more you encourage rational reasoning, the more they will curiously wonder about the world we live in. Bring them up as curious inventors. The world could do with so much more!
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