The Success of Parents' Indirect Techniques for Teaching their Preschoolers Pragmatic Skills

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Parents' most commonly-used technique for teaching pragmatic skills is indirect criticism of their children's pragmatic errors and omissions (e.g., What do you say?) in which neither the required behaviours nor the fact that children must produce them is explicitly mentioned. A longitudinal study of the effectiveness of such techniques found that 5 preschoolers (M = 3;5) corrected their pragmatic errors or provided omitted behaviours in response to 59% of their parents' 174 indirect comments. In only one case was a child overtly puzzled by such a comment and in only three did children misunderstand and make the wrong correction. Parents may tend to use indirect techniques once their children are relatively skilled pragmatically, so that the criticism- response sequence is routinized. Indirect techniques for teaching prag matics also may be functional socially for parents, provide models of indirectness for children, and help children learn by placing a cognitive load on them in producing the behaviours.

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First Language, v. 8, issue 23, p. 173-181