One of the best tools in the parenting toolbox for toddlers is “Use your words!” This should be your mantra as the parent of a toddler! Using your words teaches your toddler how to express him or herself in constructive ways to help the world around them make more sense and to help them get their needs met more easily. So if you really want to help your toddler through all of the rockiness and trauma that can accompany the time between about 18 months and 4 years, you really, really need to
Use your words!
Yes, you read that correctly. You need to use your words, as a parent. As a parent, it is very important that you are talking, talking, talking to your children. The more words a child hears, the smarter that child will be and the larger a vocabulary that child will have. Not only that, using real world applications for words teaches your child how to interact with the real world in a real way. Reading books is a great way to expand a child’s knowledge, but talking them through an everyday situation can be far more valuable.
One of the best, and least used applications of this theory is the temper tantrum. One sage piece of toddler advice, passed on to moms over and over is to ignore temper tantrums. This may work for some families. It may get the child to stop throwing tantrums. I’ve never seen this happen, but perhaps it does. Another approach, and one that we have seen major success with, it to try talking to your child as the tension mounts. Asking questions or even just verbalizing for the child that you understand the problem can often quell the rising tide of emotion. This is not to say that you have to agree with or give in to the child, but just acknowledging that you know what they are communicating, you understand their frustration, and that you are sorry that it has to be that way can often take the situation down to a tolerable level.
For example, Elliott has lately reached a very proprietary stage. The words “mine, mine!” come out of his little mouth quite often these past few weeks. And when his older siblings refuse his shouts for whatever toy they are playing with, he gets quite upset. Rather than force his siblings to give up the toys they are playing with, we have talked our way through the situation with Elliott. “Elliott wants the tractor? Yes, I understand that you want to play with the tractor. It is Walter’s turn with the tractor right now. Elliott can have a turn in a minute when Walter is done. And Elliott is upset? I understand, Elliott is sad about the tractor. It will be Elliott’s turn in a minute.” Going through this scenario actually does help to calm him down about 8 times out of 10. Just being understood helps him greatly. Typically, we also try to find an alternative toy for him in these situations, but it isn’t always possible and sometimes he just has to wait.
The greater pay off, though, happened this morning. I was upstairs getting dressed and ready to come down for the day. Daddy had just left for work and all 3 kids were playing downstairs. From my room, I could plainly hear them enjoying themselves when suddenly I heard that patter of toddler feet and Elliott demanded, “Tractor! Tractor!” Walter responded with complete kindness, “I’m playing with the tractor right now, Elliott!” There was a brief pause and then, Elliott exclaimed, “Turn! Turn!” Walter calmly replied that Elliott could have a turn with the tractor in just a minute – and then followed through. Elliott, for his part, was able to feel that he had communicated his needs, been heard and understood, and was able to wait the minute for his own turn with the tractor, without having a tantrum.
And in case you missed the other huge part of this equation – Walter, at 4 years old, knew how to handle the situation calmly, fairly, and appropriately, because while helping Elliott we have also modeled for Walter and Sofi how to compassionately help someone – even when we aren’t prepared to give them what they want.
So just remember, parents – use your words!!!