Ahhh children: they are our little bundles of joy who can brighten up any sad day. That is, until you are in your jammies hoping to quickly run into the store for two minutes and they throw a tantrum so big, even the mom of six in the other aisle is like “Damn!”
As a parent, I noticed my daughter started throwing more and more tantrums around two to three years old. If you have ever heard the term, “terrible twos and threes,” or have little monsters of your own, you may have come across this phrase before.
One theory I have about littles throwing tantrums has a lot to do with communication. At least for my little one, I imagine it had to do with her being unable to express her wishes to me clearly and concisely. Looking back on all the times she threw a tantrum, most of the time it was due to a block in her ability to communicate. We have all gone through some sort of situation like this.
Have you ever ordered food from a restaurant, say Springfield’s famous cashew chicken, and when your food came out you were given beef lo mein instead? You clearly and patiently explain to the server that you would like cashew chicken and not beef lo mein – they nod their heads in understanding, take the dish to the back and when they come back out there was more beef added to your lo mein. How would you feel? Probably like you are going insane!
I imagine this is what many toddlers go through – they really want something and in their mind they are stating it clearly, but we don’t always understand as adults. It actually can feel like a form of senility I would imagine, which makes it a very frustrating time for children! It is practically the same as moving to another country with another language where no one understands you.
So in an effort to show you that you have messed up their order, they throw a tantrum…just like so many adults I know! In short, most toddlers know what they want, but conveying this to an adult can be a frustrating endeavor for them.
One Solution for the Terrible Two’s and Three’s
One solution would be to teach your child to communicate early on in their development; this sets you AND your child up for success in the long run.
As babies, children learned to communicate through crying, cooing and mimicking noises they hear from people around them. If it was something serious they needed, such as food or a new nappie, they would cry in order to get our attention. As they turn into toddlers, and their needs become more complex, they communicate the only way they know how: by crying!
Think about it: they have been crying since they were infants. In order to get something they want, they cry, we understand what they want and POOF! Their desire unfolds before them. So they’ve learned this behavior, practiced it since infancy, and it’s been reinforced with time. By the time they are toddlers we don’t want them to cry every time they want something. We want them to tell us what they want – suddenly, what has always worked for them no longer works for them. Naturally, the solution is to teach them how to communicate early on, but many of us don’t do this.
Adult Behaviours That Stop Children From Talking Early
As a parent, everything you do impacts your child in one way or another. For example, if you know that your child wants water because he or she is pointing to the faucet and you simply get them water without having them tell you verbally what they want, you are communicating to them that they don’t need to tell you what they want; they simply have to point the way and they will get it. Effective communication is a key to the healthy development of children.
My little sister was a late speaker. She didn’t start forming sentences until she was about three years old. Was it because she was slow? Actually it was because she had two older sisters who knew what she wanted before she ever said anything. My parents didn’t help my little sister in speaking either; whenever she would say something in baby-talk, they would look at me and my older sister and ask, “What does Kady want?” At the time my family unintentionally became a crutch for my younger sister; a barrier to her learning how to communicate properly.
Another barrier that keeps children from actually learning how to speak would be when adults give them whatever they want when they want it. I know this may sound completely unrelated to communication, but when a child throws a tantrum after being denied something they want, and are then given what they want (in order to stop them from crying or making a scene), this behavior is being reinforced.
What Can We Do To Teach Our Child To Talk Early?
I have a friend whose daughter could speak Spanish, English and sign language impeccably from a young age. My friend, her name is Jac, started teaching her baby sign language at around a few months old. Before the child even hits the terrible two’s and three’s, she already has an extensive vocabulary, and if all else fails she can simply use sign language to communicate her needs. How cool is that?
Another friend of mine had a son who also had an extensive vocabulary at a young age. When I asked him what he did to educate his son, he said that even though he knew what his son wanted every time he pointed to something or murmured a baby word, he would sit with him a few extra minutes and say, “What do you want? Tell daddy what you want.” If his son would start crying after his father denied him something, his father would sit down and explain to him why he wasn’t allowed to have what he wanted.
In short, despite his son’s age he spoke to his son as though the son understood what he was saying. After a minute his son would calm down and move onto other things. The only downside to this, if you would call it a downside, is that now his son has amazing cognitive and negotiation skills as an older boy; something the father wasn’t quite prepared for!
Practices to Get Your Child to Talk Early
- Encourage them to speak properly from early on.
- Talk to them as though they understand you even if their vocabulary or comprehension doesn’t match yours.
- Take the extra time to work with them now so you can enjoy the fruits of your labors later on.
Additionally, the side effects of doing these three simple things are:
- Less tantrums (which makes for happier parents).
- Your child or children will speak earlier and more confidently.
- The ability to deny your child something in public with fewer upsets and “scenes.”
In summary, I have always believed that if a parent sets their child up for success early on by taking the extra time and initiative, they will enjoy the benefits of their actions later. It is normal for children to cry in order to get what they want, unfortunately this isn’t how the world works.
Think about it, if you cry to your boss about something it doesn’t guarantee that he or she will give it to you. In fact, making a scene in their office may have the complete opposite effect! If a parent trains their child in such a way that they are given anything they want whenever they cry, I feel that this action actually sets the child up for failure later on in life. They may be more inclined to have high expectations and may also have major emotional whiplash when things don’t always go their way. Additionally, they may also be less inclined to understand another person’s point of view when they are denied something they want which leaves less room for compassion, understanding and empathy. Bruce J. McIntosh, M.D. states in the journal Pediatrics, indicates that spoiled children are prone to temper tantrums, can be insensitive to the needs of others, and have trouble deferring gratification.
The good news is that it is never too late to start setting your child up for success, especially in terms of effective communication. Taking the extra time to sit and work with them through whatever communication blocks they have not only affects them in a positive way, but you as a parent as well.
Wishing you peaceful parenting and joyful two’s and three’s!