You’ve had to explain the gravitational pull of the moon, you’ve heard a recap of last year’s trip to the beach, and you’ve negotiated a weather-appropriate outfit. All before you pour the breakfast cereal.
These conversations continue as you put shoes on and head to the car. On the road, you hear a play-by-play of the street signs and traffic signals, and you discuss the pros and cons of using finger paint at the craft center today.
But after preschool, it’s a different story. Huge tears. Meltdowns in the hallway. Carrying her to the car because she refuses to walk. Where is the mature child you dropped off this morning?
Parenting a highly verbal child can be exhausting and confusing. One minute it feels like you’re talking to a mini-adult, the next you’re dealing with a screaming newborn. Instead of jumping on the emotional roller-coaster, here are a few tips.
Understand the brain
Your child’s brain has grasped the concept of communication and ran with it. Some kids may also learn to read or write early or be able to have in-depth conversations about complex topics. It’s hard to remember that their brains are still developing. Biologically, your child is still very immature. Brain development is a slow, uneven process. There is still lots of learning and growing for them yet to do!
Keep your expectations realistic
Keeping brain information in mind, realize that your child’s ability to self-regulate is still going to be inconsistent. If he is hungry, tired, overstimulated, or feeling disconnected from you, you will see more meltdowns, arguments, or power struggles. Look beyond your child’s verbal ability in these moments, realizing that he is still too young to manage these situations well 100 percent of the time.
Don’t give up your position
It’s easy to feel sideswiped by the negotiating skills of a savvy preschooler, but remember, your child is not mature enough to fill the role of decision maker. You are still the parent and your child needs to be able to rest in your confident leadership. It’s okay to have a conversation, hear her position, or explore other options together. But when it comes to setting a boundary, your child needs you to remain in your role as the adult so she can stay a child.
Being a highly verbal may not be easy for your child. He may feel different from his peers, feel pressured to act more mature, or feel frustrated when you set a limit. Rather than using logic or reasoning, stick to empathy. Join him in these big feelings. Give him words to use. Let him know you understand where he is coming from, and offer to stay close when big feelings become overwhelming.
Let them be little
Allow plenty of time for play, silliness, or roughhousing. Remind yourself that she is still young – even if her vocabulary says otherwise. Check your own annoyance or frustration when she actually “acts her age.” If your child is more serious or rigid, teach calming skills or provide opportunities to relax.
If you’re feeling exhausted, you’re not alone. It’s not easy to raise a highly intelligent or highly verbal child. It can feel isolating and confusing, especially if you do not have a support system that understands your unique challenges. You don’t have to struggle alone. It’s not easy to reach out and ask for help. But, once you do, you will realize that other parents are right where you are.
Carrying your screaming child to the car, you kiss her forehead, remind yourself that she’s only three years old. She’s still a baby. In this moment, she’s right on track developmentally, even if 10 minutes from now, she’ll be telling you random facts about endangered sea turtles.
This piece was originally published on Imperfect Families.