Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Baby Sign Language: What is the Sign for Tantrum Again?

By Misty Weaver

Every mom has been there. Your ten-month-old is screaming. She won’t eat. She won’t nurse. She certainly won’t sleep. Her diaper is bone dry. She doesn’t have a fever. She is kicking the sides of her crib and thrashing her head back and forth.

Every mom has been there. Your 18-month-old is absolutely freaking out in the grocery store. Everyone is staring at you. He is trying to climb out of the shopping cart and trying to bite the germ-infested handle.

Every mom has been there. You are teaching your two-year-old to use the potty. She runs over to you, looks at you expectantly, and then pees all over the floor. She is embarrassed and mad and she begins to scream at you, because, it is, after all, all your fault!

How would motherhood be different if our babies could communicate with us before they could speak? What if the ten-month-old could tell us that he is in pain and calmly ask us for some teething gel? What if the 18-month-old could tell you that he just wants one of the big, juicy, shiny, red apples you just nonchalantly walked past? What if the two-year-old, in all her excitement and panic, could tell you that she needed the potty?

Baby Sign Language can do all of this for you. Babies and toddlers get so frustrated so often because their receptive language develops long before their expressive language. They can understand you, but you can’t understand them. They will understand perfectly if you put a bag of apples in the cart and tell them they have to wait until you get into the car to have one, but they cannot tell you that they desperately want that apple!

Babies and toddlers who learn to sign are able to communicate their basic wants and needs with simple gestures. They can tell you if they are hungry. Advanced signers can specify that they want a cookie or an apple. They can tell you that they are thirsty, and say, “No, not milk, I want juice!” They can tell you when and where they are in pain. They can ask for help, and can even tell you when they want to go to bed. And Baby Signs save a lot of paper towels when it comes time for potty training.

Teaching your baby to sign, or even teaching your toddler to sign, will give him a confidence boost, will encourage him to communicate with you, and will let him know that you do care what he has to say! And the best part is that you don’t have to teach your baby a thousand signs to reap the benefits of baby sign language. Each sign that you can add to her vocabulary could represent one less tantrum down the road.

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