I am holding up a bright yellow jacket at the LL Bean outlet in New Hampshire. “Hey look this is really bright it will be great for biking,” I say to my daughter. “No, it’s dull she says!” I’m puzzled and confused. I look at the jacket again and then walk off to pay the cashier. I’m laughing with the cashier as I tell her, “My daughter says this jacket is dull!” The cashier looks at me, and we share a laugh. I say, it must be, “she’s 12!” I shake my head and leave the store. Later talking with my daughter, she continues to insist that the jacket is “dull,” but finally she says something I understand. “It’s not neon.” Now things are becoming clearer to me. “You mean it’s not reflective?” I say. She says, “yeah” in her grumpy pre-teen voice. We begin to have a conversation about the difference between bright and reflective. I ask her to identify some things as we are driving that are bright vs. reflective. The sign across the highway is lit with lights; it is bright. The sign on the side of the highway without lights is reflective. I say, “My yellow jacket is bright,” I say, “but you are right the jacket is not reflective.”How many times as parents do we have these kinds of conversations with our children
How many times as parents do we have conversations where we misinterpret what our children are trying to tell us? We become angry. Think of them as disrespectful, and in truth, we have had a communication breakdown. The yellow jacket conversation was a perfect teachable moment for vocabulary development. I’m glad that this time I did not miss the opportunity for vocabulary development and better understanding of my child’s interpretation of the world. I certainly have misinterpreted and proceeded to have an angry exchange with my child because of misunderstandings. Luckily, this time I was so confused, I could not get mad. My confusion led me to explore. With children, with and without identified language impairments, this type of misunderstanding happens frequently. For some parents, it is easy to explore and repair the misunderstanding, but for others of us stressed and overworked with an authoritarian style of parenting taking the time to understand our children can be difficult. When children have speech and language disorders, capitalizing on teachable moments for vocabulary development is critical.
Additional reading on the importance of teachable moments.