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They’re in doubt, so point it out.

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Children do not automatically know things. We wish they did. Sometimes we think they do. But often times young children – and all of us for that matter – do not know something that we think they understand or we think that we’ve communicated clearly… but did the message come through really?

They’re in doubt, so point it out.

  1. Point out how they can communicate that they want or need something.

Children come into this world knowing nothing. In fact, at first all they are trying to do is get their needs met. Crying is the only available option of communication. Then they become toddlers who discover that, hey presto!, snatching that toy just got their needs (or wants) met. Whining, complaining, shouting, tantruming (that may not be a real word, but we know what it is!)… there are many forms of communication to choose from which all accomplish the goal of trying to get needs met. And they don’t know not to use these; they just know that they work. They’re in doubt about how to get their needs met, so point it out.

Our job as parents is to try to meet their needs and to teach them better ways to communicate, more acceptable ways to tell us what they need or want. When they are trying to communicate (perhaps in one of the less-than-desirable ways mentioned above), we can respond with: “I see you want/need…” or “Your crying makes me think you want/need…” or “When you snatched that toy you were trying to say that you want that toy. But no snatching.” Then we can go on to tell them what they can say in place of just grabbing something away from someone else. There’s also the option of teaching the sign for “please”. Then they can say what they are wanting along with the sign. (By the way, signing is helpful, but it should be done while speaking the words.)

The point is to teach them how to ask for something they want or need. They’re in doubt, so point it out.

Let’s think about a concrete scenario we all face. What if the child is whining when they are hungry?

  • Let them know that you understand that they want food,

  • but that whining is not the best way to communicate this,

  • then let them know how to ask.

  • And hopefully a snack can be provided to meet their need.

But there are always those times when we’re caught out without having replenished our supply, right? What then? We can reassure the child that food will be coming soon. And this is when distraction is a powerful tool. Again, the goal we’re working toward is getting our little people to use their words to meet their needs. They don’t automatically know how. They’re in doubt, so point it out. And already by the age of two a lot of children have the ability to say a two word sentence and can work on this goal with us.

  1. Point out your love to them throughout this teaching process.

Remember, children are reading body language (facial expressions, etc.) as well as our words. All of this works together to tell them who they are. It tells them we love them no matter what they do. You can correct them and show them that you love them – at the same time. Correcting and teaching them tells them that their choices matter and that what they choose to do can help or hurt themselves and/or others. But it is still more powerful to show your child that you love them while telling them that a certain form of communication is not good versus what is good.

Children may doubt our love if we do not point it out. They’re in doubt, so point it out. We need to tell them that we love them. This is not an automatic thing with kids, and simply meeting their needs and providing for them won’t let them know we love them. Many children experience love through physical touch such as closeness when reading a book to them or a cuddle. Words of encouragement are very often a great way to express love to our littles. Use any way you know how to show them love; there are lots of different “love languages” you can use.

  1. Point out our expectations, for children cannot read our minds.

We need to be incredibly clear – more clear and explicit than you might think – what our expectations are when communicating with our children. This may change as children get older. They do learn to read our intentions, to some extent. However – and this is important – instead of becoming less needy for our affirmation, they become more so. When they are little, children are mostly around people who affirm them to some degree. As they grow and get out into the world more, there will be a lot of negativity coming their way. It is new and unsettling. We need to be a safe haven where they know that they are loved unconditionally.

They’re still sometimes in doubt, so keep pointing it out.

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