Sometimes I feel like a failure at communicating with my toddler.
My 2 year old came out of the womb with his own agenda. I struggle constantly to get him to follow the simplest of directions. Pick up that toy. Don’t touch that. Please sit down. Take that out of your mouth. At first I was trying the same tactic with him that I use on my teenager: repeat myself and then increase my volume as needed. Guess what? It doesn’t work with a toddler. They think it’s a new game of ‘who can be louder’. Hint — they will win.
Recently I’ve picked up a few methods that are slowly breaking down the communication barrier.
1. I have to get down on his level. Literally.
A toddler’s world is so small that being a few feet away or even a few feet above puts you out of their ‘reality’. Things that really matter to them are close by and you should be as well. Now, when talking to him, I kneel or crouch down so that we can see each other face to face. I place myself in his world so that what I’m saying becomes important to him.
2. I have to simplify my sentences.
I had previously been using complex sentences in an attempt to stimulate his speech. It did help him learn to repeat sentences sooner, but I was losing comprehension in the process. Now I use extremely simply sentences for situations that require immediate action. Instead of “Please do not touch that or it will break” I say “Do not touch.” I get the message across quickly and in a way he can understand AND remember. The same goes for directions. Stick with one step at a time and give a new instruction when the previous one is completed. Give them too many at once and both of you will become frustrated before they finish the task.
3. I have to give him fair warning.
If your child doesn’t know they will get in trouble for touching the t.v. remote then they’re going to touch it. Punishing or reprimanding for something the child never realized was off limits is unfair and confusing. Instead, I tell him ahead of time why something should or shouldn’t be done and what will happen if he disobeys.
4. I have to follow through.
It’s so easy to say, “If you don’t stop screaming we will leave the store and go home”. It’s much harder to actually do it. Each time I gave him a consequence and didn’t follow through it reinforced the fact that mommy doesn’t really mean what she says. Now I make sure to use a penalty that I have no problem enacting. Instead of leaving the store, now I say he’ll have to put his toy back in the bag until we get home and he knows mom means business.
5. When all else fails – remove them from the situation.
There have definitely been times when all the previous methods had no affect whatsoever. This happens most often with wanting to touch something that is forbidden like the buttons on the television, a lamp, a cookie jar etc. I reinforce – he touches again. Round and round we go. In that instance I simply remove him (or the object) from the area. I realized that once we reach that point where he’s doing it right in front of me with no trepidation – he’s beyond listening. The lesson will have to be taught another time.
What tactics do you use when communicating with your toddler?
Kenda Smith is a Massachusetts mother of two who attributes her parenting success to an old fashioned upbringing…and a constantly refilled cup of coffee. You can find more from her at RemakingJuneCleaver.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.