Odd saying isn't it 'Cat got your tongue?'. On the surface there's no malice in the statement. However, recently I've had to think about how words/sayings like this are understood by our eldest, and the impact they have on him.
He's your typical three going on four year old; chatty, playful, imaginative, caring, helpful, funny, stroppy, wingy, and sometimes a little standoffish in some situations. In the last year and a bit he's had a lot to deal with, from the impending and eventual arrival of his little brother, to moving to the nursery that's attached to the school he'll attend later in the year. Plus all the development he's naturally going through as he transitions the terrible two's to becoming a threenager.
During his first six weeks at his new nursery we've been told that despite making friends, and being very chatty with them, that as soon as he's approached by an adult he clams up. But it's clear he's wanting to talk/engage. This occurs during both group sessions and one-to-one interactions. Once we were told this my wife and I started analysing situations and identified patterns of this type of behaviour outside of the nursery environment. Was it something we'd done or not? Had we answered to much for him? Were we similar at his age?
When in the day to day, it's easy to pass this type of behaviour off as 'he's just shy' or 'he's doing it for attention'. However, when taking a step back to reflect, actually there are patterns which have emerged. When he's in the nursery environment I'm reliant on the information provided by the staff. I must admit it's heart breaking to think he's been locked in a state of silence for the best part of six weeks. When we talk to him about his day he's very positive about the children, adults and activities. So on the face of it everything is good, but it does explain some of the meltdowns when he's home. I can only describe it as a bottle of coke, slowly shaken through the day the pressure builds up, until it's opened and explodes everywhere.
Now, don't get me wrong it could be a host of things from; having a hell of a lot of things to deal with, whether it's his way of getting adults down to his level, to developing and learning social behaviour, through to selective mutism of some degree. The nursery have been excellent. But I guess what I'm worried about is making sure I'm able to support him in the correct way. I'm dyslexic and also suffer colour-blindness. I know an excellent combination. But when I was younger, I remember my dad did not deal with it in the right way as far as I was concerned. Whether it being getting me to write out my spellings dozens of times over, and over again. Or getting frustrated, I ended up feeling anxious and not wanting to talk about my difficulties. I really don't want my son to feel this way. However, I have unfortuantly found myself demonstrating similar behaviour to that of my dad. Using phrases such as 'cat got your tongue' or pushing for him to acknowledge an adult when he's spoken to wont on reflection be helping him. And what I put it down to is a lack of understanding and education of the topic on my part.
So, whatever it turns out to be, once identified, how I approach it and help him become more confident, and less anxious is of the utmost importance. It's not just my son who has to learn to cope, I've got to put aside my previous learnt behaviours for his sake. Clearly different techniques and strategies will be required in making him comfortable in these situations. There's so much information now available on the internet compared to the 1980s, but I owe it to him to do my best for him in these difficult moments.