Troubleshooting: How to Communicate with a Toddler

Toddler Communication

By Jamell Andrews

Having a toddler can be frustrating. When they need something, they don’t yet have the vocabulary to express their needs in a way you understand as a mom. This can lead to a series of battles you may not even need to fight in the first place.

There are a couple of ways you can handle communication in a way they can understand, and it will make your life as a parent so much easier.

Seeking Nonverbal Cues

Even though your toddler doesn’t use words to communicate, you can still find the clues they’re leaving behind through body language. Here are some of the more common ones:

  1. Tugging at clothes or trying to take them off. This is a pretty clear sign that your child is not comfortable in their clothing. It could be from a tag in a shirt, or just the seams are chaffing at the skin. The good news is, this is an easy thing to fix. Take time to get more info on seamless clothing.
  2. Ear pulling or cheek rubbing. If your toddler is doing a lot of this and making sounds or expressions of discomfort, it could be one of two issues. Either the child is teething – often accompanied by excessive drooling – or the child has an ear infection, often accompanied by a fever.
  3. Clutching at the stomach and refusing to eat. This is a very common sign of constipation. To be sure, ask your toddler to use one fingertip to point at their body exactly where the pain is coming from. If they won’t do this, do it yourself gently, starting at the area where the child was first showing signs of discomfort.
  4. Refusing food. Toddlers don’t do this to irritate you. There are different reasons for it. One of which is that the toddler just isn’t hungry. Forcing food on them will only end badly. Toddlers are also notoriously picky. It’s a way of asserting independence, so they could refuse a broken cracker or food they had just yesterday because it isn’t quite right. Be patient and pay attention. You will see they enjoy more than you think.

How to Communicate

It’s important to understand that a lot of what your toddler is learning comes from the way you interact with them. This means that communicating properly is incredibly important. And it’s easier than you think. When talking to your toddler:

  1. Make eye contact. When you do this, your child is able to understand easier what you are telling them.
  2. Talk at their level. Get down to their eye level to talk, so they don’t have to look up. They are more open to communication this way.
  3. Keep your arms open. Whether you hold them or just keep your arms at your sides, it shows you are open to listening to them.
  4. Have them point. Using the tip of their finger only, have the toddler point to the part of their body exactly where it hurts. This can help you diagnose the problem.

Teach them sign language. This doesn’t mean you need to know how to do sign language, but there are some basic gestures that children can catch on to as young as 4-6 months old. From food to family, these simple signs will help open lines of communication not typically available to an infant or toddler, and it makes both of your lives easier.