I have learned a lot over the past year about communicating well with young children, especially toddlers, and have eagerly implemented my learning both at home and school.

Over breakfast this week my husband thoughtfully shared with me how amazed he’s been to see how receptive our daughter is to these methods. We agreed that a few simple ideas have made parenting so much easier and are allowing us to really enjoy these toddler years.

 

Do you like my necklace Mama?

Here are three tips that we have found to be simple yet extremely effective:

    1. Slow down – The adult world moves very fast for children. We want to quickly breeze through things that we find inconsequential and move onto the important (or perhaps just urgent) things. In doing so we can make children feel confused, lost and frustrated. (In other words, exactly how I feel when talking to an accountant.)
    2. Explain – There are many things we assume children will understand simply because they’re so commonplace to us (like why it’s important to clean your face and hands after eating). We don’t intentionally keep children in the dark but we forget to consider their point of view. Some children are happy to just go with the flow while others get agitated when they don’t understand everything that’s happening to them. But no child will be harmed by a simple explanation: I’m going to take your hat and gloves off because it’s warm in here and I don’t want you to get too hot. (Don’t forget to leave a moment for it to process.) It may feel silly the first few times but it quickly becomes habit. This is a great way to show respect for children and build trust.
    3. Acknowledge – What a powerful thing it is to acknowledge another person’s feelings. Not the expression of these feelings, but purely the feelings themselves. I can see you’re frustrated. It must be really hard to be in a wheelchair and be unable to control where you go and when. I understand why you would feel like shouting and kicking. Yes, it is our job as adults to teach children how to appropriately express their emotions but FIRST we must take a moment to simply acknowledge their very real feelings.

As you can see, these tips all hinge on taking a moment to see things from a child’s perspective. I recognise that this comes easier to some than others and that it’s not an ability that develops overnight. But I firmly believe that children notice and appreciate when adults at least have a go at it and I think you’d be surprised at how effective and addictive it can be.

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