Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How to Talk to Toddlers

I'm sitting on the floor of one of the kids' rooms right now.  Wearing an apron because I really thought that today...yes TODAY. THIS DAY. NO MORE DELAYS. I was going to get really really really on top of this housework so that it isn't just one-notch-above-uninhabitable when my unwitting husband walks through that front door.

Have you ever lived with a three year old?  So yes, you know exactly why I'm not in fact loading the dishwasher with my limoncello apron on and instead am sitting on a bedroom floor to prevent the escape of one such minuscule tyrant.  Er, um, 'blameless human being.'  Ahem. Whilst I await her imminent descent into dreamland.

And by "descent into dreamland" I mean "demanding of a band aid, a glass of water, and the removal of toe-jam from her unfortunate eye socket."


Don't ask me.  I'm not the one with toe jam in my eye.

(What's that?  What's a limoncello apron?  I'm glad you asked!

voila...

An apron with a limoncello recipe on it, of course.)

Where am I going with this?  Ah yes, talking to toddlers. The first rule of talking to toddler is: 

1. Never talk to toddlers.

See, when you first acquire one of these fine creatures, you might think to, you know, "get involved" with their imaginary playtime.  Do. Not. Do. This.  Oh my sweetbabyjeezus.  If the toddler is playing peacefully DO NOT APPROACH.  Not touch, to talk, no eye contact.  Tip toe.  Peak around corners.  Use a mirror on a bent stick to supervise if you must.  Whatever it takes, man.  Do not initiate unnecessary conversation.  Ever.  It will only end badly.

2. If you must talk to toddlers, try not to actually talk.

"Mmmmmm..., really?  Mmmmmhmmmmm.  Yep.  Uhhuh.  Is that so?  Wow.  Neat"

I don't care what the folks at the First 5 Program or whatever it's called say.  If the toddler has initiated conversation with you and is rambling on about something, the above are the only phrases you need.  Do not try to impress them.  Toddlers do not want to be impressed!  Trust me.  They just want to hear themselves talk.

For example, if you interrupt a toddler to gently suggest that perhaps Piglet is a boy and not a girl and you are fairly certain of this due to the fact that you are a literate human being who has actually read real live books (unlike them, in all their chalk-smeared-on-the-face glory.  But don't say that either.), you might as well take their precious lovey and cover it in peanut butter and throw it to the dogs whilst trying to shave the child's head and clip his/her nails simultaneously.  Their reaction to the latter scenario will be NO MORE DRAMATIC than the manner in which they will respond to your fictional character gender suggestion. True freaking story.

3. Agree with everything

Now look.  My three year old knows that Germany is a country in Europe and that the Nile is a river and there it is right there on the map.  Clearly my tips result in savant toddlers with geographic knowledge that exceeds most graduating high school seniors.  Well, my high school at least.  So you can trust me, yes?  Agree with everything they say.  This is one of my favorite tips because eventually you can stop even trying to decipher what is going on and instead you just listen to the tone.

Happy tone: say things that basically mean "yes".

Scandalized tone: say things that are the equivalent of "that's crazy talk!"

But above all, you must never disagree or ask them to clarify anything ever when they are on a talking jag, which is approximately 29 hours out of each 24 hour period, of course.

4. Make stuff up

Like, you know, if they ask you who your favorite pony is DO NOT ASK THEM FOR MORE INFORMATION.  Just say something.  Anything.  My go-to for this question is "Twilight Sparkle," which is actually true.  My husband answers "Rainbow Dash," which is a complete fabrication so he can go back to following rule #2 ASAP while praying to be able to follow #1 again at some point in the evening.

Other examples include questions involving people's age, the names of people you do not know, the reasons for things that have not actually happened, and the scientific reasons for sciencey things.  Remember these are toddlers, folks.  I'm not talking about a 6 year old here, who would actually benefit from, like, a google search or something.  But no.  The toddler will, mark my words, find a way to become angry if you start going on about heat rising and salt dissolving and DOG POOP NOT COMING OUT OF THE CARPET AND THAT IS WHY YOU WEAR THE SHOES AND THEN REMOVE THE SHOES, OKAY?

5. Sit on the floor with a laptop and ignore them as they insist they are not tired

Because BOOM, the child is asleep.

Thank you, internet!  You saved our day!

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39 comments :

  1. Oh! I so needed this today!! My toddler napped not one wink, despite the two blankets, 4 pillows, glass of milk, tissue, 8 books and three sprinkles of Holy Water that were necessary. I know. I broke all dem rules! I tried the ignore. I tried the computer. I tried everything. All I got was incessant chatter for the last 4 hours (plus the 8 before that). Oh, I so needed this!

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  2. Helpful! Especially #1, as my 2 1/2 year old is stuck in a parroting phase, and just repeats what I say in a questioning voice...even if what I just said was THE ANSWER TO HIS QUESTION.

    **deep breath**

    Just four hours till bedtime!

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  3. This is slowly becoming reality for me as my two year old learns more words. Why, oh why did I stress about his apparent lack of ability to speak??

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  4. See, I'm the opposite. Toddlers and I get along quite well. Babies and me on the other hand....

    ~Katrina

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    1. Katrina, I'll take your babies if you take my toddlers for a little bit, deal?

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  5. Oh Dweej! Where you looking in my windows again?!? This has become an every day occurrence. Might I suggest making said Limoncello recipe? That might dull the pain...

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  6. Brilliant...I love it. Especially the part about avoiding talking.

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  7. OH MY GOODNESS! This is hilarious and 200% true. What did you say? 100%? No! 200%! No, Mommy, not 100%! NO!

    Exact quote from my two year old today, "Mary not Queen of Heaven. She my mommy. She not queen!" No amount of correcting could convince her otherwise.

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    1. LOL. My girl insists she is a queen and I am a princess. DRA-MA!

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  8. The twins are three right now, and after this morning's production of "Tantrum of the Apocalypse," I thought there was a good chance I would mail them both to some distant land, or possibly sell them on ebay. But they're still here, pouring milk on things, so thank you for assuring me there are others in the trenches.

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  9. hahahaha! Thanks for this! Sometimes I wonder if all my insisting and explaining is worth it - now I know I'm wasting my time!!! I was once told, don't worry, if your kid turns six and they are still brats then you need to worry. I'm believing that more and more! As for naptime, POOF! GONE! My husband saves my sanity Every. Day. I love that man. love love love.

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  10. That’s too funny!

    Todller rules are universal, I tell you. Here in Brazil, I can assure you toddlers are just as … hmmmm… special! :D

    I know all the toddler rules but I foolishly break them all the time. Just yesterday my 3yo asked me what a dragon eats. I tried to explain her that there are no dragons. Why… oh why did I do that?! I should’ve just said something, anything, like “dragons eat purple butterflies” and leave it at that! But, noooooo. I tried to reason with a 3 yo. Bad idea!

    Today, again, I broke the toddler rules. I asked her what saint she wanted to dress up as for All Saints Day. She said she wanted to dress as an earthworm. Yes. An earthworm. I just told her I would have to check if any earthworms were canonized recently. Oh, the conversations I have…..

    Patricia

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    1. Oh my goodness, that's the funniest toddler conversation yet!

      I'm lucky, I have a boy brand of the toddler so basically nothing he says is intelligible anyway. Whenever i do pick out a word it's usually either related to food or absolutely nothing sensible. So with boy toddlers basically if they talk I just start heading for the fridge and pour them a cup of milk...but not in the green cup....always the blue cup....and not in the pink cup because they'll get mad if I don't claim it's purple.

      Btw we need a part 2 of "How to talk to 5 year olds". Because I think the #1 rule of talking to 5 year olds is probably pretty similar except you have to agree in full sentences instead of grunts and hmmm's of assent.

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  11. Pinkie Pie. Which I only learned about because I was forced into watching several episodes because I DIDN'T HAVE THIS HANDY GUIDE TO HELP ME AVOID IT!

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  12. You have done it! Summarized a three-year-old in so few words. Congratulations!!! I think I will have to keep this post for future reference when explaining 3yo's to the uninitiated. :)

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  13. I think #4 might just solve my multiple-times-daily dilemma of what exactly I'm supposed to answer in response to "Where my house?" whenever we go anywhere. Because I've tried #1 and #2 in that situation and no luck so far...

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  14. I need to take this ideas even for my 6yr old. She comes up with the wildest questions while I drive. Last week she spent several days noticing a groundhog (?) was not moving by the side of the street we drive down all the time since it's the way to Walmart. I got into a discussion about the fact that a groundhog does not have a soul just a body. She actually ask stuff like why the sky is blue too. Toddler boy seems happy right now spending his days with finding crayons and markers even though I thought they were all 6 ft off the floor. His big words right now is choo choo which is Thomas on Netflix now.

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  15. Ermaggerd. As I read this my two toddlers are crawling all over me demanding food that does not exist and eating it in a place that it is not possible because we're waiting for the 2 sane children I have to finish gymnastics. I started laughing though, and it was all, "What's funny, Mommy? Whatwhatwhatwhat IS FUNNNNNNNNNYYYYYY?" So this is simultaneously helpful and terrible. Thanks, Dweej. ;)

    BTW, the comment about parroting back the answers to the questions just asked in a questioning tone? Dying. Every day, all day.

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    1. My 3 year old ALWAYS questions why I would DARE laugh while she is telling me/screaming something.

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  16. It's been awhile, but after reading this, I think I have toddler PTSD. My right eye is twitching as I try to banish the bad memories from my head........

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  17. Did I ever mention that I used to teach preschool for upwards of 29 3year olds... all at once... full day program... with a curriculum. This was so funny. Brought me back.

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  18. Oh this made my day. I am on my 4th toddler now and WOW is he a gabber. I would love to say I'm coping with it well, but the truth is I spend 96% of my day fearing that I'm turning him in to some weird social deviant by begging him to stop talking! (sigh)

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  19. So true, so very, very true! Now my youngest girl is 4 and if I try to participate too much in her monologue she will flat out tell me, "don't talk Mama, just say yes".

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  20. Your wisdom is bountiful. I was looking for ways to curb Ellen's newest and most persistent question when I break any of these rules: "What did you say to Ellen, Mama??"

    Make shit up. Got it.

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  21. Ok, you need to bring this funny-ness to a stage somewhere. I can just hear you now doing stand-up. Thanks for the great laughs.

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  22. Dwija, this is awesome. Especially the part about talking 29 out of 24 hours. So true. Basically, this post describes my 3 year old very well! By the way, I love your blog, though I've never commented before. I was a year or two ahead of you at UD, though I doubt you would know me. Take care, and good luck with all that cleaning!

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  23. Fantastic! I don't have a toddler yet (but I know he'll be one on so soon), but I know this from experience with the little sibs. So great.

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  24. I never realized how handy it can be that my kids don't speak early. Teresa, who is 2 1/2, says about 75 words and can say a few sentences, but like my other kids, thinks words are only so useful when you can just scream "MA!" like a banshee and she will get whatever you want if you just don't do it again. She babbles paragraphs to total strangers though, so this is very helpful for the coming year!

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  25. Someone gave my 3yr old a set of bunny ears...which must always be worn while eating a whole carrot...which would be fine if the carrot went inside of the stomach instead of making a carrot crumb trail through my house. Why can't our dog like carrot crumbs??!?

    Everything I say is answered with "What??"...not parroting...just "What??" Sometimes with a "Why?" thrown in for good measure.

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  26. Perfect. Actually my favorite for dealing with the crazy questions that come is to inflict my children on others, preferably those who have none of their own (read parish priest).

    My oldest had a LOT of imaginary friends who were bad guys from shows that she had reformed. Her favorite was Swiper who lived with us for about 3 years. When she 3 1/2, she asked if Swiper, the imaginary friend, would go to heaven when he died. I tried making it up, but she didn't believe me, so we pulled into the church parking lot and posed the question to our pastor. God love the man, he smiled, said "that's a new one. But tell her sure, imaginary friends who invite Christ into their lives are welcomed in heaven." She was silent for the next 45 minutes thinking about it.

    I still consider it a miracle. For a man who wasn't known to be particularly engaging with kids, he was ON that day! I thank God for all the little things!

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  27. I was laughing out loud reading this! Then I started reading it to my husband who also cracked up. Awesome! I have a 3 year old son, and let's just say I can relate.

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