Tried & True 'Tot Talk' Techniques...
- Eye contact.... If you lose eye contact, you're about as effective as the wall behind you.
- Give me your ears... Not literally, of course, however asking your tot to use their ears to hear with will help them to focus on listening.
- Short & Simple... Tots don't care what your explanation is unless it's short & simple. Speak too long & you'll lose their focus... Then, refer back to #1.
- Make a valid threat... Don't tell your tot "If you don't stop poking me, I'm going to rip your arms off". While potentially frightening to the tot, but hilariously sarcastic to you, it's 100% invalid. And when your tot pokes you again [& trust me, (s)he will] and you DON'T rip their arms off [because you can't], you have officially lost ALL your credibility.
- Pick your battles... Easy for anyone to say when they're not dealing with the the holy terror(s) you've dealt with, right? I've been there, quite often. But try to realize, not everything calls for a time-out threat or "the look".
- "I want"... Every tot has one main urge: wanting something. "Want" is a word that your tot can easily understand. Instead of saying "I need you to sit down, please" say "I want you to sit down, please". Now, you're talking their language. (Yes, this is also perfectly acceptable: "Mommy, I want some juice"... "Tot, I want to win the Mega Million Lotto")
- "Eli the elephant wears giant purple shoes on the moon"... No, that's not some random quote I found from your pre-baby days, that is your random imagination being used to throw off a tantrum. Say random silly things that come to mind until your tot responds, usually with a tearful giggle. (Note: Random imagination needn't only be used during times of tantrums. In fact, it's a great bonding experience with your tot!)
- Speak softly... The lower you speak, the quieter your tot will have to be to hear you. If Eli the elephant doesn't work, try this.
- "When you...I feel...Because"... Simply interpreted: "When you don't eat your veggies, I feel sad because you will be hungry at bedtime."
- Repeat, repeat, repeat... Make your simple statement, complete with a valid consequence, followed with "Do you understand?" Then, ask "Tell me what I just said." Your tot will either repeat it all, word for word, or not. If not, continue to repeat it until they get it.
- Stay POSITIVE!!... It's hard after a long, grueling day that's pulled you in more directions than humanly possible to remain positive when your excited tot can't understand why you desperately need them to just sit & be quite. Force a smile & a positive tone when speaking to them, no matter how exhausted you may be. The last thing you ever want is to make your tot feel like you don't like them anymore or make them scared of you, which is what happens more than you realize. Granted, tots are the most forgiving (& forgetful), so chances are there won't be a grudge the next day. Raising your voice happens, just don't make it your primary form of communication when your tot turns out not to be as perfect as you imagined.