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  • Teresa Newmark, MA, CCC-SLP

Crouching Parent, Talking Child

In my last post, I briefly mentioned crouching, and as my fingers hit the keyboard I knew that my drive-by treatment would not do the topic justice. If anything deserves its own post, it is crouching.

Everyone has their passions, and making people crouch is one of mine. I used to work at a child care center where perfectly well-meaning teachers routinely remained standing while talking to their little charges. I would watch as their words literally went over a tiny two-year-old’s head, and I would fantasize about placing my hands on the teachers’ shoulders and pushing down or maybe having the ceilings lowered to three feet high in order to enforce my strict crouching policy. For some reason (and I hate to admit it), whack-a-mole also came to mind.

So, what is this wonderful crouch?

CROUCH: to adopt a position where the knees are bent, and the upper body is brought forward and down.

Most people who work with young children spend their time kneeling, sitting cross-legged, or crouching – and for good reason. The common denominator among these three approaches is, of course, that they make you short. Short is good. Short allows children to read your face and to look at your mouth when you talk. They can see all those articulators, like your lips, teeth, and tongue, moving to form words. They learn how to form words themselves. They can hear you better. You can hear them better. They are better able to focus on what you are saying. You are not distracted, so they know what you are saying is important, and they take it more seriously.

Sitting and kneeling are good options too, but they are more stationary postures and work best when you plan on interacting with your child for an extended period of time: to play, to talk, or what have you. And I am certainly in favor of that. In fact, I spend most of my life sitting cross-legged across from small children, and I have the worn-out pants to prove it. However, I do advocate adding crouching to your getting-short repertoire. It is an extremely versatile skill that can be used frequently in your day-to-day routine, and why not use it, given its simplicity and exponential benefits?

In addition to all the speech, language, behavior, and hearing benefits enumerated above, crouching has several unique upsides:

  1. More intact pants (see above). Incidentally, you can also potentially wear a skirt or dress while crouching, which is more than I can say for sitting cross-legged

  2. You can quickly transition from crouching to another important activity, like getting your child a cup of milk or flying out the door to go to the park

  3. I may be wrong about this, but my personal belief is that crouching has an enormous physical benefit for the croucher, specifically in the bottom and thigh areas. (And if your small child makes getting to the gym tough – as mine certainly does – this may be the best benefit of all).

Crouching for Better Speech and Language:

  1. Stand two feet or so away from your child

  2. Crouch down to eye level

  3. Make eye contact

  4. Encourage your child to look at your eyes and mouth, potentially by holding up an object of interest next to your face. This especially helps if the object happens to be the thing you are talking about.

Whether you are a sitter, a kneeler, or a croucher, my advice to you is to resist the urge to be the tallest tree in the forest. Help your little saplings learn by getting down and looking them in the eye. Don’t make me lower the ceilings.


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