PostHeaderIcon Three Ways To Raise A Grammatically Correct Kid

By Terez Howard

When my 2-year-old pretended to read a page in a book, turned to my husband and said, “Isn’t that interesting?”, I knew there was a lot going on in her little mind. A month ago, she spouted off, “I recognize it is snowing,” as she looked out the window at the snow piling several inches on a foot of ice-packed snow.

“Interesting” and “recognize” may not be the largest or most complex of words, but I think they are pretty advanced for a 2-year-old. In addition, she used them in the correct context and with the correct tense.

As a writer, one of my primary concerns is that my daughter speaks and later writes clearly and properly. That doesn’t mean I drill her with flash cards or sit her in front of hours of “Hooked on Phonics.” Let’s face it. A toddler’s attention span lasts about the duration of a commercial or two. So take that minute or so, and put it to good use.

Read, read, read

Ever heard of the 3 R’s? Reading naturally adds to any human being’s vocabulary. Books use words most people might not say too often, like tuffet and dame. Yes, I’m referring to old favorites “Little Miss Muffet” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep.” I’ve found that nursery rhymes are the perfect length for a youngster and include a wide vocabulary. My girl, Micah, has memorized more of them than me, and she understands what those little poems are talking about.

So, try reading to your baby at least once every day. Don’t pick up a 30-page book with teeny tiny words. Stick to the basics, a nursery rhyme or two. I also like picture books that have one word below them. Board books too oftentimes only have one sentence to a page. As a toddler grows toward a preschool level, longer stories will be sufficient, even anticipated.

Be a good example

None of that “Do as I say, not as I do” stuff. A toddler becomes your little shadow, especially when you’re a stay-at-home mom. When she hears me say, “That ain’t right,” my daughter agrees out loud, “That ain’t right.” And no, it isn’t right.

Good writers naturally should be grammatically correct speakers. I’m personally not a fan of using baby talk. I’m not saying I use a harsh, businesslike tone with children, but I refuse to tell toddlers, “Her go night night with blankety boo.” No way. Then when a little toddler isn’t so little anymore, breaking her of a baby talking addiction will be a challenge. Look at how the majority of high school students speak if you don’t believe me. They may not exactly talk like babies, but many certainly cannot carry on an intelligible conversation.

Correct in stealth mode

Toddlers are insecure at their tender age. Hearing a firm “It isn’t make-did. It’s made.” can be confusing and a bit devastating. When Micah told me that she and Grammy make-did cookies, I said, “Oh, you made cookies. That’s nice. They look delicious.” She beamed with pride… over the cookies or over the fact that I knew what she said. I’m not sure which.

Take time to repeat what your child says, not like an annoying echo, but like an interested party in a conversation. That positive reinforcement goes a long way. After hearing others speak correctly, children eventually will mimic proper grammar. I can attest to this because rather than my daughter calling her blanket “lant lank,” she now calls it her “green blanket with the bears.” Even though lant lank is cute terminology and nothing is wrong with having your own phraseology, who can argue with the benefits of having a grammatically correct child?

Look to the future

Your kid may not be a genius. Your child may end up not becoming a writer or professional public speaker. But good grammar makes for an easier time in school, in a career, in life.

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