Wednesday, July 30, 2008

You Had Me at Hello

"Houston, we have a problem."  "What we have here is a failure to communicate."  I could've run with either of these, but instead, today's post title cribs from a famous line in the movie, Jerry Maguire.  See, it seems Jada is having trouble grasping the concept of conversation.  If, for example, I ask her, "Jada, did I give you a vitamin for dinner," she doesn't understand that it's a question that she has to think about and then answer, and an answer that might be different each day if the circumstances are different; instead. for her, words are just parts of different pre-rehearsed scripts, which, once she learns, she says over and over again, and expects us to say with her over and over again.

In fact, she doesn't really even know how to say hi when someone says hi.  I can't tell you how many times we run into classmates of hers on the street who will say, "Hello," and she doesn't respond to them, because she doesn't realize that what you do in that situation is you converse.  Some of her friends even wonder aloud if she's being rude or snobby for not responding, and it's hard to blame them for arriving at that conclusion, even though obviously that's not what's going on for Jada; she just simply doesn't know how to have a conversation. 

Speaking of communications, we're struggling with Aaron, too.  We're trying to break him of his legendary temper, which means not responding to tantrums and crying.  Given that those are his only current modes of communication, he's frustrated a lot; but it's imperative that we help him find alternative ways to tell us what he wants, and we can't get him there if we reinforce that wailing away or writhing on the floor works. 

We're trying to do what the books and the experts tell us to: read to our kids, talk with them, stretch them in our conversations.  But it's tiring.  Of course, as soon as we get over this hump, there'll be new ways we'll struggle to communicate with our kids.  And we haven't even gotten remotely close to the teen years, when their brains go to mush and they become even more challenging to converse with.  If only we could have them at "Hello."
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