Toddler communication | Magic words that help me get my way (most of the time)


As most of us know, toddlers are tricky. They can communicate their wants, they don’t fully understand their emotions, and their highs can turn to lows in an instant (and vice versa). They are also so full of love and wonder and curiosity. In trying to understand my two and a half year old better, I’ve been experimenting with words and phrases to get him to work with us instead of against us. Here’s what is working… for now.

I’ll do it. 

If I ask him to do something and he says no. I just throw out a little “I guess I’ll do it…” and all of sudden his little body perks up and he knows that he just has to do it himself. “No, I’ll do it. I’ll do it.” And he’s on his way to put away a toy, throw out some trash or pick up a mess. Thank you, emerging independence.

Listen to your body.

Asking him if he has to go #1 or #2 NEVER works. He always says no, even though I can see him wiggling over yonder… I started to say “listen to your body, it will tell you if you have to go.” Sometimes, I see him think through that statement and he’ll make his way to the bathroom. Other times, I catch him as he struts out of the bathroom saying “someone listened to their body.”

No, thank you.

We’re still working on this going both ways. If we do something that he doesn’t like, he’ll say “No, thank you” and we stop. It’s usually if he’s not in the mood for a hug or a cuddle or if we are bugging him while he’s focused. However, when used in reverse on something that we don’t want him to do such as hitting, throwing or kicking, we say the same “no thank you.” We need a little more consistency here.

Choice A or B.

This one is probably well known throughout toddler management circles, but giving our kid a choice between the baseball shirt or the shark shirt really helps him focus on the decision in front of him. He has less opportunity to say no (though he does at times) while still giving him control.

We’re working together.

When he is over the top with energy or just doesn’t seem to do what we want, we try to make the point that we are working together and a team. He likes to be part of the family team so this one works most of the time.

Of course, it’s always a work in progress and their issues change ever week. I am always looking for more tips on how to successfully communicate with a toddler, especially when it comes to manhandling baby sisters (or brothers). Feel free to share any other magic words. Many of us could benefit from them!