Saying: “Use your words” to a toddler isn’t always helpful
My three little ones ALL had delayed speech. They all had multiple ear infections and ended up with grommets. So I like to think I know what I’m talking about when it comes to toddlers and their speech. Turns out, I didn’t really know much at all.
My catch-phrase when my toddlers were trying to talk to me, or having tantrums was “use your words.” That’s what everyone else seemed to say to their child so I figured I needed to as well.
It turns out it is kind of hard to do that when you a) don’t actually have them in your vocabulary and b) at the age of two it’s difficult to articulate: “Mum I’m having an awesome time playing in the sandpit here with my friend James, so can we leave in five minutes instead of right now please?”
So instead they would scream and yell and I would carry them to the car remaining outwardly calm, but dying a little on the inside. I read recently that actually telling your child to “use their words” is actually a trigger when they’re on the verge of being upset. In fact according to the article it is the equivalent of you “saying, ‘you need to calm down’ to your spouse after you’ve stepped on his or her big toe. In other words: potentially infuriating, inflaming, and shortsighted.”
This actually makes perfect sense to me. Add in their emotional limitations at such a young age and I can see why my little ones would get so genuinely frustrated with me. I’m not excusing their behavior but I understand it better now. In fact I would have been better off finding alternative ways of getting them to explain their feelings than using the phrase “use your words.” Some quiet time, moving them away from an audience or giving clear directions that we would be leaving a place soon or even using mime might have helped diffuse some very awkward and upsetting tantrums.
Do you say “use your words” to your toddler? How do you diffuse a tantrum?