Reading your child’s cues may sometimes be a difficult task. This can be especially hard for parents of infants and toddlers who have limited words to describe their feelings. When young children do not have the vocabulary or understanding to express their needs, often their behaviors are misinterpreted which leads to frustration in both the child and the adult.
It is important for adults to remember that children can experience the same emotions as adults do; they just express those feelings differently. Remember that behaviors have meaning, and it may take lots of patience and trial and error to find out exactly what your child is trying to say to you.
Always be aware that sounds, body language, facial expressions, and gestures are a form of communication for a child. For example, babies use their whole body to communicate by gazing intently, crying, arching their back, kicking, or waving. Toddlers become more skilled at communicating their needs by using sounds, gestures, and some language. Preschool-age children grow their communication in leaps and bounds, but please do not mistake their use of language for them being able to fully regulate their emotions. Sometimes they do not have a label for how they are feeling, so they act in a less desirable way. It is our responsibility as parents and teachers to give them the tools they need for expressing these feelings in an age appropriate way.
If you are having a hard time reading your child’s cues as they pass through these challenging milestones, help them by observing and interpreting their behaviors, responding based on what you think the meaning of their behavior is, and trying something different if your first response was wrong.
Remember, you can’t always understand what your child is trying to communicate, and that is perfectly okay. Just remain calm and keep trying, and your efforts will build powerful communicators.