My children are 7 and very nearly 5 now, so it’s safe to say we are well and truly out of the toddler stage.
I do remember that stage well though. And one of the things I remember is how hard and frustrating it can be at times to communicate with your toddler. It can feel like they’re not listening to a word you’re saying, and it can be really difficult to work out what they’re trying to tell you at times.
This little trick though is brilliant for improving communication during the toddler years.
The best place to start with building better communication with your toddler is with mirroring.
This is basically just a way of letting them know that you’re listening to them, and that you understand how they’re feeling. This then makes it far more likely that they’ll listen to you.
So let’s say it’s a cold day and you’re trying to get your toddler to put their coat on so you can walk to the shops.
And they’re having none of it. They’re getting upset and angry and refusing to even entertain the idea of putting their coat on.
What you need to do is, firstly, take a few deep breaths. Then get down on your child’s level and talk to them about why they don’t want to put the coat on.
Listen to what they have to say, and then basically repeat what they’ve said back to them.
If they tell you they’re too hot in their coat, you would reply with “I know, it feels hot when you put your coat on doesn’t it. And that makes you feel a bit hot and bothered and uncomfortable”.
This both shows you’re listening to your child, and that you understand how they feel about the situation.
Once you’ve done this, they’ll hopefully calm down a bit knowing that you’re with them, rather than against them. Then you can explain why they need to put the coat on. Tell that while it’s hot in the house it’s really cold outside and so they’ll need their coat.
Now, this won’t necessarily work every single time.
But if you always make the time to really listen, and empathise with your toddler then there is a better chance they’ll listen to you in return.
There’s also the other benefit that listening to them and seeing things from their point of view might make you stop for a minute and question how important your request really is.
Does it actually matter if they put their coat on before you leave the house?!
Maybe you can just take it with you and they can put it on after a few minutes outside when they realise how chilly it actually is.
It can feel like a real battle at times when you have a toddler.
But just keep in mind that it really is you and them together, with each, not against each other.
If you can work on seeing the world through their eyes and understanding their feelings and frustrations through this kind of active listening then you should be able to find a positive way to resolve most of these battles.