Having a newborn in the house quickly reminds you of how time waits for no man (or woman). The once tiny little person you handled like fine China in fear that they might break soon grows robust and develops a constantly-altering personality with their own unique quirks. I realized that the little baby I cooed over would sooner rather than later be walking and running around, trailblazing through stores, handling and placing items in his mouth that don’t belong there, and to be quite frank – running circles around mommy.
With a brother who is now at the toddler phase with his first child, I’ve begun to ponder over what life is going to look like in a few short years and how I can best prepare myself to handle life with a toddler. I’ve been inspired by the following tips that I hope will equip us parents to make a fresh start at communication with our toddlers, using encouraging and positive phrases to improve toddler listening.
#1 “Please talk softly”
Let’s help our toddlers to differentiate between what should be their “inside voice” and “outside voice” by showing them the difference between being loud and being soft. Offer them a whisper to demonstrate the act of talking softly, rather than telling your toddler to stop yelling or to be quiet. Combine your whisper with good eye contact and a gentle approach.
#2 “Please __________.”
Rather than resort to old negative forms of communication by telling a toddler “no” or to stop what they want to continue to do, parents can set an example by asking for what you would like your toddler to do. For example, “Please put your toys away,” or “Please finish your food”.
#3 “Thank you for listening to me”
A toddler is more likely to improve their listening skills if they are praised when they show a good example of listening to mommy and daddy. It’s our job to provide positive affirmation and reassurance for the little human(s) we are raising by conveying that they have done a good job whenever they listen to us. This will encourage our kids to display the desired behaviors we seek in the future.
#4 “Do you want to leave now or in five minutes?”
This one will serve you well when dealing with a toddler who is taking longer than you would like to leave a location such as a play date in the park or a friend’s home. By allowing your toddler to have a choice in daily decision-making you are giving them a sense of autonomy over their own situation, which will in turn help them to respond better to requests.
#5 Daily affirmations of your choice
This is a favorite of mine and an idea that I looked into pre-parenthood. Positive affirmations are a brilliant source of encouragement and self-fulfilling prophesy no matter what age your child. I fundamentally believe in the power of words, and words are what can build our little ones up and help shape the people they become. Words can powerfully manifest into strongholds that take root in one’s life and are hard to break down, so it’s important to make sure these strongholds are positive ones. Do you want your child to be kind, compassionate, determined, hardworking? You speak these qualities into fruition until your child can achieve them. Instill the values you know will bring your little one emotional and physical well-being in the future. When you see your toddler display the behaviors you want to encourage, validate them; “You are a hard worker!” “You are a kind person,” “You are so loving” – and while you’re at it, speak similar things into being for yourself.
#6 “It’s OK to cry”
Don’t emotionally stunt your little boy or girl by using phrases like “big girls/boys don’t cry”. This communicates to them that they should hide their emotions because its not expected of ‘big boys/girls’. Toddlers often get frustrated or sad when trying to complete tasks or after losing a favorite toy. Offer your help to find a solution, to promote effective problem-solving skills from an early age and reassure them that’s it’s OK to cry, in fact it’s an effective way of releasing bad emotion or frustrations. Give them time and console your toddler until they calm down. Crying is not a sign of weakness and should not be stigmatized at such a tender age.