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  • If You Want Your Child To Excel In School, Talk To Her This Way

    The way you respond to your child’s many questions matters.
    by Kate Borbon .
If You Want Your Child To Excel In School, Talk To Her This Way
  • According to new research, raising a child who excels academically is not merely about exposing her to lots of words to expand her vocabulary; rather, it’s the way adults talk to her that matters.

    In this study, researchers observed three- to five-year-old kids from low- and mid-socioeconomic households and their parents as they played with a simple circuit that could turn on a lightbulb. Through this setup, the researchers aimed to inspire the kids’ curiosity and spark their problem-solving skills.

    Upon seeing the circuit, the kids had lots of questions for their parents. The researchers monitored the way the parents responded to the children’s inquiries, such as “How does a switch work?”

    The questions of the children were very similar regardless of their economic background, according to Katelyn Kurkul, Ed.D., a child development professor who began studying this subject as a graduate student. “They were very similar: information seeking and causal questions. The differences came down to how the parents responded.”


    The researchers observed that parents from wealthier households tended to utilize what is called “mechanistic language” when answering their kids’ inquiries while those from poorer households did not.

    Fatherly says that mechanistic language “offers detail and explanation, helping the child gain understanding.” For example, in response to “How does a switch work?” a non-mechanistic response might go, “You just turn it on and off.” On the other hand, a mechanistic response might go, “The switch connects the circuit. Right now, the switch is open, and when you close it, you’re switching it to turn and it closes the circuit and powers it all the way through.”

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    According to Fatherly, mechanistic language gives kids more information and encourages them to ask more questions, which can lead to back-and-forth conversations that benefit their brain development.

    Lourdes Bernadette Lopez, CSP-PASP, a Batangas-based pediatric speech and language pathologist also known as Teacher Bernice, concurs with the study’s findings in a Facebook Messenger interview with SmartParenting.com.ph.


    Teacher Bernice says, “It is not enough to just teach kids words. Give them opportunity to process and use words through natural interactions and spontaneous conversations. For instance, letting your child recite a bunch of flashcards, or memorize continents of the world at young age, won’t boost their brain development. These kinds of ‘teaching practices’ take the context out of actual learning, and will only make them rote-learners.”

    She adds, “On the other hand, when we play, interact and talk with children, meaningful learning occurs. If we want them to develop language, processing, thinking, and social skills, we simply need to naturally engage children in ‘quality’ back-and-forth conversations. This taps more areas of their brain as compared to just bombarding them with words that they just end up memorizing.

    “They may not know the continents of the world, or all the planets of the solar system yet, but they will be better learners and thinkers, and more fluent speakers.”


    The main takeaway here, Fatherly writes, is that the quality of your conversations with your child matters when it comes to preparing her for school. So next time your child throws you a question, why not try your best to give her as detailed an answer as possible? She may not be able to comprehend it completely, but it might just be good for her brain.

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