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"Can you say . . ."

632 Views 11 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  morgan's_mom
My DS is about to turn 2 and still pre-verbal. He says a few words but basically talks with his lips closed - however, I can understand nearly everythink he is *saying* and he and I communicate very well.

Anyway, advice needed if possible. My family members (who we thankfully don't see very often) typically quiz him and ask "Can you say (fill in word here)?" and it just drives me nuts! First of all, I can't stand the performance aspect of it - my DS is not on stage. Second, it obviously (to me) makes DS uncomfortable/confused as we never do that in our home. Thirdly, my parents are of the mindset that you can "force/teach" a child to talk simply by doing this nonsense (ie: he'd talk if he *wanted* to he just needs to be "pushed").
One time my dad kept egging him on saying "Come on, SAY it!"
and I simply picked up DS and we left the room (we were at their house at the time and kind of "trapped" there).

His birthday party is this weekend and I'm trying to think of catchy (not mean, of course) yet effective comebacks so relatives will refrain from doing this. My biggest concern is saying something that honors my DS and his natural clock/development/rhythm while still getting the point across.

Any ideas for someone who is slightly wimpy/non-confrontational yet also a major mama bear? THANKS in advance for any replies!
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I don't know, I'm normally pretty snarky when my son's concerned, but are you comfortable retorting w/a "Can YOU say butt-out?"

Originally Posted by mamalita
My family members (who we thankfully don't see very often) typically quiz him and ask "Can you say (fill in word here)?" and it just drives me nuts!
Oh, this is one of my pet peeves. It's like my child is a performing monkey! I'm the same way with younger kids and asking them to point to different body parts. My mom would spend hours saying "where's my nose?" My daughter would look at her with an expression on her face like "ummm, don't you know where your own nose is?"

My response has generally been along the lines of "my daughter doesn't like to play games like that, and I would request you respect her preference."

For people who don't seem to respect children's wishes, I respond with something like "studies show that doesn't really speed a child's speech development. She'll get there in her own time."

(I have no idea if actual studies show that or not, but I'm a scientist, and my referring to studies tends to carry weight. They just don't know I'm referring to my own studies on my own daughter.)
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When we were seeing a speech therapist, she told us to absolutely NOT put any direct pressure on the child by saying "Can you say . . ." She said it was fine to ask open ended (as in not yes/no questions) and see if they reply, but to not withold anything or pressure them to use the word. So it was okay to say "What would you like to drink?" But not okay to say "Can you say milk please?"

So if your family is anything like my inlaws, you can always invoke the all powerful doctor and just say "You know, our doctor said that putting pressure on the child will just make them even more hesitant to talk."
A friend of mine's little boy was asked "Can you say doggie" etc. so much that when someone would ask him, he would look at them very seriously and
say "Yes" and walk off.
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I would blame it on the doctor or on a therapist. Mom, you know they say asking can you say is a horrible way to teach a slow to talk child. It can confuse and frustrate them. Open-ended questions are better.

Like "DS do you want cake or ice cream?" "Do you want the blue or red cup?" "What do you want to drink apple or orange juice?"
This is a wimpy way out, but if you're non-confrontational it may work. Won't address the problem, but...

Since it's birthday party, if you hear someone, anyone, badgering him to talk, I'd walk over and say something like, "Oh no - we can't pressure him on his birthday!" and just walk away. Kind of a subtle message, but may be effective.

I am too confrontational - I usually acted shocked and say (usually to my in-laws, occasionally my parents or strangers) "Do you REALLY think that's the best way to help a pre-verbal child learn effective communication and language skills?" and stalk off. No one knows what to say, and they often feel dumb. Mission accomplished.

Good luck!
: I had no idea there was anything wrong with doing "can you say..." My daughter is 23 months and doesn't talk much, but some of the words she says are a hoot coming out (bowl = booooooooooooooolllllllllllllllllllll) and we often sit around playing the "can you say" game whether it's just us or there are others around. She seems to enjoy it and gets a big kick out of showing off for everybody, and we certainly don't get upset or frustrated if she doesn't comply.

Can someone explain why this is such a bad thing? I am talking about developmentally. If you don't like it because you think it forces a child to perform against his will, ok. But I am specifically referring to the comments about that being detrimental to speech development...I'm not sure I buy it.
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Originally Posted by morgan's_mom
But I am specifically referring to the comments about that being detrimental to speech development...I'm not sure I buy it.
I think some of this comes down to an issue of the child getting the message that there's something wrong with the speech development. If you're sitting around having fun and the child is responding, then I don't see any real problem there. If instead the child is getting the message that parents and relatives are concerned about the development (even if it's concern without reason) then the child will probably start to get the message that there's a problem and it becomes a stressful "game".
The previous poster is right, it's about making the child feel self conscious and pressured about their speech. If it's a fun game for both of you, then I don't think it's a problem. But for a child who is considered behind in their speech, I think it only serves to highlight the problem and make them feel self conscious. My ds knows that his speech is behind - he hears us talking about it, he knows that people don't understand what he is saying, and he hears other little kids talking. So to badger him by saying "Can you say . . ." all the time would only serve to make him feel ashamed, IMO. If he can and wants to say it, he will.
I completely agree - sorry if I made it seem like a terrible idea. If your child enjoys it (mine do) it's fine. It's when a child doesn't want to say something because she's shy, grouchy, not sure she can say it, feeling pressured etc.,. and the other person (usually someone who doesn't know the child well or the child wouldn't be so uncomfortable in the first place) just keeps asking or demanding that the child say it. And I'm sure the person usually has good intentions, but it's not a way to teach a child to speak. If it's a fun game, go right ahead.

Take care,
OK, thanks for the explanations, ladies. I agree that if it becomes a situation where people are trying to force a child to say something, that is not good, but I (mis)read a couple of the responses to say that the "can you say" game is bad for development, period.

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