5 Things to Stop Saying to Toddlers

Posted by Meade Davis - 06 September, 2018

toddler-dinosaur-1Language development occurs very rapidly during the toddler years. In fact, The American Academy of Pediatrics states that by the age of 2, most toddlers will be able to say 50-100 words, use two word phrases, and be understood by others about half the time.  

Many parents are familiar with these recommendations and constantly analyze their young children to ensure they are meeting these crucial milestones. As parents, we typically understand that it is important to encourage language development by talking to our children, but how can we know we are having the right conversations?  



 I began to ponder this question as I overheard my husband and my two-year-old arguing about bath time.  

He said, “It’s time to get a bath, okay?” 

She responded, “No. I don’t want to right now. 

He grew angry, saying, “Well, I don’t care if you don’t want to! It’s time for a bath.”

She cried, and cried, and cried. 

From the outside, looking in, it was clear to me that he had given her an option. By adding the word okay and asking the question, my daughter heard that she had a choice. She then grew frustrated when he did not honor her choice. I wondered if there were other hidden messages we were sending our children. 

So, I set out to learn from the experts and asked preschool teachers and directors what they wish parents would stop saying to their children. The top 5 answers may surprise you.  

1. "It’s okay.”  

It’s okay to cry. It is not okay to scream. It’s okay to disagree. It’s not okay to disobey, and don’t excuse your child for disobeying (He is tired, he is sleepy, he is hungry, etc.).  -  Patricia Colinga 

2. “What would you like for…?” 

Giving your child options is fine. Would you rather have this or that? But don’t leave it open-ended and let them dictate entire decision making. - Paula Ambrose

3. “Be a big girl/boy” 

They’re not as grown up as they seem. Let them be little! - Kristie Kuzy 

4. “I’ll be right back.” 

Young children have no concept of time, and telling them you’ll be right back stresses them out and makes them question your arrival the rest of the day.  -  Janice Slaymaker

5. “Maybe.” 

Children don’t understand the word maybe. It’s important to know that they take everything literally and don’t understand abstract concepts like maybe.  - Nancy Wilson 

Rather than talking at your child, make it a habit to talk with them. Research shows that back and forth conversations between parents and children promote healthy brain development. This means that it is important for parents to generate meaningful questions and wait for a response. Avoid asking questions that elicit a response when you do not intend on giving your child options.  

Ask the Right Questions

gabby-orcutt-74607-unsplash-2Tired of asking your child the same questions? We asked moms in our community to share topics their children are always willing to discuss. These questions are sure to inspire healthy conversations in your own home.  

  • What did you dream about last night? 
  • What was your favorite part of the day?  
  • What do you want to do for fun? 
  • What are the dogs doing? 
  • Who loves you? 
  • What did you learn today?
  • Were you kind to your friends? 
  • Who did you play with? 
  • What is on your plate? 
  • What is your favorite food to eat for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? 


Want to ensure your toddler is getting the best start? Download our free expert tips on reading with your toddler.  Click the button below to learn more and download your free copy. 

Download our free expert reading guide for toddlers


Thank you teachers and directors at First Christian Church Early Childhood Ministries  and Mayfair Church of Christ Child Development Center for participating in our interviews.  

Photos  by Eddie KoppAlexander Dummer and Gabby Orcutt on Unsplash.

Topics: preschool, social/emotional learning, toddlers

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