Many children are unable to successfully express their needs through words or actions, which can be inconvenient and even dangerous for both the child and the family.
“Expressing needs is called “making demands” in our professional jargon, and the ability to make demands is often one of the first skill areas that we consider when we give language instruction to our children.
Why it’s important for children to learn how to make demands
Learning to make demands is an essential part of a child’s language development.
Making demands is one of the first skills that every child needs to learn in order to develop more complex language learning.
By meeting the child’s needs, which gradually become reinforcers of the child’s behavior, we help the child to establish “sovereignty” over the resources in the environment, and we help the child to acquire new information, which in turn reduces problematic behaviors.
Learning to ask for what he or she wants also lays the foundation for learning self-care skills. When the child enters the school, he or she can ask the teacher if he or she wants to go to the bathroom, is thirsty, is hot, etc., according to his or her needs, so that he or she can better integrate into social life.
What to teach a child who is weak in asking for what he or she needs
In daily life we can create many motives for children to make requests. For example, when your child is playing, it is a good time to teach your child to ask for things.
Asking for activities:
Deliberately stopping while playing a game of lift-the-go-go-go-go-go-go-go-go-go-go-go-go-go – “more to play”
Blocking the door when your child wants to open it to go outside to play-“Open the door” Asking for help
Asking for help:
Giving a child a water bottle with a lid-“Help me open it.”
Putting a child’s favorite toy out of reach – “Help me carry it”
Asking for items:
Coming home from playing sports at the playground – “I need a drink of water”
A bag of candy on the table – “I want some candy.”
How to get your child to learn to ask for things
1. Start with words, nouns and verbs that have a strong point of reference.
Take the phrase “I want a cookie” for example: “want” is a very broad word. Children can only say “want”, but they can’t be specific about what they want or who they want it from. So we should avoid teaching children broad words at the beginning, and teach them to say the noun “cookie”, and then gradually develop to noun + verb phrases such as “eat cookie”. In the early stages of training, take into account the child’s language and cognitive abilities, and try to simplify the sentences that make the request. Let your child learn to say key words with strong direction first to determine the specific needs of your child.
2. Get your child interested in language
Many parents complain that their children are reluctant to speak and always use their bodies, such as pointing at the toys they want, to express what they want. Parents can increase their children’s interest in speaking up by letting them feel the benefits of learning how to express their needs verbally. When the child expresses his needs verbally, the parents will give him exactly what he wants and let him do what he likes, and he will become more interested in language.
3. Grasp the child’s true motives
To train your child to make demands, you need to have a precise goal. If you can’t grasp the child’s true motivation, the results of teaching will be greatly reduced. For example, always teach the child “I want to sleep”, but the child does not want to sleep, then, “to sleep” is not the “true motive”, the child will not sleep. This is where parents need to be sensitive and quickly understand the motivation. For example, if a child sees a lot of fruits and wants to take one of them, we need to know what the child’s favorite fruit is and then guide the child to say it.
4. Use movement & eyes instead of words
Most parents think that children must say what they want in order to make a successful request, but this is not the case. For children who do not yet have good language skills, we can teach them to use gestures, movements or eyes to replace verbal expression. For example, if you intentionally don’t give your child a spoon when eating, and put the spoon where your child can see it but can’t reach it, you can say “spoon” to your child, and assist your child in pointing to the spoon with his or her hand, and then you can hand the spoon to your child, which is actually a kind of reinforcement for your child to fulfill such a need.
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