Nonverbal Communications with Young Children

When children are too young to understand concepts such as internal motivation, appropriate behavior can still be taught without using rewards or coercion. For example, when a child does something that is not appropriate, lightly touch the child’s wrist and shake your head no. Persevere. You may have to do this a number of times before understanding sets in.

For example, when Dad is carrying little Tyler in the supermarket, Tyler starts to kick Dad in the stomach, laughing with each kick. Dad immediately puts Tyler down, steps back, and rubs his tummy where it hurts, and continues walking.

Another young child, Jenny, stalls and pokes around before getting into the car when the mother is in a hurry. The mother puts her hand on Jenny’s rear and gently guides the child onto the front seat. When the child starts to cry, the mother hugs the child. If crying continues, the child is hugged harder. The crying will stop unless the child is in physical pain before the mother starts hugging.

When the child is old enough to understand, the parent should say, “Show me what is the right thing to do.”