How can you effectively connect and communicate with your toddler?
For a toddler, the capacity to communicate is the ability and desire to connect with others by exchanging ideas and feelings, both verbally and non-verbally. Most children learn to communicate to establish and maintain interaction with a loved adult.
From birth Babies communicate, through sounds like crying, squealing, through facial expressions having eye contact, grimacing, smiling and gestures/body movements like moving legs in excitement or distress, and later, gestures like pointing their figure. Babies continue to develop communication skills when adults try to understand and respond to their efforts to tell others about what they need or want.
Good communication with your children is an important parenting skill. Parenting can be more enjoyable when the parent-child relationship is established. Whether you are parenting a toddler or a teenager, good communication is the key to build mutual respect and understanding.
• Communicating with children
• Improves your bond with them,
• And encourages them to listen to you.
Good communication with a toddler is about:
• Set aside some time for talking and listening to each other. Family meals can be a great time to do this.
• Encouraging your toddler to talk to you so they can tell you what they’re feeling and thinking. Let the child know that you are interested in and involved in their talk.
• When your child extends his arms out to you to carry, pick him up, kiss him and use simple words.
• Before bedtime, cuddle together for quiet times with a book. Encourage your toddler to turn the pages and to point to what he likes to see. Ask your toddler how the characters might be feeling.
• Have the patience to listen and respond in a sensitive way to all kinds of things, not just nice things but also anger, embarrassment, sadness and fear etc.
• As a parent, try to mirror your children’s feelings or actions by repeating them what they say or do.
• Avoid closed end-answer type questions that require a “yes”, “no” or “ok” answer which leads to a conversation to a dead end. Ask questions to children to describe, explain or share ideas to extend the conversation.
• Talk to your toddler taking into account what at their ages can understand. Don’t keep standing and talk while your toddler is on the floor, instead physically get down to the child’s level then talk.
• Talk about all the things as you go through your day. If you and your toddler are used to having lots of communication, it can make it easier for them to talk freely when big or tricky issues come up as they grow up.
• Try to understand what your child’s body language is telling you, and try to respond to non-verbal messages too.
• By having good communication since the age of toddler you can teach or emphasise the importance of honesty by encouraging and supporting your child, to tell the truth by being honest yourself!
Children might often need some help in learning to listen (letting others talk). So let your child finish talking and then respond to him. This sets a good example and your child will develop listening skills.
• Use language and ideas that your toddler will understand, make any instructions or requests simple and clear to match your child’s age and ability.
• Avoid criticism and blame: If you’re angry about something your toddler has done, try to explain why you want them not to do it again.
• Turn off the television or put the newspaper down when your child wants to talk to you and also avoid taking a telephone call unless it is very urgent when the child has something important to talk to you.
• Embarrassing the child or toddler and putting them on the spot in front of others and asking them to talk will lead only to hostility, not good communication.
• Don’t ever show your anger or work frustration on or in front of your toddler, get back to them when you regain your cool.
• Listen carefully and politely, don’t interrupt the toddler when they are trying to tell something even if it’s wrong. Be as courteous to your child as you will be to your best friend.
• Don’t ask why instead ask what happened. Show that you accept your child as it is, regardless of what he has done or has not done.
• Reinforce the child by responding and keeping the communication open. Do this by accepting him and praising his efforts to communicate.
• A parent should be a good role model. Children are very good imitators and your child learns how to communicate by watching you carefully. When you speak with your child or anybody else in a respectful way, this gives a powerful message to your child and he develops good communication skills.