If your baby gets everything they want seconds before they decide they even want it, chances are pretty good that they won’t learn to communicate. What sense would it do if all their worldly desires are instantly met? Communication is a tool we all use to get us the things we don’t yet have! This is where “delayed physical prompting” can work wonders for those over-attentive parents. You know who you are! However the issue as far as communication is concerned is that you need to make your baby feel wanting of something, so they can ask for it, even if you know for sure what it is that they want! [Right: Bringing the hand to the mouth is a toddler version of the sign EAT.]
Delayed physical prompting/modeling is a technique that involves showing a baby a desired object then waiting more than 5 seconds for them to request it by producing the sign themselves. If your baby does not do the sign, only then will you model the sign for them or physically guide them to do the sign with the help of your hands.
Delayed prompting is a great way to offer your baby a chance to make the sign and so receive the item faster than what they could get if they had to wait for Mom or Dad to help them with the sign. This means that there is a direct and immediate incentive for baby to do the sign, making it a powerful motivating tool. If baby is not able to make the sign or simply doesn’t want to, don’t leave them whining. Simply model the sign for them, wait a second or two to see if they imitate you, and if not, provide them with whatever it is they want regardless. You aren’t trying to torture them into doing things to perfection, you just want to give them the opportunity ask for what they want.
You are teaching your baby that what they want follows communication. When you ask for things, you get them! Insisting that your baby sign their wants and needs is also great way to reduce whining in the long run. When your baby starts whining for something, just ask them to “use your words (signs).” Then insist that they do. I should also add that when a toddler uses proper requesting, you should be more likely to meet their needs than to turn them down. This will reinforce proper communication and diminish whining episodes.
It’s really that simple, although for some reason not every baby sees it that way! In the end, whine reduction requires some fortitude, but if you stick with it you’ll get the results you desire.
Above: MORE is a great early sign to teach because rewards can be given immediately and those rewards are worth working for! Once your baby catches on, he will be using it most at mealtimes, but don’t forget to teach MORE for playing games, songs, dancing, funny faces, etc. MORE everything! Note: the yellow bag is full of garlic!