How I talk to my toddler


This may be obvious to some, but I kind of just figured it out, and it has helped me be a lot less stressed, as well as my 3 years old. I felt like I was constantly commanding and demanding everything of her, and it was getting old, and she was “testing” how defiant she could be, and running out my patience, and it’s just not a nice way to talk to people in general to boot.

The relationship of trust we’re creating with our toddler is way more important than the opinions of others. One of the delightful things about very young children is their spontaneity — the way they live in the moment. The downside to that is their lack of patience and self-control. A big element of the parenting process for me was learning what I could and couldn’t expect of my children at each stage of their development.

So instead of telling them what to do, I’ve started telling her what needs to be done. So instead of “Ok, put your shoes on,” it becomes “Alright, you need your shoes on before we can go to the park.” Or even just stating what the problem is – (“Oops, looks like your shoes still aren’t on”) – at least gives them the opportunity to “solve” the problem themselves, instead of just being told what to do all the time.

Also, I’m a huge fan of fake choices lately. Like, super fake choices, lol. “I know you don’t want to put your shoes on, but you can pick which one goes on first!” “Do you want this PB&J cut into squares or triangles? Two triangles or four?” Anything I can turn into a choice goes smoother for my daughter and when I can’t offer a choice I feel like I get less fighting back since she gets fake control in so many other situations.

Changing things to a “passive voice” as often as possible is helpful. Instead of “Get out of the tub,” it can be “Bath time is over,” or “It’s time to dry off.” Those sentences don’t address her specifically but she gets the point. Remove her from the sentence as much as possible.

Also, If she doesn’t want a bath, don’t push her. Tell her ahead of time that you want her to help you run a bath in a few minutes. Ask her if she would like to turn on the water. Ask her to choose the toys she would like to play with. Ask her to test the water, and tell you when she’s ready to go in. Give her as much control of the situation as you can. Don’t coax her at all. Then, if she refuses to get in, let it go immediately and say, “You aren’t wanting a bath today. Okay, we’ll try again tomorrow.” Remember, she’s picking up on all your feelings about this, so try to really not care.

“I like the way you held my hand while we were in that busy store.”Positive reinforcement—pointing out what your child is doing right—is a strong motivator, even for the youngest children, Dr Haller says. “Even if they don’t quite understand, kids pick up the cadence and the rhythms of what you’re saying, and they catch some of your meaning.”

When my toddler doesn’t want to eat more (despite having barely picked at it), I ask her to eat one more bite, and I ask her which piece she wants to eat. It usually works to get at least a little more food in her.

Sometimes to get my son to eat I ask him “do you know how to use a fork?” (He’s 20 months so we’re still working on it) and when he says “yeah” I act all surprised and say “I don’t believe it, can you show me!?” And he looks so proud stuffing whatever veggie I just got him to eat in his mouth without even thinking about it because it was all about the fork the whole time.

sometimes my tot wants to use my fork (because it’s a big fork rather than her little one). I let her have it because then she’s like “yeah I got two forks now” and happily eats using both, sometimes at the same time. I just laugh and get myself a new one.

You can phrase things as a problem that you’re asking their help on how to solve, too. “This dish is dirty – what should we do with it?” They like solving problems and feeling helpful and smart. It may take a little creative thinking on your part (it’s certainly much easier to just say “can you put your dirty dish in the sink?”), but I think this way is better. If I can just remember to do it, lol.

Of course, I’m sure she’ll outgrow this by age 5 or whatever and I’ll have to learn new tricks all over again. But for now she’s 3 (almost 4) and this approach has helped. I hope this helps someone!!