You Know You Have a Toddler When Blog Post - Eloise 2nd Birthday

You Know You Have a Toddler When You Say These Things

You Know You Have a Toddler When Blog Post - Eloise 2nd Birthday

Happy 2nd Birthday, Eloise

“Eloise, please, for the last time, get your head out of the toilet.”

As soon as the words are out of my mouth, I realise my baby daughter has grown up. I now have a toddler. This new stage in Eloise’s development means many things for me as a parent.

It means toilet training, hence the sentence above.

It means Eloise now spends some of the week in childcare.

And most importantly, it means uttering bizarre sentences that have probably never before been spoken in the history of humankind.

Our beautiful daughter Eloise turned two this month. A milestone for her and a celebration for our little family. For the world this means the English language will be collated together in sentences that are both innovative and eccentric.

 

Don’ts

I know this to be the case, as when Dylan was a toddler, I had to say some ridiculous things. Mostly in the form of commands to stop him doing something that as a grown-up I wouldn’t have thought of doing in a million years.

For example:

  • Don’t pick your nose with the Minion toy
  • Don’t stick the bean into your croissant
  • Don’t do yoga in the shower
  • Don’t dance on the toilet seat
  • Don’t bring the deckchair into the bathroom

At least I do not feel completely alone in all this. A friend of mine said she had to tell her young boys to “stop licking the TV”.

 

Just a Phase?

I am not saying such surreal things to Dylan as much any more, so I thought that this original take on language construction might only last the toddler years with Eloise. I do find it interesting but it is also a bit exhausting and will be glad when this phase is over.

However, I have found out these weird sentences may continue to produced with older children, even if only occasionally. This story is from another friend who was in the middle of telling her school-aged daughter off for something inexplicably strange, but was corrected:

‘Went to the supermarket with the kids and was looking at bread rolls in the bakery section. I turn around and Lucy is head butting the lamingtons!

“Don’t head-butt the lamingtons, Lucy!” I growl at her in an urgent stage whisper.

Lucy looks offended and somewhat haughtily returns, “I was NOT head butting them, I was kissing them. I LOVE lamingtons!”’

 

Does anyone have a similar story? I would love to hear them. Please share in the comments below.

You Know You Have a Toddler When Blog Post - Lamingtons
Lamingtons

 

 

No Don't Stop Blog Post - Dylan and Eloise - Super

Don’t! No! Stop!

Don't, No, Stop Blog - Dylan and Eloise Photo Feb15

“What is it Like with Two?”

One of the main questions I get nowadays is ‘what is it like having two kids?’ or ‘how has life changed with the addition of the second child?’ or some rendition of that. It is a nice way to make small talk and it is easy to give a polite answer – ‘oh it’s a lot busier’ or ‘it is sometimes a challenge having to juggle them both’.

But what I really want to say is this – the primary difference is how often I exclaim the words “Don’t!”, “No!” and “Stop!”. Usually, I don’t just say them -the exclamation marks are a mandatory part of the word. It is often a cry, yell or bellow. Yes, I used to shout these words often enough when there was only one child. However, they now form the predominant part of any conversation I have with my ferocious toddler when he interacts with his baby sister.

 

Over-Love

To give him credit, Dylan absolutely adores Eloise. He has never displayed any jealousy, and like my husband and I, has effortlessly accepted her as part of the family. There was never any talk of giving her back (to where?) or that he doesn’t like her. Actually, it is the opposite – he ‘over-loves’ her like a stalker with a smothering infatuation. About 95% of the time, the interaction with Eloise is not malicious, but instead the workings of a curious, healthy toddler who does not realise his own strength.

And just so we are clear, we do not leave the two alone all that often, at least we didn’t in the first six months. Sometimes these things occur while I am in the same room with both of them. Sometimes they occur when they are both sitting on me.

Here are some examples of bellowed instructions and commands I have found myself barking since we brought Eloise home.

 

DON’T!

There are a lot of DON’T!’s that involve not poking, prodding, pinching or pulling.

  • don’t poke her in the eye
  • don’t pull her ears
  • don’t squeeze her cheeks
  • don’t pat her tummy in a way that turns into heavy karate chops

Then there are a bunch of DON’T!’s that shouldn’t really have to ever be said.

  • don’t sit on her face
  • don’t lick Eloise
  • don’t wipe your nose on her
  • don’t drive your toy car over her face
  • don’t clap her feet together and say “eek eek” like she is a seal

 

NO!

As an alternative to all the DON’T!’s, sometimes I change it up a bit and instead find myself saying ‘NO!’. Some of these involve not using the baby or baby stuff as a toddler plaything.

  • no pushing Eloise around in the bouncinette and pretending like its a lawnmower
  • no getting into the bassinet
  • no sitting on Eloise when she is crawling and pretending she is a horse and by saying “neigh”

And some of the NO!’s involve asking Dylan not to ‘help’ in a way that is not helping.

  • no brushing her teeth with your toothbrush
  • no feeding her your food and sticking the spoon down her throat
  • no creating a make-shift slide for her to play on by leaning a cushion against the couch

 

STOP!

There are plenty of actions involving Dylan’s or Eloise’s body parts that need a STOP! issued as soon as they start:

  • stop putting her foot (hand, fingers, toes) in your mouth
  • stop putting your foot (hand, fingers, toes) in her mouth

And then there are the flat out STOP! commandments that get blurted out when things look really dangerous. STOP! has been roared during these scenarios:

  • placing a toy car in her mouth
  • driving a ride-on toy bee over the baby
  • jumping off the couch and over Eloise who is lying on the floor
  • holding Eloise by her feet to get her to do a headstand
  • bashing her on the head with a talking Minion toy to get it to talk (“banana”)

 

Why It Continues

The other night I was checking dinner in the kitchen so left Dylan and Eloise playing in the lounge. The next thing I notice, out of the corner of my eye, is Dylan walking slowly up the hallway, dragging something behind him. It was Eloise. Being dragged along the floor by one leg. And she was giggling.

The reason Dylan continues over-loving Eloise, despite being issued with copious NO!, DON’T! and STOP! requests, is because most of the time, Eloise absolutely loves it.

Lick her and its all smiles, sit on her and you get fits of giggles. She seemed almost disappointed when I placed her the right way up after Dylan had her in a headstand.

Much more significant to Dylan than any number of DON’T!’s, NO!’s and STOP!’s I can issue is Eloise’s adoration of her big brother and her love of any attention and interaction Dylan gives to her. So he will continue to be a boisterous big brother and I will continue with my repetitive shouting.

No Don't Stop - Dylan and Eloise - Super

he WHY Stage Blog Post - Lots of Whys Cartoon

The WHY Stage

 

he WHY Stage Blog Post - Lots of Whys Cartoon

Like a Switch            

Dylan turned three years old a few months back and just like that he snapped into the ‘WHY’ stage. I think most people have heard of this phase. The word ‘Why?’ and sometimes, just for a bit of light relief, ‘What’, ‘How’, or ‘Where’, is spoken copiously.

There is no regard to conversational rules, how irritating it can be or indeed, a lot of the time, what the answer even is. Asking the question seems to be the only priority.

I know it is essential for a child’s development, enhances learning and shows that a child is reaching another milestone and all that blah blah. But my goodness, It really is one of the longest and most infuriating phases during toddler and pre-school years. When will it end?

Argh, it has caught on and now I am asking questions as well.

 

The Different Types of WHY

What I have noticed over the past few months are patterns of questions. Here are a few:

  1. The no matter what is said, the answer is ‘Why?’

“Its time for a bath.”

“Why?”

“Let’s read a book.”

“Why?”

“What did you have for lunch at daycare today?”

“Why?”

 

  1. The double why:

“Its time for a bath.”

“Why?”

“Because you are dirty and its nearly bedtime.”

“Why?”

 

  1. The I have no idea of what the answer is questions:

“Why is it called ‘ham’?” (Wikipedia here we come)

“Why do leaves fall from trees Mummy?”

“Because it is winter time” (feeling good, know the answer)

“But why?”

“Er…”

 

  1. The inappropriate why:

“Why has that man got many chins?” (Move trolley fast down aisle one).

 

The Different Types of Answers

I have also taken note that how I answer depends on what sort of question it is, whether I know the answer and how often ‘Why’ has been used that day (i.e.: how exasperated I am). Sometimes I do answer the question properly and directly but often I use these alternatives:

Do not say anything

Used when I am irritated, do not know the answer, realise that answering would not make any sense, or all three combined. Best time to employ this approach is with the ‘double why’.

“Its time for a bath.”

“Why?”

“Because you are dirty and its nearly bedtime.”

“Why?”

-Silence-

Of course this may backfire and I sometimes get a continuous stream of ‘why, why, why’ but I find if I hold my ground they dissipate fairly quickly.

Fire the question back at him

This tactic is good when I think Dylan knows the answer but has gone on autopilot with his ‘Why’. Best used to reiterate a learning point.

“Stop sitting on Eloise.”

“Why?”

“Why do you think you should not sit on your baby sister?”

“Cos I squash her and she cries.”

However, it is dangerous to use it when you are not certain what the answer will be. Believe me, do not reply back “Why do you think that man has many chins?”

Make up the answer

I find it fun to make up the answer sometimes. It shows imagination and creativity on my part and has the added bonus of not letting on that I really have no idea of the true reason. Sure, he may get to school with some weird beliefs but who is to say what is real these days?

“Where has the other part of the moon gone?”

“The stars and clouds took a bite out of it”

The clichéd response

I even use the proverbial “Because I said so”. Every time I say it I cringe at how unoriginal I sound. However, sometimes it eliminates a long and unnecessary response.

“Why do I have to brush my teeth every day?”

(I could say that it makes teeth strong, because I care for him or it is a great habit to continue if he wants to be a fully functioning adult, but instead…)

“Because I said so”

 

Navel-Gazing

The ‘WHY’ stage is not all bad. It helps me to see the world from Dylan’s point of view. It allows me to revisit accepted beliefs, learn new ideas and see things from a young, fresh perspective.

The other day, Dylan said to me “Mummy, why are we here?” And I started thinking. Why are we here? What are we all put on this Earth for? What is my purpose in life? How can I construct a legacy I would be happy with?

I wasn’t sure where to begin to give a full and appropriate answer to such an esoteric question from a three year old. While I was still ruminating, Dylan’s little voice popped at me again:

“Why are we here at this shop Mummy? What do you want to buy?”

– Oh, no meaning of life answer required today. Thank goodness.

“Mmmm, lets buy some sandwich things, maybe some ham.”

The Why Stage - Ham Picture

Toddler Blog Post - Toddler Silence

How to Talk to a Toddler

Toddler Blog Post - Toddler Language

A Typical Conversation

At the moment there is not a lot of sophisticated communication with my 18-month old son. On our drive home from work and day care, the conversation will go something like this:

Dylan: “Caaaarrr”

Me: “Yes that is a car”

Dylan: “Car Car Car”

Me: “Well it is rush hour traffic so you will see many cars all around us”

Dylan: “Car”

Me: “That is actually a bus, can you say bus?”

Dylan: “Car”.

The parenting self-help books I read assure me that any interaction with babies and toddlers helps them to build language and communication skills. During our “Car” exchanges I really do wonder if that is true.

I have actually learnt to question a lot of advice and so-called wisdom from these books as I have found the theory and the reality don’t match up. This is what you are told to do…

 

Acknowledge Good Behaviour

I like the theory behind acknowledging good behaviour – that a positive response encourages and maintains the good behaviour. And I admit, it does work in some situations like eating vegetables, brushing teeth and wearing a hat outside.

However, take it from me, on the very rare occasion when your little angel is playing quietly with his toys, the absolute LAST thing you want to do is notice, praise and direct attention to it. Usually this is a recipe for stopping the ‘good’ behaviour and coming to see what mummy is doing.

Advice #1 – Acknowledge Good Behaviour = Plain Silly (in some situations).

 

Bad Behaviour – Ignore or Growl

I think the biggest parenting conundrum is do you ignore or growl when the behaviour is ‘bad’. The flip side to the ‘acknowledge good behaviour’ doctrine tells me to ignore bad behaviour. And again, I do understand that if you don’t direct your attention to it, the bad behaviour will not be reinforced with your attention and is likely to stop.

However, this is almost impossible to do in the following situations: Dylan has turned on the bath tap while I am in the shower thereby making my shower go cold, he has climbed onto the kitchen table and is now jumping up and down, he is wriggling away when I am trying to dress him. And these are just three examples before we even leave the house in the morning.

So instead I put on my ‘growly’ voice and tell Dylan to stop. Typically a growly voice leads to fits of mirth from my child. He will literally laugh in my face. Being laughed at is quite disarming and definitely not the reaction I am aiming for. Often the behaviour may momentarily stop, but will start once the laughing subsides.

So if I ignore the bath tap being on, then it is just continually on and I get a cold shower. Alternatively, if I growl, Dylan will stop for a moment then turn the tap on again, then stop for a moment when I growl again, then turn it on again. I thereby get intermittent bursts of cold water during my shower. I am yet to decide which is worse.

Advice #2 – Ignore or Growl at Bad Behaviour = Contradictory (and often unsuccessful either way).

 

Always Speak Positively

You are told to avoid saying “No”, “Don’t”, “Not” etc. The theory being that the child doesn’t actually hear the negative word at all. Therefore when you say “That is not a toy”, all they hear is “Toy”. I have a couple of problems with this.

Firstly, REALLY? Who has decided this? From a young age, children do understand and hear a ‘NO’. It is usually one of their first words. To say that the negatives are simply glossed over or not heard is very hard to believe.

Secondly, has anyone ever succeeded in this? It is extremely difficult to do.   The first thing I want to say is, for example: “Don’t stand on the table”. I have had to forcibly try to retrain myself out of using negative language.

During my retraining efforts, I started to wonder why it is so hard to speak positively. I now realise that our lives are conducted in a sea of negativity. It washes over us all day. We thrive on hearing about celebrity break-ups and meltdowns. The news is pretty much always tragic and terrible. When asked how their day is going, people don’t even reply ‘Good’ anymore. Instead they say ‘Not bad’.

We all need to make an effort to say ‘Yes’ more often. Look for the positives in life. Really feel grateful for what you have. Compliment your partner/ friend/ mum. Ignore celebrity gossip. Switch off the news. And when someone asks you how you are, today, disarm him or her with a “Fantastic”. Then the next time you about to launch into a ‘No/ Don’t/ Not’ spiral of doom with your child, it may be just that little tiny bit easier to rephrase it to the positive. I have found that the sentence “Feet on the floor please” is a gem.

Advice #3 – Speak Positively = Almost Impossible (but I will keep trying).

 

Always Speak Nicely

The parenting books tell me to communicate in the following way to my toddler – listen attentively, show empathy, try to understand his feelings and speak in a quiet, calm soothing tone.

This all sounds amazing but isn’t this how everyone would like to be communicated to? It doesn’t seem so much as a guideline for talking to a toddler as a guideline for life. I would love it if all my interactions involved attentive listening, empathy and really trying to understand the other’s point of view.

Advice #4 – Speak Nicely = Obvious (to the point of not being useful).

 

What The Books Don’t Teach You

I am not sure how to reconcile the theory with the reality of raising a lively 18-month old boy. Of course I will try and follow these guidelines, but through trial and error I have worked out that the theory falls short all too often.

In the meantime, I have realised that Dylan is going to get a rich introduction to language that involves many sentences that may not get uttered regularly except in homes with toddlers. Sentences such as “No sitting on the cat”, “The banana does not go in the DVD player” and “DON’T JUMP ON THE TABLE!!” are said more than you may think.

So I have already broken every golden rule of communicating with a toddler and we haven’t even gotten to real proper tantrum stage yet. I sure am looking forward to reading the advice on how to deal with those.

Toddler Blog Post - Toddler Silence