What do you want?

How many times have you asked your toddler this question?

What about your 6 month old?
It may seem silly giving babies and toddlers choices, it’s not like they are able to make a logical decision at this time. However, you can still ask baby for her input without severely affecting any major outcomes. (Don’t ask your baby if she would rather have paint or carrots for dinner.)

The next time you are playing with your baby, offer two choices.  Hold the toys at his eye level, about a foot apart.  Ask “Do you want the red ball or the shaker?”  Give each toy a little jiggle as you name them so he can look at each separately.  Judge by eye gaze, facial expressions, body movements (reaching), or vocalizations.  You might have to review the choices a few times, but note his movements during each presentation.  And be sure to pause a few seconds in between each toy so his little brain waves have time to connect. “Oh, that toy is fun.  I think I want that.  I want to hold it.  I want that toy!”

If your baby is mobile and is able to easily access her toys independently, think about putting some out of reach, either in a large toy box, or up on a shelf.  This way, she will have to get your attention.  Here, she is learning to initiate communication.  You can then still provide her with two choices, even if you know exactly what she wants.

When you respect your child’s wishes you are helping her realize language is a positive, helpful tool.  “Oh! When I reach for the cup, mom gives it to me!” When you disregard their choices, they can feel frustrated, belittled, and a tantrum can arise.

On another, similar note, don’t ask your baby, toddler, 7 year old, 16 year old, a question you don’t want an answer to. i.e.:
“Are you ready to get out of the tub?” “No?” “Well you have to anyway”
“Can you clean your room for me? “No?” “Well, you have to.”

Either tell them what is going to happen, or respect their wishes! i.e.:
“Time to get out of the tub, would you like to read a book or play with a puzzle when you dry off?”
“Let’s put your clothes in your room away and then we can finger paint at the kitchen table.”

Think about it, what if I said to you:
“Would you like some pizza? Oh well, I don’t have any.  Here’s a potato.”

or

“Do you want me to do the dishes while you watch TV?” –doesn’t wash dishes–
I would throw a tantrum too.

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