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Being a parent is a complex job, but it is also a very rewarding job as well, especially when you get to play an integral role in raising an amazing human being. If you are like me, and if you are trying to raise a high achiever, researchers have pointed out one crucial thing you should be doing in your early years.

Did you know that the way in which you talk to your toddler can determine how much of a high-achiever they will become? According to research, it is all in the words you choose when working with little ones. Specifically, their success rate lies in the dialogue between parent and child.

So what IS the right way?

Back in the 90s, people believed that words played a role in whether or not a child would become a higher achiever. However, instead of the kind of language being the focal point of the research, they believed that children who grew up in lower socioeconomic classes were less likely to be exposed to as many words as those who grew up in the upper and middle classes. This was known as the 30-million-word gap. Basically, they believed that poor kids heard 30 million fewer words by age 3.

Now, we know that is not what is actually going on. Instead, what matters is the type of language that kids are exposed to early on. One particular study carried out by MIT in 2017 found that lower-earning parents had fewer conversations with their kids than higher earners.

When they observed MRIs taken from kids ages 4, 5, and 6 while they were being read to. What they observed was that those children who had a more interactive story time, which included back-and-forth dialogue, were more likely to have the areas for language to exhibit more activity.

This helped them to conclude that it’s not talking to children that encourages brain development, but instead, talking with them. This is something anyone can do, regardless of class or socioeconomic status.

What is mechanistic language?

It is all in the form of dialogue you engage your child with. For example, your child may ask, “How does the light come on?” If you want to talk to your child and not engage them, you might say, “You hit the switch, and the light comes on.” However, if you want to really get their mind going, you instead could explain the process using mechanistic language. “When you flip the switch up, the circuit opens, which delivers electricity to the light fixture. When you flip it down, it closes the circuit, and it prevents power from going to the light and the light no longer works.” For even more depth, you could ask them questions to get them even more engaged.


While people who are higher on the socio-economic food chain may tend to have more dialogue with their kids than those who aren’t- the more people learn about this concept, the more able, everyone will have access to the same outcomes. Talking with your toddler, instead of to them, doesn’t require you to have a bigger income. It all comes down to having discourse and staying engaged with your children.