Testing Language Tests Mom
After reading your informative answer to a question re contrary children, I wish
to ask your advice re a continuing pattern with my 2 1/2 year old daughter.
She has quite advanced language and I generally try to give her a lot of
autonomy but with (a few) rules consistently enforced.
She will begin by expressing a wish, in a whiny tone, such as "I would like
some milk" or "I want to have a bath", to which I will say
"OK, I'll get you some milk" etc. Then she will start crying and
say "I don't want some milk". I say "OK, you don't have to
have any milk if you don't want it", she will then say, very upset "I
want some milk". We keep going until I give up, then usually just
stay around her but ignore any further requests or comments.
have any suggestions for how I should deal with this?
With regard to toddlers, there is quite a difference between knowing many words
and being able to string them together and then truly knowing what one wants or
even being able to comprehend what one is talking about.
While your daughter knows many words and even sentences, do not mistake this for
truly understanding what is asked of her or her truly being able to express her
needs and wants. Further, she may even be bored and driving you to distraction
as her entertainment.
Further, just as the one-year-old will drop food, toys and utensils off the high
chair as if in a game, at times to the upset of parents, two and three-year-olds
will test out their new language to see the reaction and what happens in much
the same way.
As with the younger child dropping items from the high chair, we come to ignore
the behaviour and certainly do not indulge it, so too can we handle the
behaviour you are describing. Further, when your daughter seems to have you on
the defensive trying to decipher her needs and wants, particularly when there
may not be a specific need or want apart from testing her language skills, you
too can redirect her by citing a rhyme with her. By exploring and using
language, she is still entertained, but put on a linguistic activity under your
Many parents find their children entertained at some pint with rhyming words. I
remember when our son stood at the top of the stairs rhyming real and
pretend words with "duck". You can imagine where that one went! At all
times retain your composure and just move on. Eventually your daughter will come
to truly understand language use and then you can carry on meaningful
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Gary Direnfeld is a social worker in private practice. Courts in Ontario,
Canada, consider Gary an expert on child development, parent-child
relations, marital and family therapy, custody and access recommendations,
social work and an expert for the purpose of giving a critique on a
Section 112 (social work) report.
Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters.
Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques
information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane,
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