Child-speak is our term for the language of children.
When we refer to child-speak, we don’t mean the babbling of infants. Instead, we’re talking about the language of kids who’ve reached that age at which they’re capable of insightful and often devastating comments, without the overlay of adult manners and adult expectations. They don’t yet understand “common” courtesy, and they don’t use the euphemistic vocabulary that flows from concerns about the sensitivities of others. Using child-speak is kind of like painting with water-colors — bright shades and black-and-white, with not much in terms of shades of grey, and not much concern about whether the colors all blend well together. It’s language that reflects the interior landscapes of its users, and the manner of their internal dialogues. Simple, vivid, direct and usually unsophisticated. It seems extraordinarily real and powerful to those who speak it.
The problem with child-speak is that those who use and understand it usually have no controls or filters. They haven’t yet learned to worry about how others will respond to them, so they don’t lose much sleep over things they may have said. They haven’t learned to fit into the boxes and cubbyholes of social relationships in the real world, though (sadly) the lessons seem to start earlier and earlier for kids these days.
The way kids think and the stuff they say have a certain potent reality that translates into their daily lives with great force. The result is that when their internal dialogues are positive, they find themselves surrounded with happy language and the happy circumstances that generally flow from it. They can be completely happy in an uncomplicated way, with no sense of time. When their internal language is sad or dark as a result of their lack of understanding or the actions of those responsible for them, they can become horribly sad and depressed — and again, the language is almost three-dimensional in its sheer force. They learn how to feel bad about themselves, and how to worry.
Of course, when others who speak the same language bite back at them for something they’ve said that was hurtful, their own reactions are magnified. When the bite-back comes from adults who are reacting as “grown-ups,” it can be all the more devastating. One of the things we’re sorry to see in modern life and modern education is the rush for children to get past the period of child-speak so that they fit with adults’ behavioral expectations and become conforming speakers and thinkers. Nobody seems to think too much about what the kids lose in the process.
Kids don’t get right away that adults have a whole bunch of overlays and filters that separate their external lives from their inner landscapes and distort the language of their internal dialogues. They ask adults lots of “why” questions, and sometimes they hit on real sensitivities in the adults they’re questioning. Of course, the adults’ usual reactions aren’t always productive from the kids’ point of view. Much of the time, the responses have no purpose other than to stem the flow of questions at the source. However, kids aren’t stupid. They learn pretty quickly what questions not to ask, and they begin to discover what lines of thinking seem to get them into trouble.
From our perspective, the optimum condition for an adult would be to have the ability to speak fluent child-speak, and to use an adult level of maturity in communicating with other people directly and honestly. Even better, an adult fluent in child-speak would have a much easier time discarding the lifetime of intellectual, emotional and spiritual garbage we all collect on the way. Such an adult would have much easier time rebuilding his or her own internal dialogue from a place of intentional clarity, don’t you think?
We assume you’re beginning to see where we intend to go with this….