The February issue of Parents Magazine just came out and Tamekia Reece wrote an excellent article addressing the topic of a toddler’s “Bossy Talk.” It is a well-rounded article describing a toddler’s increased verbal skills that as they take off can exhibit demanding, negative or rude remarks. The article looks at answers from several perspectives from experts in parenting, behavior, and speech and language. I was quoted as saying, “They (toddlers) don’t understand the subtleties of these phrases.” The article offers “a plan to promote politeness.” I have to insert here that some of the points can apply to preschoolers too, who could use a correction on their tone or words said to an adult.
- “Keep your cool.” Kids can blurt out hurtful comments as they express themselves using language that they know or have heard. According to Erik Fisher, Ph.D., kids this age haven’t fully developed empathy so they don’t realize the impact of their words.
- “Offer better alternatives.” It is important to give language models for your toddler to repeat that are appropriate in words and tone. This is where I continue to model for kids even as they are preschoolers and beyond such as I’d rather not do that, Sherry, instead of I’m not doing that! I’ve really found, Sure, Sherry to be helpful, too!
- “Make her feel empowered.” Because toddlers love to be independent they might talk back or refuse to comply to assert themselves. Here is where a choice question is helpful. When they initially refuse to do something like go to bed or eat their dinner, offer a choice so they can be a bit in charge. I find that little ones get distracted by thinking about which option they will choose and therefore temporarily forget to be contrary!
- “Watch your words and reactions.” Toddlers are learning their language by imitating things adults say in their world. They mimic some of the negative tones and phrases parents say as well as the positive reactions. Remember who is listening!
- “Accentuate the positive.” Why do we always need to be reminded that when we reinforce the good behavior we will see more of it? Telling your toddler that they did a nice job of using their words can go a long way.
Quotes are from the article mentioned above.