Recently I found myself spending a very long time explaining how I wanted my husband to hang a piece of art. He responded with “That won’t work.” I immediately became frustrated. “You must not understand me! I want you to hang it like this!” He again responded with “That won’t work.” Long sigh…followed by an “aha moment!”
I am feeling the exact same way my 18 month old, Gus, feels when he grunts and points at the cookies and I tell him “no.” This leads to him screaming “No!” and throwing himself on the floor. It’s all very dramatic.
But why is he doing this? Is it because I won’t give him the cookies? Actually, no. He’s reacting this way because he’s sure that I simply don’t understand what he is asking for. When Gus asks for cookies, I first need to repeat his request “You want cookies.” This not only makes him feel understood, it also models what he should be saying, which increases his chances of actually saying it…not just grunting and pointing. Most importantly, this clearly shows him that I understand what he wants.
After I have let him know I understand him, I then respond to his request. “You want cookies. No cookies right now, it’s breakfast time.” He may become upset, but it will be more because he is a toddler, and less because he doesn’t feel validated.
The next time your child asks you for something, make sure to first repeat, then respond.
Share how you respond to communication frustration in the Guidepost Parent Chat! Check back for more from Andrea in January, or visit her at The Speech Mom.
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