Best Phrases/Words for a Toddler – Teaching Patience Early On

2 May

Our toddler is not one to mince words – it is just that she doesn’t have many words to mince with 😉  In the course of raising two precocious daughters there are a couple of phrases/words that I have to admit came in really handy (although I seem to end up loudly saying some of them over and over again – still useful nonetheless).  The earlier they understand these words or phrases and follow-through, the earlier your life gets a little easier.

  1. Stop, instead of NO – I usually use this in heart-attack situations – I find this useful when I need her to freeze (i.e. almost touching something hot, picking up something on the floor and en route to mouth etc.)  I find that having them freeze for even a couple of seconds gives me time to rectify the situation.
  2. Only One – Used to express a limit – when snacking it sometimes helps to not have our kids try to ram a whole fistful of goldfish into their mouths, or when someone offers something in a bowl/tray – it makes us look less like neanderthals when our kids are able to only grab one piece rather than the usual fistful with the inevitable piece or two falling on the floor.
  3. Wait – This is a great exercise for patience and delayed gratification  – especially with all these research and articles coming out about the benefits of teaching patience and delayed gratification (like this article from the New Yorker ) almost everyone is familiar with the ‘marshmallow test‘ – well for us it is also a sanity saver – I don’t need to live with children that whine to get something NOW NOW NOW!  Our older daughter is a little more adept at waiting, while our younger one is a little more challenging.  What we’ve done is teach our toddler the right ‘posture’ for waiting – so she holds her hands together and sits – it’s really quite cute 🙂 and it also works.
  4. Gentle – LOTS of places to use – when playing with smaller children, when in highly fragile places or stores, when playing with someone else’s toys or touching a pet animal.  I find that when they learn this word they immediately know that they need to slow down or change how they handle things.
  5. Clean-up! – I know… hahahahaha but for the really younger ones this still holds some cache – especially when sung like Barney 😉  Another version for older toddlers is to ask “Where does this go?”  This works for us when our 28 month-old is done with her snack and give us the wrapper.  We ask here where the wrapper goes if she’s done with her snack and she knows to put it in the trash can – longer, but better method than telling her to put it in the trash or always doing it for her!  Makes her think rather than mom or dad barking orders!

Here is a caveat — the fact that your kids know and understand these words/phrases doesn’t mean that you can yell it across a room and hope for the best (as I’ve seen other parents do) at the same time something said a thousand times also loses its effectiveness pretty fast (like the word ‘STOP’)  I find that standing by them and calmly saying the phrase is what makes it work better.


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