One of the secrets to having a child who does sweet, adorable things (instead of appalling and annoying things) is to really try and capture the behaviours that you love most.
“Capturing” is the word behaviorists use for encouraging natural behaviours. It’s a way of clicking “save” on that adorable thing your puppy/kid just did.
It’s very simple. When you see if, and if you want it to happen again, reward the ever-loving hell out of it.
Want to teach your dog to sneeze? Throw a party and give him lots of treats every time he does it, and soon you’ll see him trying to figure out how to do it on purpose.
Want to teach your dog to take a bow? Wait until he stretches and celebrate. Soon he’ll be bowing every time he sees a treat in your hand.
I taught my son to sign “milk” when he was 9 months old by capturing the behavior.
One day he happened to develop a fascination with opening and closing his hands. He wasn’t trying to sign “milk”, he was just like “look! Fingers! I CAN CONTROL THEM WITH MY MIND!” But it happened to look like the ASL sign for “milk”.
Every time he did it I picked him up and plunked my boob in his mouth.
After this felicitous occurrence happened several time in a row, he took to opening and closing his fist while watching me intently. Sure enough, I immediately offered him a chance to nurse and that was that.
Next thing you knew, he was opening and closing his fist frantically and constantly, and waiting for me to acquiesce to his demand.
Food has always been a powerful motivator with this kid.
Anyway, “milk” was his first and only sign until he was 14 months old or so. It also because his sign for “mommy” because basically I was just a pair of milk jugs in his eyes.
As his speech improved, that sign faded, but even at two and a half, long after he had forgotten that he had ever used sign language, my son still unconsciously opened and closed his hand when he really wanted something.
Behaviour definitely captured.