Talking Back is Good? by childgrower A. Woz.

The study asks,

“Are certain parenting techniques, like using commands, short-circuiting brain development?”

I’m reading this story in Newsweek, November 2009, by Tony Dokoupil about  the preliminary results of a new study published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal.  Tracking more than 8,000 children, the  findings suggest that regardless of socioeconomic background, small differences in communication style can have an impact on children.

Evidently, “Mothers and fathers who mainly talk to their offspring using commands rather than reasoning, often get their kids to do what they want, but they may also be short-circuiting brain development.”

What!? Arguing with mom and dad is a good thing?

I put down the Newsweek article and put  some thought into my parenting style for a bit.

I grew up on the standard, “Children should be seen and not heard,” and the all applicable classic, “Because I said so.”

The exasperated look on the faces of relatives when I calmly, and repeatedly told my first born at a holiday gathering,  “The fireplace is hot. Step back!” instead of just yelling, “No!”, or maybe slapping her hand away or worse, letting her touch it once to learn the hard way, should have been captured by National Geographic.

I was full of grand and kinder gentler ways of setting limits.

Imagine this first time mom, determined to have a compliant child, embarking on my first of many grand ideas. Thinking that if I could only avoid introducing the word “no” and instead use the words, “Not for you!” I believed I’d never get a defiant head shake and the unwavering “No!” when I asked mine to follow an order.

Oh new moms- we are so funny.

While my avoidance of one word didn’t hurt – my children just figured out how to say no in different ways and at different decibel levels. For example, my third child knew just how to clearly avoid the ten second tidy with a multitude of reasons why the toy cows have to be lined up, exactly the right way, on the linoleum, facing forward and behind the fence, before nap time, and never dumped in the toy bin.

Is talking back to mom good for kids?

Well, it’s a little more than that.

In a second study, two dozen families were observed for a year. Mother-child interaction consisting primarily of direct verbal commands (Don’t throw toys) vs a reasoning approach (Throwing toys can hurt someone, put the toy down) “appears to invite more complex thought and language development,” says Bruce Fuller, the UC Berkeley education professor who coauthored the work.

So if a kid can argue he is gifted? Whew! I’m raising geniuses.

Giving myself a reality check, I am comforted that this study focuses on development for two and three year olds. I’m relieved that the young debaters quickly catch on to the fledgling confidence and effective parenting that comes with experience. Thankfully, new moms and dads don’t stay new to parenting for very long.

We simultaneously grow our parenting skills just as quickly as our children grow their haggling skills.

After the first three years we develop our mommy-brains, cast aside our idealistic notions that arguing is not for you, and quickly pick up the subtle, but effective, evil- eye-followed-by-the-eye-brow-raise that requires no words at all.

### by Annita Woz for EP November 20, 2009.

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