Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Make Older Sibs Part of the Signing Team

From time to time I write in this blog about the challenges parents face when they upset the family dynamics by adding another baby to the mix. In that regard, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the displaced child is vulnerable to feelings of jealousy and resentment. This week’s message is about how signing has helped ease the tensions of sibling rivalry for many families.

Teaching a baby to sign requires lots of enthusiasm and repetition. “Doggie! [SIGN] See the doggie? [SIGN] What a nice doggie! [SIGN]” The truth is that, especially at first, parents can feel a bit shy about waving their hands around as they ramp up the enthusiasm factor in their voices and faces. In contrast, preschool and school age kids often enjoy acting “silly” and, as a consequence, seldom have a problem providing the energy that makes modeling signs for babies most effective. Because babies love watching their older siblings, these pint-sized teachers do a great job. What’s more. they take great pride in having successfully taught their baby brother or sister a sign. “Watch Mom! She can sign DOG now!”

The obvious benefit here is that the baby learns more signs. But the more subtle benefit is that the older sibling feels an allegiance with the parents as part of the signing “team”—making being older (and wiser) more attractive—and thereby helping offset feelings of jealousy.

So, if you have an older sib available to help teach signs, make it fun. Suggest he/she look for pictures of target objects (e.g., dogs when teaching the DOG sign) in magazines—or even draw them—to post around the house. Soon you’ll see big sister dragging the little one over to the pictures and demonstrating the signs with great gusto. The more the merrier, we always say!

Happy Signing (and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook)!


Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, the Baby Signs® Program
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
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