Education / Language
How does your child feel about stuttering? Is he/she nervous? Embarrassed? Scared? Many emotions run through their minds and they don’t know how to cope with them, causing emotional stress that further affects their stuttering.
There are some kids whose feelings don’t overshadow their speech impediment. However, the kids who are at the “bottom of the iceberg” allow their emotions to triumph over their stuttering. They decide that by not talking or limiting their speech they can avoid the potential of being teased or ridiculed. This decision can affect them socially, emotionally and academically. In my personal experience, I came to know a guy who stutters, and went through a difficult time transitioning from childhood to adulthood. His mother did not have the proper knowledge or guidance about his disorder, which caused him to fall behind in life. He was teased and did not know how to cope or defend himself. Throughout the years his self-esteem was negatively affected. After graduating high school, he didn’t want to continue into college because he knew he would have to face new obstacles that he was not ready for.
So how do we help our children overcome and build their self-esteem, making them feel greater than their small problems?
We don’t know what exactly causes stuttering; however, there are several things you can do to help your child learn to speak more fluently without hurting their self-esteem.
Some helpful tips include:
- It’s ok to allow your child to make mistakes.
- Do not call particular attention to speech mistakes.
- Examples of “advice” that do not help your child include: “slow down,” “start over” and “think about what you are going to say”.
Speech mistakes ARE OK and don’t need to be corrected over and over again.
- Honest and matter-of-fact discussions about their stuttering may help your child to know that stuttering is not a subject to hide and that you are there to support him or her.
- Acknowledge difficulties speaking but limit corrective statements.
When we speak with our children, we must help them to see that we are not paying attention to HOW a message is being said (fluent or un-fluent). Rather we are paying attention to WHAT they are saying (the actual message). By NOT giving advice on speech style (“slow down, start over”) and simply reflecting on the message our child is giving, we are creating an atmosphere where communication is fun!
We use this technique in order to increase our children’s positive feelings regarding speech. As we actively listen and encourage our children to express ideas, we also can see an increase in confidence and self-esteem. During interactions with your child, matter-of-factly share your delight in his/her stories or ideas.
As parents and clinicians, we can learn new ways to relate to children. We are all very good at praise. However, as we shall discover, we tend to deliver “evaluative” praise. “Encouraging” praise can give children positive “verbal snapshots” of who they are as people.
There are three steps involved in encouraging praise:
- Making an observation
- Sharing your feelings
- Sum it up with a word
Many times as parents, we tend to direct and expand on our children’s comments in order to “teach” them or increase their language skills. The skill of “letting your child lead” involves letting your child lead communication in both topic and amount of speaking.
These types of interactions also allow your child to know that you are attentive in his/her interests as they are leading the topics discussed.
During an interaction with your child, you allow your child to lead communication topics without extra verbal responses from you. You also decrease your number of questions, allowing for silent times during your conversation.
Parents, teachers, and therapists try to create an environment of acceptance for them. High expectations for fluency may lead to an increase of stress for a child. Your child needs a place where he or she can feel comfortable to make speech mistakes. Modifying speech takes concentration, effort, and energy. Knowing that his/her family unconditionally loves and accepts him/her, allows for limited stress and higher self- esteem.
A child’s speech impediment should not define their personality but simply act as characteristics that make them unique. Self-esteem and confidence is the key for motivation and progress. Stuttering is at the top of the “iceberg” but underneath the “iceberg” lays deeper problems that should also be addressed.
MNSU Stuttering Resources