Bonding with Baby: Baby Sign Language Builds Early Connections

By Andrea Ploehn

sign-languageIn today’s society, children spend so much time watching TV, playing video and computer games, and are plugged into their phones and other electronic devices. Parents who want to connect with their kids need to start early to build strong bonds that will last, no matter what technological distractions tomorrow brings!

Fortunately, there’s a great way that parents can engage their children at the earliest ages, and strengthen the parent-child bond. It’s a method I have used with my own children and have seen amazing results in their communication and social skills: baby sign language.

In working with my children as babies, and with many other infants, I have found that their ability to learn and understand often goes far beyond their ability to communicate with words. This is supported by research. Joseph Garcia (sign 2 me), explains that babies are able to learn long before the development of verbal language skills. “As infants learn signs, they can begin the foundation for mutual understanding,” Garcia states. “This manual communication can contribute greatly to the bonding process.”

Signing with babies also helps build their socialization skills. Babies who learn sign language are able to communicate their needs long before they can verbalize them. This reduces their frustration, builds their confidence, and helps create stronger bonds with their parents.

I remember one time when my daughter Annie was little and we were waiting for daddy to come home. We heard someone at the door, but it wasn’t dad. She started crying and signing “dad, dad, dad.” My daughter couldn’t verbally say dad yet, so if she hadn’t used the sign for dad, I wouldn’t have understood why she was crying. Instead of being clueless, I was able to reassure her that her dad was on the way.

Using sign language with babies not only boosts the parent/child connection, it’s also a great way for babies to interact with their older siblings and other family members. The bond that my kids have with each other because of sign language is amazing. I’ve been able to replace the jealously that older siblings often feel when a new baby comes, with confidence and pride in helping teach their new sibling how to do baby sign language.

Among our children, Annie helped teach her brother Brandon to sign when he was a baby. Then Ben came along and Annie and Brandon both worked together to teach him to sign. Now the three of them are teaching my youngest, Emily, all the signs she needs to know. Along the way all my kids have experienced years of benefits because of the positive interaction made possible by learning sign language as babies.

Communication and connection are the keys. In today’s disruptive, technology-driven society, these are critical factors for healthy child development. I’m so glad that doing something as simple as signing with my children has so many amazing benefits.

About the Author: Andrea Ploehn (SAY Plone as in “hone”) is an expert on nonverbal communication and teaching babies sign language. A native and resident of Salt Lake City, Utah, she holds a communications degree with an emphasis in interpersonal communication from Idaho State University. She and her husband, a physical therapist, have four children, ages 16 months through 9-years-old. For more information, visit her public website at Contact Andrea at

Leading through Effective Communication

by Eric Papp

ear-listenHow to Listen
“You’re not listening to me.” “You don’t understand.” There is a good chance you’ve heard one of these two lines before.

One of the best skills a leader can utilize is their ability to effectively listen and ask questions to their people.

While I was out speaking across the country I discovered something that changed me forever. It was a skill that I had but didn’t master it and utilize to my ability.

Once I started to put it into daily practice my audience evaluations went up along with my sales and I found myself as one of the top management trainers in the country.

What was it?

Well…after I graduated from Notre Dame I looked back on the lessons I learned and one of them came from a house keeper in O’Neill Hall. Her name was Ms. Leitha.

She taught me how to effectively listen.

Great leaders are those that have mastered the skill of listening not talking.

Here is a simple system for Increasing Influence and Effectiveness by becoming a better listener.

Step 1. Listen w/ liking. I have discovered that over 70% of all altercations (personal/professional) are due to some form of a communication mishap. And that is a direct result of poor listening or prejudging the person before they speak.

Miss Leitha listened to everyone and it didn’t matter if you were a popular football player, book worm or a socially shy person. She liked everyone and her listening demonstrated this.

When people came to my seminars I would mainly speak to the people that were friendly and that liked me. I focused just on them and neglected other audience members. If I liked you I would give you time and attention. Ever been guilty of it?

I quickly discovered that some people might not outwardly show their liking and you have to be open to all folks. When I put this into practice of not judging and doing my best effort to connect with everyone I saw an increase in my scores and sales.

What does listening with dislike look like for you?

  • Not fully listening to your co-workers because you don’t really care for them
  • Preaching to your children instead of listening
  • Listening with one ear to your boss because you dislike them

When you listen with liking you are opening up both ears and are not making any judgments before the conversation begins.

Step 2. Listen w/ your eyes. In our society filled with iPhones, Blackberries, and computer screens giving someone our eyes can be a forgetful habit.

Miss Leitha always made eye contact and reflected your feeling with her eyes. It was incredible it’s like her body language said, “I understand you.”

When I was doing seminars I would often multi-task when people came up and talked to me at the break and at the end of the day. Even though I could usually do both, I discovered that it was frustrating to the person who is talking.

When I made eye contact with a person they would open up to me more and we had a more meaningful conversation.

When talking to a small child you’ll often find they will open up a lot more when you are eye level. This way you don’t come off so tall and intimidating.

Ever try and tell your children something when they were in the next room? Do you find yourself having to repeat it? It can be frustrating because you’re not sure they understand you. Our eyes allow us to send a signal of confirmation.

Step 3. I’m not the focus. The next time you are listening to someone see if you can count how many times you say the word I.

When we listen we like to “advice dump” I would do this…, I went through the same thing, if I were you…

This is a great way to frustrate the other person by jumping into I mode without understanding them.

The act of really listening requires you take the focus off of you and put it on them. When people want our advice they will usually ask for it.

Un-solicited advice is like talking to someone in a language they don’t understand.

Even though Miss Leitha was full of wisdom and experience she always put the focus on who she was listening.

During my seminars I found myself referencing my own history rather than making it about them. I discovered I was more influential when I stopped advice dumping and just listened.

Step 4. Another Time. You’ll know you have started adapting world class listening when people come back another time. Your employees will keep coming back if you’ve done a great job at listening to them. This type of connection is key because not only do they enjoying talking to you there is also probably a high level of trust they place in you.

As I became a better listener I was amazed how much people opened up to me. During the breaks from the seminar I would have people share information with me that they wouldn’t tell their boss or other co-workers.

Miss Leitha was also one of those people that you came back for another time.

Start applying these ideas in your life and see how you will not only become a better listener but you will have a better relationship with those around you. Listening is only the first part of the equation. The second part is to start asking more questions.

How to ask questions that will make your child open up

Have you ever asked a question and gotten half an answer from someone? Or do you find yourself asking one or two questions then jumping into lecture mode?

A great way to get people to open up is to think of an onion. That’s right an onion. And no I’m talking about making them cry. An onion contains many layers before getting to the core of the matter. Think of every layer as a question that you ask that will help you to the core of every issue.
onion-asking questionsExample.
Your 16 yr. old son comes home from school and is upset. He tells his mom he wants to quit school.
Mom asks why? He responds, “I got a bad grade on my math test.”
Mom only uncovers one layer and then goes into lecture mode “You need to stay in school.” “Do you know how hard I work to support you?” “When I was your age…
What do you think the outcome will be?
Instead of going into lecture mode, or listening biographically and saying “I would do, When I was your age, I had a situation
Uncover the layers to get to the real meaning by asking questions and keeping your emotional intelligence (your cool)

Another way of handling the same situation with your son is to uncover the layers and asking these possible questions.

  1. What happened at school today triggered this reaction?
  2. So… you want to quit school because you got a bad math grade?
  3. How much did you prepare for the test?
  4. How did other people do on the test?
  5. What would you do differently next time?
  6. Is there anything else going on?

After you have asked all these questions you discover the real reason he wants to quit school wasn’t the math test at all. The real reason your son wants to quit school is so that he can get a job, start making money, and buy his first car to impress his friends.

You wouldn’t figure this out if you hadn’t kept asking questions.

Each question represents a layer of information leading you to the core. The core is the real reason.

Don’t be tempted to jump into lecture mode remember you’ll have a greater chance of communicating if you listen intently and keep asking questions. Good luck and start unpeeling those layers.

More helpful hints on communication can be found in the book “Leadership by Choice” Increasing Influence and Effectiveness through Self-Management. On

About Eric Papp
Eric Papp is a nationally recognized keynote speaker and management trainer in the area of leadership. He is the author of a new book “Leadership by Choice” His clients include Homeland Security, Nationwide Insurance, FL Realtors, American Dental Association, and more. His website is