We were visiting some folks recently and I noticed something about the way they interacted with Bug (3y). First of all, they were asking him all sorts of quizzical questions (like whether he could recognize letters, colors, shapes, or count) completely out of context with the rest of the conversation. Then when he was about to answer, they'd speak over him. Every time.
The other thing I noticed was how quick they were to praise even the slightest thing he did, especially if he was able to get a word in edge wise.
I pondered over this for the next few days and took extra notice of how we interact with Bug at home in those respects. I noticed that we do indeed wait for a considerable pause while he gathers his thoughts to respond in conversation, and the wait is well worth it because he comes up with some really clever things to say. I love being able to get his unique perspective on the world. I also think it is so important to model good conversational skills in this way. Too often when discussing with other adults I notice how people tend to speak over each other and respond without actually considering what the other person said.
Tuesday at breakfast I had an interesting thought considering praise. Bug was eating bacon and said, "Buh. Buh. B for bacon." We do our best not to praise, so my response was a simple, "Yes, that's right. Bacon starts with B." He went on to name the starting sounds and letters for everything else on the table. We thought up other words that started with the same sounds, and even changed up the classic "C is for cookie" song to "B is for bacon" and "C is for coffee". It was a meal full of learning. If we had initially praised him and made a big deal about his 'b for bacon' statement, I wonder if he would have continued along that same path or if his thought process would have been derailed. Distracted and refocused on our reaction.
I've written before about how I think praise for normal behavior, like thinking or being kind or courteous, makes the behavior seem abnormal by calling attention to it. I think we need to be especially careful about avoiding praise when it comes to helping our children learn to think.