How to Maximize Communication with Your Toddler

Learn some adjustments that we can make when communicating with our toddlers that will have us feeling less frustrated and more effective as a parent, and even enjoying more life together as a family!

Written by Emily Blewett, RN, BSN, CLC || Photography courtesy of @milana_mia_photo and @kayleemariebaggerly

Emily Blewett, RN, BSN, CLC is a proud mom, NICU Nurse, and Certified Moms on Call Baby & Toddler Sleep Consultant. Emily combines the expertise of a nurse with the care and concern of a mom to partner with you on this wonderful, yet at times confusing and exhausting, parenting adventure.

We are going to learn some adjustments that we can make when communicating with our children that will have us feeling less frustrated and more effective as a parent, and even enjoying more life together as a family!

When communicating with our toddler, we need to keep it simple and give clear direction.

When we engage with them, we need to appeal to all of their senses. First start by putting your hand on their shoulder, making eye contact with them then saying their name. Next, we simply tell them what is going to happen and how they should respond. Pay close attention to how many words you are using when giving them direction. It should be 2-3 step commands.

Here is an example of what we often do as parents that leave us feeling more frustrated when trying to get out the door with our toddler. Often times, I am in a hurry trying to leave the house that while my daughter is another room playing and I am in the bathroom, I will yell, “Go get your shoes on. It is time to go.” When I still have 10 more minutes until I am actually ready to walk out the door. Below are some adjustments that we can make when communicating with our toddler that it is time to leave.

We need to be ready when we tell them it is time to go because toddlers do not understand time.

It sends mixed messages to them if we say it is time to go, but really we have 5 more minutes of gathering our items to get out the door.

Give clear direction in just 2-3 simple sentences.

Make eye contact with them and put your hand on their shoulder. “Harper, first shoes on then your favorite song in the car.” Another example, “Levi, it is time to go, let’s start our engines and get out of here. Straight to the car we go. Vroom. Vroom.”

After we clearly state what is happening, we will follow through with the direction we have set in place for our toddler.

We do not need to explain why they need to get into the car or coax them into obeying us. Toddlers do not respond to reason. They respond best by having a parent that is clear, confident and in control.

Another Moms on Call communication technique that transformed our household is watching the verbiage we use to communicate with our children.

Many parents (me included) will say, “OK?” at the end of a command when asking them to do something. In the adult world, “OK” means do you understand what I am saying. In the toddler world, “OK” means the statement before it is optional or we will only proceed with our toddler’s approval. When we add “OK” with an upward voice inflection, it turns a statement of instruction (which is clear) into a question or request (which makes it unclear and optional). Here is an example, “Time to get ready for bed now, OK?” Our toddler’s mind hears bedtime as an option and they will choose no every time. Instead, we can say, “It’s bedtime. We are headed upstairs to take a bath, brush teeth and read your favorite bedtime story.”

We give our instructions with confidence. We believe in our child’s ability to do what we are asking of them. Lastly, we follow through with the instructions we set in place for them. Families thrive when the parents are clear, confident and in control!

Check out the Moms on Call Toddler Online Video Course for more simple ways to communicate with your toddler in a way that brings out the best in them! The Toddler course also covers tips for managing sleeping, feeding, tantrums, hitting/biting, the “no” stage, potty training and much more.

I offer customizable packages for families who have purchased the Moms on Call Online Course. Book a personalized consult with me through FaceTime, In-Home, or Email! Check out my website for more information.

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