While sharing morning tea with my three-year-old son, I started to make conversation (as you do). When I paused in anticipation of a verbal response he simply nodded or made silly noises.
So I kept talking, enjoying our time together until he finally said with no inflection of sarcasm or rudeness.:
‘Stop talking, Mummy.’
I replied, feeling simultaneously rejected and baffled. He kept eating. It was no big deal– to him.
Connecting with my child
I wondered why I couldn’t connect with my child. At the same age my daughter (now five) never stopped talking or asking questions. So why was I failing to engage my son?
He is happy to play cars with me, paint together, or ask me to make Play Doh dinosaurs. But conversation? Nup.
Don’t get me wrong, he and I do talk, we just don’t converse. I’m not concerned about his development but I do wonder if I could be doing more to encourage him to be curious or ask questions or find some interest in his mummy’s chatter.
It’s a boy thing!
I confessed to my mother that I felt I was failing; that I felt I was having trouble bonding.
She laughed and said, ‘Darling, he’s a boy! And he’s a boy boy.’ Yes, I had to concede, he did come out of the womb with a natural affinity for anything with wheels. But why should his gender affect our relationship?
Had my daughter’s verbal repartee fooled me into thinking that all children were chatterboxes at home, in the comfort and familiarity of their parents?
So I Googled ‘Why don’t boys talk much?’ and received a variety of answers.
- Boys and girls develop differently and at different rates in many areas – including speech (girls talk sooner and more clearly than boys);
- It’s not a gender issue – children, just like adults, can be either extroverted or introverted;
- Boys don’t need to vocalise in order to process;
- Not talking isn’t an issue, but excessive talking can be a sign of a very bright child or reveal a child to be overly anxious; and,
- Most of the results were actually related to grown men (i.e. advice for women on how to communicate with their unresponsive male partner).
A kidspot.com.au article offered some interesting facts:
- A 2007 study in Stockholm of 30,000 newborn babies found girls’ hearing is, “slightly but significantly” better than boys. (So really he’s just not hearing me!);
- The average 20-month-old girl has twice the vocabulary of the average 20-month-old boy; and,
- According to the ABS, during 2002-03 there were nearly double the number of boys compared to girls hospitalised for injuries (I know this has nothing to do with toddler conversations, but a clear warning to all parents of boys to keep a fully stocked first-aid kit).
Accepting the biological differences
The number of books available to parents to help them raise their boys, or their girls, is a clear indication that society accepts the biological differences between the sexes in terms of development and the affects of nurturing.
When I look at my son, this boy who tells me he loves me but isn’t interested in talking about my day, or even his, I can only come up with one conclusion. To this cheerful three-year-old-boy of mine, talking just isn’t as interesting as sticky-taping two toilet rolls together.
I can only hope that as he grows to be a young man, his future partner doesn’t have to Google about his communication.
Kris Sheather is a writer, graphic designer, award-winning digital artist, publishing manager of Ormiston Press and a busy mother of two.
Her motto: life is short, eat the cake!