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Parenting toddlers aren’t for the faint of heart. Parenting these feisty little beings, who often mimic “Taz” the Tasmanian Devil, are hard work.
Does it get easier?
Asking for a friend.
You may notice that your child is becoming more independent, verbal, and dare I say, feisty. My daughter Violet’s new favorite thing is headbanging. No, not rocking out to Metallica with mommy. When she gets frustrated, she likes to bang her head on stuff. It’s grrreat…
Our little tykes can be frustrating to handle some days (er, every day), but we must not forget that they are still learning how to understand and process their emotions.
Your child’s experiences during these early years will affect how their brains work, the way they respond to stress, and their ability to form trusting relationships. The experts consider the toddler years to be the most important with relation to cognitive, emotional and social development.
Though it may be getting easier to have a conversation with your toddler at this point, some things are better left unsaid.
Check out this list of five things you really shouldn’t say to your toddler.
1. “Good job.”
Throwing out generic phrases like “great job” or “good girl” when your child masters a skill makes her dependent on your compliment rather than her own motivation, according to Jenn Berman, author of The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids.
Instead, it is best to be as specific as you can. Instead of “good girl” or “good boy” state what was good about what they did. For example, “That was nice of you to share your cookie with your brother,” or “thanks for bringing mommy her glass of wine.” What, too soon?
2. “Just let me do it.”
Your toddler needs time to learn on their own. Yes, there are hectic mornings when we are rushing out the door and we feel the need to take over when our child is taking their sweet time putting on their shoes, etc. Automatically taking the reins, however, isn’t going to help them learn in the long run, mama. “It gives a clear message to the child of ‘I can’t do this, only the grown-ups know how to do it. It actually works against [building] confidence,” says Dr. Tovah Klein, author of How Toddlers Thrive.
According to Linda Acredolo, Ph.D., coauthor of Baby Minds, rushing your child to get a move on also creates additional stress. Acredolo suggests relaxing your tone by saying, “Let’s hurry,” which sends the message that the two of you are in it together. You can also turn the act of getting ready into a game: “Why don’t we race to see who can get their tennis shoes on first?”
Just try to remember what motivates your child. For Violet, it’s watching Baby Shark and Elmo. If she knows Baby Shark is already blasting through the car speakers, it definitely puts a fire under her Pampers.
3. “Stop crying.”
A young child doesn’t have the ability to assert themselves and will assume they have done something wrong when you tell them to stop crying. Although it can be a tad frustrating when your child cries at inconvenient times (hello, registration line at the DMV), crying is a healthy and necessary way for your child to express their feelings, and we shouldn’t tell them to stop. When we tell them to ‘stop crying’ we are expressing to them that their feelings are inappropriate, and simply unimportant.
When we dismiss these kinds of feelings, this can cause children to be even more likely to exhibit those emotions and less able to cope with stress, according to child development researchers.
Guiding your child through their emotions and helping them find ways to express themselves in a healthy manner helps them to regulate their responses to challenges and even supports their academic and social competence. This sort of emotion coaching greatly helps in reducing future problem behavior in children. Yay! Save that bail money for a rainy day.
4. “Be careful.”
How many times a day do you say this? I used to say it probably an average of 200 times, which is a total no-no. Truthfully though, how often does it work? Never. And, how often are YOU more careful because someone so nicely yelled at you, “be careful!”
Saying this while your child is attempting to climb the rock wall at the playground, or the tree in your backyard, actually makes it more likely that your kid will fall.
“Your words distract your child from what she’s doing, so she loses focus,” says Deborah Carlisle Solomon, author of Baby Knows Best. If you’re feeling antsy, move close to spot your child in case he or she takes a tumble, just don’t forget to rock that invisible cape, and try to be as quiet as you can.
5. “Don’t do that!”
Do what? Don’t do that! Yes, that! Confused? Me too, and likely, so is your child. Be specific when informing your child of what not to do (or what to do for that matter).
Yelling, “don’t do that” really doesn’t help your cause.
If your child shouldn’t be pulling out all the pots and pans from the cupboard, tell her, “don’t pull out the pots and pans, you can get hurt.”
When your child is pulling out all of his toys in your just cleaned family room, which is about to host a dinner party in 10 minutes, tell him, “please do not pull out your Legos, play with those in your bedroom.”
Remember, it’s all a learning process right now for your growing mini-me.
There is no one perfect way for parents to model behavior or the ultimate way to speak to our children to make them have the most perfect development experience.
While we can’t expect to be perfect moms, and I’m not quite sure that even exists, just remember to do your best to help your child develop into an emotionally sound person by giving them a supportive environment, positive feedback, a role model who exhibits healthy behaviors, and someone to talk to about their feelings and experiences.