Talking to children

Give them a chance to talk.
Wait for your child to finish their sentence before you tell them the corrected version. Give them enough time to tell you or show you what they want to say. Avoid meeting them halfway. Let your child begin conversations every day and add to it by asking questions or by commenting. Give them enough time to answer your questions. You must stay silent after asking a question or making a comment. For example, if they are looking out the window at their father leaving, do not say anything right away. Wait for them to start the conversation: “Daddy go”. You can rephrase:  “Daddy is leaving” and then you can add to the conversation by saying “Where is daddy going?” wait a bit and if they do not answer, you can say: “Daddy is leaving for work”.

This also applies when you ask your child to choose between two things. Give them time to answer.

Here’s a little tip: you can count a few seconds in your head before giving them the answer or before continuing the conversation. That way you allow them to reach the information before answering and you encourage them to pursue the conversation after your comment.

Verbalize what your child is going through, what they say and what they try to express with difficulty or non-verbally.
Your child points at the refrigerator for juice. Instead of giving them the juice right away, make them put their intention into words: “You want juice?” If your child is happy because they received a gift, they jump, smile, put words on what they are going through: “You are happy!”

Repeat what your child says and add to the discussion.
When your child is trying to communicate with you, it is important to repeat correctly what they tried to say. It will make them feel like you listened to them and understood what they meant. They will also hear the right model. They will want to try again. You can improve their vocabulary even while respecting their development level.

Here is an example. Your child comes in the house and says: “Mommy! Punchkin!” Get down on their level and give them the right model: “a pumpkin”. You can add to the discussion by saying: “You saw a pumpkin?” Give them some time to answer. If they go on and say, “yes” while pointing outside, you will be able to continue the conversation: “A pumpkin outside”, “You saw a pumpkin outside”. Since the child seems to find it difficult to say pumpkin, you should insist on the word “pumpkin” but without asking them to repeat it. Since the word “outside” does not seem to be part of their vocabulary, you could also insist on that word.

Put your action into words.
Talk about what you do, what your child does, your daily activities… Think aloud.

Talk to the first person and second person singular.
When you talk with your child, use “I” and “you” instead of using the third person singular. For example, instead of saying “Does Charles want milk? Mommy will give you some!” say “Would you like juice? I will give you some”.

Never forget that your child looks up to you as a model in their language development. Above all, never rush a child to speak if they are not ready.

Nathalie Fecteau
Special education teacher

Nathalie Fecteau is a special education teacher and speech technician who works with children of all ages and their families. She has many years of experience in training and professional practice and she is certified SACCADE. She is specialized in autism spectrum disorders (autism, Asperger’s syndrome and unspecified PDD), speech and language disorders, learning disabilities and developmental delay. Her approach, combining fun and learning, is adapted to the specific needs of each child. Nathalie is also working with the media on various topics concerning children and their families. In addition to writing for, she frequently publishes articles on parenting in the magazine La Culbute and its website Dimension éducative, which she cofounded. Dimension éducative provides family, academic, developmental and professional coaching. You can contact her by email at

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