14
May

Post by Jessica R.

I’m an English major. To be more specific, I’m an English major with a Masters in English Lit. So as you can imagine language is really important to me. Correcting people is not something I do consciously, though I’m sure it’s terribly annoying when I do it.

Ever since the girls started talking I have worked hard to formulate my replies so that they contain the corrected version of their own question. I use the right pronunciation then I throw in a little something extra to expand their vocabulary.

“I wanna cookie” leads to “Do you want a gooey chocolate cookie or a crisp sugar cookie?” (Which usually leads to “Both please,” but that’s a whole other issue.)

So far it has worked beautifully. Both of my girls have impressive vocabularies and speak well above their age level. Only now I’m entering new waters. Instead of feeling the need to correct pronunciation and expand vocabulary, it’s the grammar that is tripping me up and I find myself doing just what I do to my friends.

I interrupt in the middle of a sentence to interject the correct grammar.

“‘Lucie and I,’ not ‘me and Lucie.’”

At first my oldest daughter didn’t seem to mind. She’d just repeat the correct phrasing and keep going with her story. Now though I’m starting to get an eye roll here, a shrug there, or worse, a sad look in her eye and a sentence that comes to an abrupt end. Story over. If I nudge her to continue, she shrugs and just says “never mind.”

I know that one day in the not too distant future she will stop rambling on endlessly about her days, her dreams, her random passing thoughts. I just didn’t think that I would cause her to go silent so early.

I think that I’m going to have to make an effort to bite my tongue and rely more on setting a good example rather than correcting her speech all the time. And while I’m at it I might try doing the same around my friends. I’m sure everyone will appreciate it if I give the grammar police some time off.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this important lesson. It takes courage for children to use language, especially when they are just beginning as toddlers. I always imagine it this way: I’m in a foreign country bravely trying out a language I’ve been learning. Rather than working to understand what I am trying to say, and accepting all my mistakes, the natives keep stopping me and correcting me. That would be enough to shut me up for a year!

    Eventually, all children learn the difference between puppies and bears, and green and orange, and they use correct grammar. They learn best by hearing us respectfully extend their sentences, as you did with your daughters, not from being corrected on every detail (or even worse, imitated with “ape talk” as that misguided “expert” Dr. Karp recommends!)

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