As a baby signer you need to arm yourself with reasons behind your motivation to sign because inevitably someone is going to come up to you with their objections. Granted, the most likely response is going to be positive, but there’s always that one person who outright discounts baby sign language as some kind of new age fad, or worse, something that can actually cause problems or delays in your baby’s development. Hopefully this person isn’t part of your family such as an over-involved grandparent, or worse, a spouse, but regardless, you’re going to have to have your facts straight.
For starters, re-read the section on reasons to sign with your baby and also the research that supports baby sign language. Referring to these facts is a good place to start especially if you come across someone who simply has doubts. As covered earlier though, there’s going to be someone who pipes up and says that teaching baby sign language will make a child lazy and put off speaking, perhaps forever! To these people, just point out how much more difficult it is to sign and how it makes doing things with your hands so much more prohibitive. The sooner your baby can speak, the sooner your baby is going to be too busy to sign anymore, so remind them of this. Tell them to face the fact that signing is actually more difficult and speaking is actually the lazy way out! Tell them that signing is a bridge from nonverbal to verbal and it’s a regular old milestone just like crawling is, on the way to walking. Explain to them that a baby is going to use signing only so long as it is useful to them and that they will speak just as soon as they are ready. Tell them that speaking is an innate ability that happens in due time, and right now, your baby can’t talk because of developmental constraints and that in the meantime, you’d really like to know more about what kind of little person your baby is shaping up to be, which only signing can permit.
When the person who objects is even closer like a spouse (usually Dad, or inlaw – yikes!), you’re going to have a bit more trouble, but only because it’s closer to home. I say it’s usually Dad because the vast majority of signers who initiate courses are mom’s, with Dad as a passive observer. At least it starts this way – Dad’s are quick to change their tune once you’ve appealed to their logic! I’m going to play the high road and leave the inlaws out of it though – this is usually a battle left ignored! If you can’t get Dad onboard with a bit of education, try showing them some videos online featuring baby’s who sign. Tell them about the benefits such as reduced whining by knowing exactly what they are interest in, uncovering their personality, and connecting with them on a more personal level. In more cases than not, the naysayer changes their tune just as soon as baby starts to sign back. By this time, your naysayer has seen you do the signs so many times, they don’t even need to actively look signs up in the dictionary or read about signing period. They’ve passively picked signing up and unwittingly become part of the process! Without even knowing they’re doing it, they’ll invariably start signing themselves. In fact, if you’re around a signing baby, it’s almost impossible not to!
Other ways to get people involved is by actively teaching them a few signs or by translating signs that your baby already does. This is the fastest way to teach the benefits of signing. If nothing else works, then forget about them, it’s their loss, and with time they will have to admit that they were wrong. If you’re feeling alone during the process, then find other local parents with common interest, or join an online community. If it so happens that you can’t find company, then just go it alone. I promise you that once your baby starts to sign back, you’re going to have plenty of worthy company. After all, remind yourself that everyone is entitled to their opinion – even though, in this case, it’s categorically wrong!
Above: Baby signing MONEY!