When I hear the term “use your words,” I immediately get flashbacks from working my first job out of college. I was the lead teacher in a private daycare. I started in a classroom of six freshly turned two year olds. I loved every moment of working with those terrible twos because I am particularly good at establishing boundaries, which is what toddlers crave. After a few months of getting myself established, management decided that I needed more of a challenge and switched me into a classroom with ten 3.5 – 4 year olds. If you have ever paid any attention to the sudden burst of language that happens between these ages, then you are missing out on a neurological wonder. In my classroom of toddlers, there wasn’t much back-sass because most of them were still only babbling. However, my older three year old classroom could not only back-sass, but they were also learning to form “cliques” and gang up on each other. This is where the phrase “use your words” conjures up memories.
For all my preparation, patience, and prowess, I went into the daycare everyday and faced what was sure to be a day of boogers, tears, and fights. Obviously, language bursts in the first few years of life but it takes almost a life time to learn how to use it correctly. This can mean in very basic forms such as students gaining the ability to ask the teacher for juice when they’re thirsty or it can be more complex like learning to talk through an argument with a friend. Another important aspect to learn is learning when not to use your words as well. A three year old can be stubborn but at this age he/she is also learning about empathy and compassion. Sometimes it’s hard not to tell someone when their hair looks stupid, or they’re being poopy-heads. So how do you explain these concepts to children when all they want to do is say every word that comes to mind all the time? Learning to talk is amazing to see in children, and to see what they do with the skills once acquired it something to be proud of. You had a hand in teaching them to use their words. Combined with the gift of language learning itself, sometimes knowing when to use your words is equally as important as knowing how to use them.