Speaking of Sign Language, I am a big cheerleader for anybody who wants to sign with their baby.
I think teaching a child to sign “please” (flat hand circling on the chest) substantially reduces the amount of whining pre-verbal babies engage in.
My belief is that the majority of whining from older babies is the result of frustration.
The child knows what she wants, but has no way to ask for it.
- Teach your child “please” instead of “more.” They function the same way for the child, but “please” introduces that important word sooner, and in my experience is better for the grown-ups’ sensibilities.
- Make a special effort to help the child absorb “please” for an automatic response. Set up situations and move the child’s hand yourself while you show him how you want the sign used.
This differs from the way you’re “supposed” to teach signs.
Garcia (the author of one baby signing book) insists that one should allow the signs to develop naturally– as spoken words do– by the child mimicking the adult in his or her own time.
In my experience (maybe I’ve just never waited long enough) I’ve never seen a child take up using a spoken please without coaching and prompting from the parent, so I see no inconsistency in “making” a child sign “please.”
When I was 18 I “trained” my 9-month-old niece in about 15-minutes with a bowl of fruit loops.
I would not make the same decision today as a mother ;o)
It was very Pavlovian, I admit, but the reduction in whining and the sweetness that developed along with her ready and eager “please” convinced me she was improved rather than scarred by it.
As a side-note she did eventually learn “more” somewhere, and there was a real distinction in attitude for how they were used, confirming for me the desirability of “please” as a substitute, in the beginning especially.