Parenting Coach

Practical ideas for social, emotional and behavioral challenges

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Teach him to read between the lines.

What you can do

Help your child practice looking out for colorful expressions that people don’t intend to be taken literally. Use TV shows, books and personal experiences to help him “read between the lines” and understand what people really mean.

What you can say

“Jacob, when Dad says his work is driving him crazy, what he really means is he has so much work to do right now that he feels a bit overwhelmed. People sometimes exaggerate to make a point or to emphasize an emotion. I promise you that Dad is not crazy. He’s just really busy!”

“People use these kinds of expressions a lot. For example, you might hear a friend say, ‘I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!’ He doesn’t actually mean he’s going to chow down on a Clydesdale. This is just a dramatic way of saying he’s really, really hungry.”

“Maybe we could watch The Middle or Modern Family together and try to decide when people are saying exactly what they mean or are exaggerating to make a point. It might be kind of fun, especially since we both love those shows.”

“Or maybe we could read an Amelia Bedelia book together? It might be a little young for you, but she’s a really funny character and shows how being very literal-minded can lead to all sorts of confusion.”

Why this will help

Kids with learning and attention issues can get tripped up by some of the subtler aspects of language. They may not realize when someone uses a metaphor or exaggerates to emphasize a point. They tend to be very literal-minded. This also means they may not naturally pick on things like irony and sarcasm.

By practicing together, you can help your child get better at understanding nonliteral language. Reminding him to be on the lookout for colorful phrases will help him interpret people’s comments correctly. Focusing on these kinds of expressions will also help him start to use them more effectively.

38Found this helpful
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