I've been lucky enough to of been given a sneak extract from Joanne Mallon's new book - . The book brings together tips and advice from parents who have survived the toddler years and are now passing on essential information on to parents of toddlers like me and you. The book is helping to raise money for the charity homestart and is available in both and in .
How to talk so toddlers will listen
To a little kid, you the adult can be pretty imposing (whether you mean to be or not) simply because you’re so much bigger than they are. Therefore if you want to ensure that your toddler takes in what you’re saying, it can help to get down on their level and look them in the eye when you’re speaking to them. It’s a simple thing but it really does make a difference - it makes a welcome change for the child who may be more used to hearing your instructions boomed from on high. Obviously it’s not always practical to do this, and you might get arrested if you tried it whilst driving down the fast lane of the M4, but give it a go when you can.
The other advantage of speaking to your child on their level is that you won’t have to shout (nor should you, unless your intention is to frighten the child). If you can feel yourself veering into shouty parent mode too much, getting on to your child’s level is a good, calmer alternative.
It can also help to hold your toddler’s hand as you speak to them – the aim is to slightly still their naturally physical nature and help them concentrate on what you’re saying. Also it may prevent them from running off if they don’t like what they hear.
Use simple, straightforward language that your child will understand. This doesn’t mean you have to boom in one syllables like a children’s TV presenter. But think about the language you use and the concepts you take for granted and ask yourself – will my toddler really know what I’m on about?
Keep it direct and don’t over-explain. They don’t have to know every why when and wherefore of the fact that it’s time for bed.
Be aware of your own tone of voice. Do you sound hesitant, like you don’t really believe what you’re saying? Do you phrase commands as if they’re a question (“Why don’t we start getting ready for bed now?”). Toddlers will pick up on this hesitancy and crush you like the mini-tyrant they are. So practice a firm and clear tone of voice. You’re going to need it.