7 Tips for Communicating with Toddlers

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Toddlers are testy. At best. Perhaps one of the most wonderful attributes of a toddler however, is that they are still eager to please mom and dad. They bloom with approval, and tend to branch out when approached with positivity and optimism. Yes, this can be difficult, especially when they are pros at testing your limits. However, I promise – the following tips about effectively communicating with your toddler really work!

1. Use their names. Look them in the eyes.  And be direct! If you are in the kitchen, and you hear the sharpie screeching on your freshly painted walls – shouting across two rooms WILL NOT get their attention. In fact, it will only prompt them to scribble a few more lines as quickly as possible before they hear your looming footsteps. Seriously, treat them like criminals during an interrogation (note CSI for hints) if you really want them to pay attention to what you have to say.

2. Never let them see you sweat. There are days (many, many days) where you will feel like throwing in the towel and letting them run amuck. You will feel like you have lost complete control and feel like a failure as a parent. The thing is, the kids still know you are the boss. They know you still have the power to offer or take away popsicles. If they start sensing that their antics are breaking you down – they win. If you must sweat, cry, scream, or punch something – do so in private. 

3. Try not to be too logical. You know all those “Why?” they ask you? The very best logic will be countered with another ‘Why?’ or a ‘What if?’ And you will end up saying the infamous words, “Because I said so!” You don’t have to explain the intricate details of the inner workings of every darn thing in order for your toddler to listen. In fact, keep it short and sweet and to the point – and they will be less confused. 

4. Use a tone of voice that you want your toddler to use. If you are a screaming banshee, you are unintentionally telling your toddler to be a screaming banshee as well. If you whisper, your toddler will whisper. Toddlers are often miniature versions of you, and communicate in the manner in which YOU have showed them how to communicate. No, you’re not to blame for the hysterical break-down in the candy aisle of Wal-Mart (unless of course you did this when you found out the Valentines truffles were sold out). But they are taking their cues from YOU!

5. Avoid power struggles. Telling your child that he or she is rude doesn’t really solve the problem. Alternatively, it encourages defiance. Instead, answer their rudeness, or defiance, or misbehavior with a question. “Is this really how you should talk to your mom?” This gives them something to think about, without engaging them in a power struggle. 

6. Sometimes saying NOTHING is best. Rather than telling them 15 million times to do something – take action. Words don’t always work with toddlers. If you are asking your toddler to come to the dinner table and they continue to lay Legos, simply pick them up (without saying a word), carry them to the table (without saying a word), and ignore the explosive aftermath. 

7. Saying “be nice,” or “be polite” may not mean much to your toddler. Their vocabulary is not as developed as you might think. Instead say, “Stop hitting your sister, “and “Say thank you.” This gives them specific instructions that they can understand. 

Most importantly, remember that eventually your child will grow up and will have a better understanding of the rules and boundaries in place in your home. Then, they will become teenagers and they will revert to not listening all over again. (How to communicate with teens is a different blog post altogether!)

Image via iStock

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7 Tips for Communicating with Toddlers

Stef Daniel is the 40ish year old, experienced (meaning crazy already) mother of count ‘em…4 daughters (yes, she takes prayers) who have taught her nearly E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G she needs to know about raising kids and staying sane. She hails from a small town in Georgia where she lives with her family in a red tin roofed house (with just ONE bathroom mind you) on a farm - with tons of animals of course. One day, due to her sheer aversion to shoes and her immense lov ... More

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1 comment

  1. Profile photo of Grace Grace says:

    i wish i would have known about #4 with my first… but she is good now…


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