Your Toddler Doesn’t Need Taming

The words we use matter. Infants are not “its”. Toddlers don’t need “taming”. Wild animals might need taming (in the rare instance that’s necessary), but toddlers need acceptance, guidance, and understanding.

Each time we speak or write we are not only reflecting our perceptions, but also reinforcing them and affecting others. If you catch yourself using objectifying or dehumanizing words when referring to children, take a moment to think about how — deep down —  you might be perceiving them. It’s not uncommon. These are pervasive views, deeply ingrained in our culture (though if this doesn’t stop soon, I’ll need taming).

Remember that your perception of the children in your care is a crucial fork in the road. This is where you’ll take the path to respectful care or something less so.

“A person’s a person no matter how small.” –Dr. Seuss


(Photo by vdrg dansschool on Flickr)


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

  1. avatar Hsiao-Ling Dawson says:


    Thank you for the reminder…. It is such a pervasive, and we-so-not-noticed discourse that children are “property”. Even if I am careful about it, I still find myself treat them as “object”. For example, when I say, “my” boys… when I show people a picture of “my” charges…. when I am picking out an outfit for them to make sure they look “nice” and clean… It is inevitable that we speak and behave that way… don’t we say “my” wife/husband?! We live in a world that our lives are organized around objects. The practice I have is not make myself wrong, but catch myself and being present, being awake…. that a child is not just a body (object), but a human being.

    Thanks again….

  2. A good reminder!

    I’d just like to add that I grew up in Germany, where each noun is grammatically either masculine, feminine or neuter. The words for “child” and “baby” are always neuter so that they can apply equally to males or females. It is not an objectification thing, it’s a grammar thing. This is why I find it so natural to refer to babies as “its” in English, and it’s hard to remember that in English “it” has a different connotation than in my mother tongue.

    1. Antje, I’m really glad you brought that up….I love it when people clue me in to their point of view, so thanks!

  3. Great reminder. Perspective is so important. While we are responsible for nurturing our kids and tending to their health and wellbeing, they are still individuals and deserve to be treated with love and respect. Yes, sometimes the act in a way we don’t enjoy, but it’s the behavior — not the child — that may be inappropriate Thanks, Janet!

  4. Hmm… I do agree with you, but I should admit that my blog has an “Animals and Children” category and I don’t really intend to change it. I don’t mean it in a “dehumanizing” way, though it obviously, literally, is. I lump them together because they are so often inscrutable to my adult brain, and I love to explore their behaviors and imagine what they are thinking. Possibly my feelings about the association will change as my baby gets older, but I am struck by how small children seem, themselves, to relate better to animals than adults at times.

    Which doesn’t have a whole lot to do with your point about respect and attitude, but does have to do with how these things may follow language.

  5. Janet, thanks for this. I am reminded of an infant room I worked in years ago where someone referred to one of the infants as an “it”. I was so stunned by this comment that I couldn’t say anything. I always regretted that. I had never heard anyone refer to a child like this. Unfortunately it was one of many disturbing things that happened in that room. I was brought in to make changes and educate the staff a bit more (a lot more, I guess) but in the end their resistance and dwindling support from the director contributed to my leaving after only 4 months…the anxiety and animosity from the staff was eating me up. But I didn’t leave before letting at least a couple of the parents know what was going on. I learned my lesson…I am not only a caregiver but an advocate for the child..and must always be.

  6. Short, sweet, and to the point! It does sadden me to realize how negatively society views toddlers. But, please, please, Janet, don’t let anyone tame you about this issue!!!

    1. Oh, that’s not possible!!! Thanks, Sylvia. 🙂

  7. Maybe a bit off-topic, but…

    I feel the same about the ‘naughty’ corner/chair/spot.

    I say to parents that if they put their child in the naughty corner often enough, the child will absorb naughty into their sense of self. If you expect your child to be naughty he or she will meet your expectations every time.

    I asked a grade 2 boy last year, to tell me something he is really good at, and he said “being naughty”.

    1. Hakea – that’s not off-topic at all and I couldn’t agree with you more about ‘naughty’ ,’bad’, ‘wild’, etc. We may be using these terms just to describe behavior, but children don’t easily separate behavior from ‘self’. They identify with the words we use.

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