do you explain things to your toddler

Do You Explain Things to Your Toddler?

Hey Mommies! Do you explain things to your toddler? I often find myself explaining how things work, what I’m doing, why we can’t do something and so on to my son. This really helps him stay calm and better understand what’s happening.

I often see parents just tell their toddlers “no” or change their routine without an explanation. A lot of times, the toddler will have a bad reaction and get upset with this because they don’t understand what’s going on. Parents then sometimes think their child has bad behavior, but really their child is just reacting because they don’t understand.

We recently took our 2 year old on his first plane ride, but spent a lot of time prepping and explaining to him how it would all work. The flight went great! I believe it was because we explained the process, and he was prepared. Check out 6 tips for flying with a toddler for more info!

We also take time to explain how things work. Explaining how things work is a great educational experience and helps toddlers better understand their environment. We’ve explained things from the process of growing food in our garden, to gravity, to helium in a balloon, to why he needs to eat healthy food. Our son will even repeat back some of these things to us. Toddlers are little sponges and soak up everything you teach them.

Explaining rules, expectations, and what’s acceptable or unacceptable to your child also helps build understanding instead of just telling your toddler “no.” So often I hear parents saying “Stop that!” “No, don’t do that” “Get away from there”, but usually, I don’t hear an explanation. And most of the time, after a few minutes, the child is right back to doing whatever it was their parent wanted them to stop.

Instead of just saying “No”, try offering an explanation. For example: “No. Don’t touch the stove! It’s not safe. The stove is hot and can burn your hand. This will really hurt, and I don’t want you to be hurt.” Or “Stop pulling hair. That is not nice. It hurts when you pull someone’s hair and makes them sad. Would you like them to pull your hair?”

If children have an understanding of why they are being told “no”, they may be more likely to stop what they are doing. They have been given an explanation and reason rather than a demand. They can also better understand consequences for when they break the rules or misbehave.

If you have explained rules and expectations, you can review what they did that was not okay. For example, “I told you to stop pulling hair because it is not nice and it hurts. Now you need to take a break away from your friend” It will be easier for them to cope and recover because they already have an understanding instead of just “getting in trouble” without explanation.

Now I know some kids will have a hard time and continue to push limits no matter what, but providing an explanation will help much more than providing no explanation at all. Just put yourself in your child’s shoes and think how you would feel. If someone told you that you couldn’t do something without any reason or explanation, wouldn’t you want to know why?

Let’s say you sit down at a restaurant. The waiter says, “Oh you can’t sit there” and walks away. Wouldn’t you be confused and wonder why? Maybe even get a little agitated? You may even be less likely to move because you don’t understand what’s going on.

Now what if the waiter came up and said “Oh I’m sorry you can’t sit there. We have a party coming soon and need that table. However, you can move over to that table. Let me help you.” You might get slightly annoyed that you have to get up and move, but my guess is that you’ll be a lot calmer and more understanding after given an explanation.

Some people may think that going into so much detail for toddlers can be confusing and they won’t understand. However, I can tell you that in my experience, it really does help. As I said, they are little sponges and soak it all up. Plus, it can help make your child calmer, more understanding, and insightful.

So, what about you? Do you take the time to explain things to your toddler? Think you might start?

By: Emily Bettis, MOT/L

Emily Bettis, MOT/L is a pediatric occupational therapist and mother. She has been working with children birth-5 since 2008 and has been a mother since 2013. Emily is the founder and author