Talking To Toddlers – 4 Secrets That Bring You Closer

Toddlers are often talked about as if they are a species unto themselves. And when we’re in the thick of it  — the testing, mood swings and meltdowns (ours and theirs) — we may indeed feel in alien territory. Fear not! Toddlers are just small humans in turmoil, easily thrown off-balance due to rapid growth, thrilled by new abilities and accomplishments, but often frustrated by all they still can’t do or say.

Here are some simple communication adjustments we can make to help ease frustration and foster trust.

Talk normally.  Children want to learn our language.  Avoid baby talk and speak in full sentences, so that you are modeling the language you want your child to adopt right from the beginning. This feels more respectful and natural to us, too. We can maximize comprehension by making our sentences shorter, slowing down our speech and pausing after each sentence to give our infant or toddler the time he needs to absorb our words.

Ignore the advice of an expert who tells you to imitate your toddler with neanderthal ‘ape talk’, as if talking down to a toddler like he is mentally deficient is the only way he can understand us.  Imagine going to a foreign country, courageously attempting to speak the language, and then being mocked with an imitation of your awkward wording.  Would you get in a foreigner’s face and ape his pidgin English?  Toddlers have been immersed in our language for many, many months and comprehend volumes more than they can speak.

Turn ‘no’ into ‘yes’. In a recent parent/toddler class, Kendra asked me what she should do when her vibrant 19 month-old daughter interrupted discussions with her husband. She said that telling Audrey not to interrupt wasn’t working at all. I suggested she say, “Audrey, I hear you asking for our attention. When daddy and I are finished talking I am going to listen only to you. Please give us five minutes” (And then follow through.)

Will this response work miracles? Probably not. Children never seem to outgrow the need for our attention when we’re busy. But making a toddler feel heard, rather than telling her “no” and “don’t” all the time respects her need to ‘save face’ and makes her more likely to respond with compliance.

Similarly, telling a child, “I want you to sit still on my lap”, instead of “Don’t bounce on me!” seems to lessen a toddler’s urge to test. Children appreciate positive instruction and tend to tune out or resist the words ‘no’ and ‘don’t’.  Better to save those words for emergencies.

Real choices. Offering a toddler an option like, “Are you going to put the toy away on the shelf or in the box?” is another variation of turning a toddler’s perceived negative (the child must put the toy away) into a positive (she gets to choose where to place it). Or we might say, “I see you’re still playing. Would you like to change your diaper now, or in five minutes?”

Deciding between two options is usually all a toddler needs. Big decisions like, “What should we have for dinner?”, or “What are you going to wear today?” can be overwhelming. Be careful of giving false choices like, “Do you want to go to Aunt Mary’s house?” We’re left with egg on our faces when our toddler answers, “No!” 

First, acknowledge.  Acknowledging an infant or toddler’s point-of-view can be magically calming, because it provides something he desperately needs – the feeling of being understood. A simple affirmation of our child’s struggles, “You are having a hard time getting those shoes on. You’re really working hard,” can give him the encouragement he needs to persevere through his frustration.

Be careful not to assume a child’s feeling, “You’re afraid of the dog”, or to invalidate the child’s response because we view it as overreaction, “It’s just a doggie. He won’t hurt you.”  It is safest to state only what we know for certain, “You seem upset by the dog. Do you want me to pick you up?”

Acknowledging first can take the bite out of not getting one’s way. “You want to play longer outside, but now it’s time to come in. I know it’s hard to come in when you’re not ready.” And no matter how wrong or ridiculous our child’s point-of-view might seem to us, he needs the validation of our understanding.

Acknowledging our child’s desires means expressing truths we might rather ignore like, “You wanted to run across the street. I won’t let you.”  Or, “You want to leave Grandma’s house, but it isn’t time yet. “

It’s always hardest to remember to acknowledge a child in the heat of a difficult moment, but if a child can hear anything during a temper tantrum, it reassures him to hear our recognition of his point-of-view. “You wanted an ice cream cone and I said, ‘No’. It’s upsetting not to get what you want.”

When toddlers feel understood, they sense the empathy behind our limits and corrections. They still resist, cry and complain, but at the end of the day, they know we are with them, always in their corner. These first years will define our relationship for many years to come.

I share much more about connecting with toddlers in: NO BAD KIDS: Toddler Discipline Without Shame


Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. Thank you again janet. Just to add to your comment about toddlers that interrupt: I used to worry with my first son that I was teaching him to be rude when he interrupted coversations. I got very dissaproving comments and looks. However I persevered until he was old enough to fully comprehend why it was not nice to disturb conversations. He learnt he would always be heard. So now he is 5 he is very poilite and happy to stand and wait for a long long time and always asks if he can contribute or talk to me.

    My advice is don’t worry about what others think. We are often concerned about what people think of us and how we are percieved as parents. That is not a good enough reason to discipline your child. It should be about your child not you. And children do eventually get it – so relax, set clear boundries and be consistent- it will pay off sooner than you think! Sorry janet – just something I feel strongly about… Thanks again for your thought provoking articles.

    1. Riya, thanks so much for sharing your advice. Don’t ever apologize here for that!

      I totally agree with you. The relationship of trust we’re creating with our child is far 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.

      As you said, children need our consistent, clear guidance, not shaming and punishments.

      1. On the subject of interrupting and what one can and can’t expect from children at different stages of development, I would like to add another thing to be aware of that my 5 year old son told me after learning to verbalise – is that he doesn’t remember what he wants to say if he waits for my conversation to finish.

        I feel that this is a valid point and something to be sensitive to if it is possible to perhaps find out in brief what what he wants to say is about and remember for him.

        I also often feel guilty that it is far too often that our other conversations are ‘more important’ than what these little people have to say – these little people who are actually usually the most important to us are far too often brushed aside. Of course they have to learn that there is a time and place to be heard, BUT it is just as important for us to ensure that they do in fact get given this time!!!

        1. I recieved the same reasoning from my four year old 🙂 his memory is still developing.

  2. Excellent advice with practical suggestions, Janet. Works with people of other ages, too, 😉

  3. Great posting….and it got me thinking…

    Our 2 year old has recently started to dislike the idea of taking baths. When she first started we offered her a choice of taking a bath or a shower…she opted for the shower. That lasted for a few days.

    We usually bathe her at night and since she didn’t want one last night, we tried this morning. She expressed her feelings by saying “no”. Eventually she walked up to me at the bathtub and I pointed out all the toys in her tub and asked her is she wanted to go “swimming” with them. She said yes and I helped her in. She was fine and then started crying. I asked her if the water was too cold, but just got more crying as she stood in the tub. She eventually calmed down as I gently spoke to her and we did a really quick bath (usually she likes to play in there for awhile).

    I don’t want bath time to become a struggle and I certainly don’t want to force her to take a bath. But after wearing sunscreen and playing all day, I feel that it’s something she needs. Or am I projecting by being a neat freak? 😉
    How would you handle this situation?

    1. Hi David,

      It sounds like bath time is definitely becoming a struggle, and my first thought is to completely back off, so that your daughter does not become more resistant. Let go of the idea of a daily bath for now. As you said, you want bathing to be enjoyable for her. And, unless she’s been playing in the mud or doing construction work ;-), it should be okay for her to a skip a few baths.

      I think she cried because she realized she was sort of tricked into the bath that last time. Better to stay direct and honest with her. Involve 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.

      If another day goes by and she still won’t bathe, you could give her a choice of a bath in the tub or a quick sponge bath, just to get the sunscreen off.

      I had another thought reading your comment. Is she taking swimming lessons? If so, does she resist them? Is she forced or even coaxed into the water? I’ve seen children become fearful of water and baths when they have felt pressured to go into a pool before they were ready. Just something to keep in mind.

      David, thanks for your comment and question. I hope this helps. Please let me know how it goes.

      1. We haven’t done swimming lessons yet. The methods I’ve heard from friends (“they just throw the kids in, they cry and eventually get over it”) is horrifying to me…not to mention disrespectful to the child!

        Thank you for your reply. As you point out, what I did was to trick her into getting in the tub….so her reaction makes sense. Bad parent! 😉

        I will back off and try your suggestions. I’m sure it’s just a phase!

        Thanks again!

        1. No, you’re not a bad parent at all! And I’m sure it is just a phase, too. She’s choosing to make this an area for a power struggle. Once you let go, and are more nonchalant about the bathing, this struggle will lose it’s power…and she will likely find other ones. 😉 This is what toddlers are supposed to do! Always best to choose your battles.

          I agree about the swim lessons and I’m so glad you are holding off on them. When children are 3 or 4, they can be ready to take some direction, actively participate in swimming lessons and really enjoy the process.

          David, thanks again for asking.

          1. I’ve been meaning to write back to let you know how it all went. That night I went home and did everything you said….and it worked!! I let her do practically everything!

            The next day she didn’t want to take a bath…and I just said “Okay, do you want go read some stories?”. I just let it go!

            Thanks again for the advice!

            1. David,

              I’m really happy to hear that! Thanks for telling me, and for being such a thoughtful dad!

          2. I’ve heard this advice before. I worry though that if I let my son’s start over ruling what I say that in the future they won’t respect the rules that I set. Do you think that this should be a concern??

            1. Hi Cyndi,
              I agree that we have to have rules. Our toddlers need them. But knowing also that our toddlers need to resist and rebel as part of their developmental process, I think we have to decide when it’s truly important to put our foot down. I’m not suggesting we let a child “overrule” us, but that there might be areas, like bathing, that are not as important and are better presented as options rather than as rules or demands. Toddlers need choices and autonomy to balance the behavioral limits we give them. I just wrote about this in a post on tantrums:

          3. I wanted to give the alternate view on swimming and swimming lessons. If started early (under one year), then there is almost never any crying, forcing, or persuading that needs to be done. Babies typically LOVE the water and learn to be submerged very easily at that age, in contrast with those that start at 3-4 and have to overcome their fear of putting their face under water. Swimming (especially in warm water)is a wonderful activity that provides fun, exercise, and connection with your child. It is one of my favorite things to do with my kids (10,7,and 2). They have all been swimming since about 4-6 months and my 2 year old will jump or dive in on his own and swim out 3-4 yards to me, all the while with a huge grin on his face.

            Don’t wait to start the fun!

      2. We went through a temporary bath struggle too. I went out and got bubble bath, bath color tablets, bath crayons and made bath paint with cheap shaving cream and food coloring drops. Now we don’t ask if he wants to take a bath we ask if he wants colors or bubbles or paint. No problems since.

    2. Hi there,

      I had to reply to this post because my son went through a phase of freaking out over taking a bath as well. It happened out of the blue. Before, we couldn’t get him out of the tub. He would scream and cry. I gave him sponge baths for at least a month. One day, my husband was taking a bath and made it seem like fun and my son joined him and his bath taking fear was over.

    3. My son went through that…around the same time that he took his toy dinosaurs EVERYWHERE. I would tell him “Wyatt, your dinosaurs are stinky! Lets go give them a bath, would you like to help me wash them?” And he would jump at the chance to take a bath, but not if I said “Wyatt its bath time, go to the bathroom”. He’s two so I use whatever toy he is into that week to get him to cooperate 🙂 Hope that helps

    4. kiki John says:

      Our son had same problem. When bath time came it became a big problem and our friend recommended to check out This really helped us. We have 3 sons now and still using the stuff. We have learnt a lot.

    5. My brother once told his kids “boys, we are going for a hike in the woods” and they did not want to go. Then he said “boys, we are going to run around in the woods and play with sticks and climb logs!” The boys asked if they could have a sword fight. My brother said yes and the boys said “YAYYY!” They were 5 and 8 at the time. I love how you made bath time fun for your daughter.

  4. I’m starting to think my father might have read some Magda Gerber books before I was born. One of the things he stressed with my mother was to never baby talk to us kids. I remember my mother telling me this and I’ve followed that advice with my kids as well. My in-laws used to marvel at how well-spoken my son was, able to carry on a conversation with an adult and able to speak in full sentences as a toddler. I’m far from a perfect parent, but I definitely think I got this part right! 🙂

    1. Yes, Fran, my parents were the same and I parented the same way- baby talk is the pits! The look my son used to give people when they talked to him about bikkies and doggies was hilarious… it was almost as though he pitied them for not being able to talk properly 😀

  5. Regarding a child interrupting, I recently read great advice about it. If a child interrupts you (e.g. you’re on the phone), tell him that every time he does that, for whatever he’s asking for, the answer will always be NO. After you’re off the phone, you may say yes or no, but while on the phone, it’s no. It really make children (even young) start to think of the consequences associated with their behavior.

    Parenting a toddler is quite a challenge. I recently wrote a post on not confusing bribes and rewards because I think it’s easy to misuse both:

    1. Hmmm. That advice feels a little arbitrary to me, and unfair. Toddlers lack self-control. I think they need to learn when we can give them attention and when we cannot, but I don’t think they should be punished for interrupting. Do you? Besides, there are things we might want to say yes to, but we have to say no just because our child interrupted?

      1. Agree. My daughter is older now (8) but still has that “you;re on the phone therefore I need you NOW” tendency. when she interrupts, I ask her if it is urgent (I don;t want to carry on chatting if there is a genuine emergency, or she is hurt etc and *really* needs me as opposed to just needing to test that she is important to me). As it is almost never urgent, I tell her I am just going to finish talking to X and then I will listen to her. Well, on my better days I do that…sometimes I just wave the phone at her and growl!

  6. Rules, but also routines and expectations are very important when trying to improve toddler behaviour.

  7. For the most part, I agree with the advice above, but I would caution about asking too many questions of small children, or just plain talking to them too much. As a nursery teacher, and parent myself I have noticed that parents tend to over explain things, and ask their children too many questions. Toddlers need healthy boundaries, and they need to know that the adults in charge- teachers,parents, caregivers know what to do. The world can often be an overwhelming, overstimulating place.Too many choices make it even more confusing for them. Children feel secure when they know that adults know what is best- They can relax. It is good to give good choices, and when a routine is changed, tell them what is going to happen. When they ask us questions, its helpful to make sure the information they are hearing is age appropriate- less is better.

    1. Lisa, I totally agree about asking too many questions and giving too many choices for all the reasons you state. Thanks for adding this!

  8. Very useful suggestions! I particularly like the one about allowing Mom & Dad to finish their conversation. I’ve started doing this with my son and it works!

  9. Great suggestions! Redirection works wonders, too. So instead of just saying “Don’t draw on the sofa!”, say “Can you draw me a silly face on this piece of paper?”.

    Mommy on a Shoestring

    1. Beth, thanks for bringing up redirection. I know redirection is a popular parenting tool, but personally, I don’t believe in it. And since I have a lot of thoughts on the subject I think I’ll write a post about it. So, thank you for that, too!

  10. Thank you very much for sharing such a calm article with excellent examples!

    Too often I bump into people who think “not saying no” means always saying yes. It’s about a relationship with the other person, not about giving everything to a child.

  11. Tara Mahesar says:

    Hi Janet,
    Thanks. While reading your writing, I am hopeful that I can be so sensitive to my little one in the future. A lot of people describe me with one word: “blunt.” So I am obviously in need of sensitizing! With your continued work I am hopeful that my little one will not describe me as “blunt” and that no one will describe him that way either… (we’ll see) 😉
    thanks again, take care!

    1. Hi Tara! I actually think blunt is quite good, because it means that you are honest and real. Just be honest about acknowledging your little guy’s point of view, too. Talk to him truthfully, give him the same respect you would another adult and you really can’t go wrong. Thanks and take good care!:)

  12. I wish this site had a ‘like’ button, Grace. I had to click ‘reply’ instead.

  13. Hi Janet,

    I just found your article today. It hits on so many of the philosophies I agree with with respect to raising toddlers. Great title too 🙂 I’m the author of “Talking to Toddlers: Dealing with the Terrible Twos and Beyond”.

    if you’d like me to send you a copy (audio course), I’d be more than happy to. I think you’ll enjoy it.

    Chris Thompson

    P.S. I think you’ll like the lesson on double binds and presuppositions. You already (clearly) know about binds (the illusion of choice, re: putting away toys example in your post). Presuppositions make these even more powerful. Especially when you use acknowledgement (rapport, entering the child’s world) first.

  14. Today, I anticipated some protesting by my toddler when it was time to leave the park. Though I prepared her and gave her time, I tried to expedite the actual leaving process by picking her up after her refusal to leave. As I tried to lift her, I shamefully thought to myself, where is the dignity in this for either of us? Disappointed in myself, I tried again with a different approach staying firm and calm but still there was a struggle. I wish I had as you say, “remember(ed) to acknowledge” her feelings. I can imagine things would have gone differently, especially now that she is verbalizing her emotional state at times. Thanks for this insight.

  15. Allow me to thank you Janet for your wonderful article, It seems so practical, I wonder why I used to expect more patience from my toddler, It was a wake-up call for me! Thanks

  16. During my children’s toddler years and now with my grandsons, I will let them know that in ‘5 minutes’ we need to do X. It gives them a heads up that something is about to happen.

    And then I say, I am putting the timer on. When it dings, it is time to do X.
    My one grandson, in particular, likes this – perhaps it is the predictability.

    Sometimes he asks me to put on the timer and then gets ready for the next thing when it goes off.

    Any thoughts/comments about this?

    1. Hi Sandy! I don’t really see a problem with using the timer if it makes things more fun for you and your grandson. I opened up a discussion about timers on my Facebook page and realized that many parents are using them… This must be relatively new, because I never heard of anyone doing this when my children were small…and probably wouldn’t have used timers myself anyway. I’m not a fan of anything that seems even a little artificial surrounding child care. But I think the only “danger” (and it’s not really dangerous) is that the parent or caregiver uses the timer as the “bad cop”. In other words, the parent might be shying away from insisting on things, because she can leave it up to the timer to “take the fall”. I wonder if this fosters the confidence parents need to be good leaders… In short, I don’t think parents should feel dependent on timers to set boundaries for them, but once in a while sounds fine.

  17. Hi Janet,
    First let me say that I learn so much from what you share that my parenting is forever changed for the better. I would appreciate your input. My daughter is 3 1/2. She is bright, sensitive and spirited. She goes from giggles to anger quite quickly. Most times we’re able to talk about feelings and reactions and she seems to understand much of what we discuss. When she is upset I reflect what it is she wants, what is bothering her

  18. Oops. …what I observe is bothering her and how it is hard to not get what we want. She will calm down for a few seconds but then continues to repeat what she wants. Adamantly with big sobs. Am I missing something? Thank you!

    1. Alison, wow! Thanks for such kind and supportive words!

      I don’t think you’re missing a thing. It sounds like she’s stewing in her feelings for a bit until she gets them all released. Trust her process and try not to get at all impatient. If she feels your calm support, she’ll let go and move on exactly when she’s ready to.

      Sounds like she enjoys a little drama, too. Could be a future Academy Award winner!

  19. Thank you so much for re-posting this, I always get great advice from all your blogs. I particularly find your suggestions for how to change your wording very helpful. I’m currently having a struggle with my 16mth old baby girl when it’s time for her to get dressed for the day. She’s choosing this daily activity to assert herself, which incidentally I encourage as much as possible but as we’re trying to get ready for the day and me off to work as smoothly as possible it’s difficult to get her to want to get dressed. Of a weekend I give her as much choice as possible. If she’s playing I’ll say to her that its time to get dressed and ready for the day and ask her if she wants to get dressed now or 5 mins. She shakes her head no. I give her the 5 mins and say ok it’s time now, help me put your clothes on. She shakes her head no. I say to her to try and put her top on herself if she doesn’t want mummy to do it. She runs over and takes the top but isn’t able to get the top on at all. I ask her if she wants me to help. She drops the clothes and goes on to play else where. I try to give her as much time and choice as possible, on weekends. During the week its a chore to dress her. She cries and runs away from me. I know this is a phase but I want to try to make the activity as carefree as possible with no tears or running away. Do you have any advice Janet?

    1. Hi Michelle! Here’s the key to your issue: “I want to try to make the activity as carefree as possible with no tears or running away…” Let go of this wish completely and it will probably end up being granted. Your wish to avoid your daughter’s emotions is what is getting in the way.

      What’s missing in your desciption is acknowledging…facing the feelings head on and welcoming them, meeting your daughter where she is: “You don’t feel like getting dressed at all! Oh, it’s such a bummer when you want to keep playing and we have to get you dressed! You are saying NO loud and clear. I understand! Oh, how upsetting to have to get dressed when you don’t want to!”

      It’s almost impossible to overdue this…and what you’ll find is that when you make eye contact, acknowledge and even sort of agree with your daughter’s feelings, she’ll release them fully and be able to move on. She may also need you to say calmly, “Oh, you are so not into getting dressed right now. I understand! I’m going to give you a helping hand.” Then confidently and slowly proceed, all the while acknowledging how annoying this is for her, how much she might not even feel like going to childcare today (or wherever) and being separate from you. Don’t hesitate to say, “I so look forward to picking you up from childcare and hearing all about your day.”

      I realize this is very counterintuitive, but it really does work.

      1. Janet thank you so much and you’re so right, I’m not acknowledging at all so I’ll give this a go and let you know how we get on.

  20. Alice Parry says:

    Great article Janet, thank you. Although I don’t think someone who is “mentally deficient” should ever be talked down to, I do get your point.

    1. Ah, thanks so much for your feedback, Alice. I agree!

  21. Thank you for the wonderful article! I have a question. I am very new to RIE (as in I haven’t read any books yet) but have been following your blog for a while. One area where I am struggling is acknowledging my 3 year old daughter. Whenever start to do it she starts screaming at me. For example, “Mommy, can I have a snack while I wait for dinner?”, “No snacks right now. Dinner is almost ready.” after which she would start whining or crying. At that point I would start say something like, “I know that you are very hungry would you like to help me get the plates out of the cupboard?”. But usually I can’t get more than the first four words out of my mouth before she’ll yell, “Stop saying that!” or “Leave me alone” or “I want a snack!”. I feel like sometimes she feels like I am patronizing her. Any thoughts? This happens in all kinds of situations where I’m trying to acknowledge her feelings.

    Maybe after she asked for the snack I should have acknowledged her right away by saying, “You must be very hungry. Dinner is almost ready. Would you like to help me get the plates out of the cupboard?”.

    1. Hi Kimberly! The problem I see is that you are not specifically acknowledging her feelings here at all: “You must be very hungry. Dinner is almost ready. Would you like to help me get the plates out of the cupboard?”

      Rather than immediately shutting her down with “No snacks right now, dinner is almost ready, “I would acknowledge straight off, “Hmmmm… you really want a snack now… But I’m going to ask you to wait a few more minutes until dinner time.” Then if she continues, I would continue to acknowledge, “You are so hungry. You want a snack. It’s hard to wait, isn’t it?” And then maybe, “We can eat sooner if you help me with the plates. Would you like to?” Then if she continues on… “You really, really want a snack. I know. I’m getting the dinner as fast as I can. I hear how hungry you are.”

  22. Thank you! I’ll try focusing more on that.

  23. Christine Grace says:

    Thanks so much for your articles, each one of them is helpful in so many ways! Question on the “Speaking Normally” part. I agree it’s important to speak to them normally, but when we (both adults and children) are very upset, our communication skills go south, as the “ill-informed expert” explains. I experience this personally, and I see it in my kids too. My 3 year old talks very well but when she’s upset she has a very hard time listening and also explaining what she needs. We don’t baby talk, but I do find that it helps to use short, simple phrases that tell her I understand her needs while she’s upset, then we talk about it more when everyone is calm. I don’t think it’s necessary to go to the length that the “ill-informed expert” displays, but some part of this seems necessary when emotions are high. Thoughts?? Thanks!

  24. Sarahanne Nelson says:

    I loved your line, “ignore the advice of an ill-informed expert who tells you to imitate your toddler with neanderthal ‘ape talk’.” Before I found you, I read that book, thinking he was the go-to expert. His whole approach felt so inhumane and wrong…glad I dumped his theories and continued my search until I found you!

    1. Elaine Watson says:

      Aha – is it a particular ‘expert’ that Janet is referring to? That makes the statement less sweeping! I have read and enjoyed your books, Janet, finding lots of useful information and clear, sensible explanations. I have worked in early years for 15 years as a speech & language therapist (not ill-informed), I would only caution that not all toddlers can comprehend sentences (despite being amazing little people, emersed in language from birth). We see many toddlers with language delay, which is common aged 1-3 years old, who need adults to use simplified sentences (glad you mention this!). For most children, this is developmental (not environmental). I agree there is no need to use ‘baby-talk’, such as ‘bikkie’ for biscuit (use the adult word!), but fun words and playing around with sounds/ words, such as doggie for dog, will do no harm and may encourage a love of language (I certainly hope my child won’t look at others in a pittying way or look down on people who are well-intentioned & want to talk to him!). It seems to me there should be a less judgemental way of encouraging adults to talk to toddlers in a genuine and respectful way, using sentences as well as simplifying information when needed (especially when a child is upset and language processing may be more difficult). I think you might find information on the Hanen website interesting ( – their approach is based in research, too, and fits very nicely alongside your/ Magda’s approach. It would be great to include this idea that some toddlers may need differentiated language, to support all those families out there whose children may not be following ‘typical’ developmental patterns (there are a lot!). Thanks!

  25. kim shadwick says:

    Thank you for your article it was very helpful to me in many ways. My fiancé and father to my beautiful 5 month old daughter suffered a traumatic brain injury when we were 2 months pregnant and at this time has the mentality of a toddler so this was very helpful with my communication with him as he often gets frustrated because he does not have speech at this time. It is also helpful to know what I will be up against any daughter grows older and will help with communicating better with her. I also have to admit I am a new mom and my biggest fear has always been how others will perceive me if my daughter has a tantrum in public….I am getting better at not caring what others think with both my fiance amd daughter having several public outbursts lately. My first priority is always my family

  26. Hi Janet. Thank you so much for all the advice! Our 15 months old son is about to talk and his behaviour is changing towards everything, so we are very confused. How to handle the situation! But now after reading all your advice we’d also need to build a positive relationship with him…now I can see the things with different point of view…thanks lot 🙂

  27. I love these suggestions in talking to kids. Mine is still too young to interrupt but I am sure that time will fly by and I’ll be eating my currently typed words. I am going to share this with my readers. Love this! Thanks again!!!

  28. I’ve found acknowledging my toddler when he’s ready to burst has mostly helped him to stay balanced. When he’s feeling scared, sad, happy or angry, I usually have a talk with him about it. I’ve never really recognized my son angry before but we’ve had to stay with my family for a month and he didn’t see his dad often. One day his body language and tone showed a lot of frustration at the fact that his dad had left for work. So great to know that with just a little bit of time, tuning in and patience that we can connect with our toddlers. He’s almost 2 and a half and is able to identify with his emotions moreso on his own.

  29. Hi
    I have a 3y old daughter, who is very active, says words but mostly baby talk.always touching things she isnt suppose to, always at places where she is not suppose to.I have tried every thing .but doesnt help me.if she is being naughty and I speak to her I dont think she understands me when being explained what she did wrong..When I call her she doent turn to me, after I raise my voice which will be the 6th time then she
    will turn around.
    Could you give me some advice

  30. Hi Janet, I very much enjoyed your article. Thank you for sharing.
    My toddlers have learned from a cartoon TV series a word meaning “a mean person”, and they keep using it when they are either upset with me or each other. I used to become very upset, and even yell at them when they were using the word. Recently I am trying to firmly say each time that we don’t say “mean” to each other. However they still use the word very often. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for me in this regard. many thanks.

  31. Hi Janet, thank you for this great article. My boy is 19 months and have learnt to scream at top of his lungs when he gets very frustrated. For example, sometimes sitting in car seat. I can’t stop and take him out of seat while driving. How can I acknowledge his feeling yet and quieten him down? Also, we usually let him walk by himself when we are out (unless at traffic light), is it better to train him to hold our hands outside? And lastly, my son is also a difficult eater, would often get frustrated quickly in high chair and not wanting to eat much of his food, any advice on how to encourage more positive eating attitude please? Thank you!

  32. Very useful suggestions! I particularly like the one about allowing Mom & Dad to finish their conversation. I’ve started doing this with my son and it works!

  33. Thanks for the advice!But my toddler won’t allows me and hubby to even start a conversation,he needs the attention every there any way to deal with that!

  34. My daughter is 3 years old. These days she is picking my words so fast. Whatever i say to her she repeats for me. Like if she is not listening me i say to her that now i won’t talk to you. She gets upset and replied ok you don’t talk to me i am also not gonna talk to you …Isn’t it weird.. How should I tell her that she should’t talk like this. Also these days she lies in small things like mumma i have finished milk even when she hasn’t finished. I am not sure how to tackle all this. Advice pls?

  35. Sylvia Tarango says:

    What do I do when my daughter doesn’t not listen to me when eating chang clothes or in the stores

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