If you were an Ambassador to China, but only spoke Greek, you might call that a breakdown in communication! Similarly, speaking to your toddler would be so much easier if only you knew his native language: Toddler-ese. Toddler-ese is a way to communicate with your toddler in a way that makes them feel not only understood, but cared about. Remember, toddlers are little primitive beings who communicate in a very cave-man like way. You can actually learn to speak your toddler’s language by translating anything you want to say in 3 easy steps: Short Phrases: The more upset your toddler is, the simpler your words need to be. For young tots, or very angry older ones, start with just 1-2 word phrases (using just the key words). For example, instead of saying, “I know you’re mad and want the ball.” Try: “Mad! Mad! Sara wants ball! Sara mad!” Repetition: Repetition is just as important as short phrases. That’s because upset toddlers often miss our initial words. Which is why you’ll need to repeat the same short phrase three to eight times just to get your upset tot’s attention! Then repeat the phrase a few more times to convince her that you really understand how she’s feeling. As her emotions lessen, stretch your sentences back to normal: “Sara wants ball! Sara really wants to play with ball. Sara wants Mommy to play with her!” Sweet Spot: Remember your little one may not understand all of your words, but she’s brilliant at reading your voice and face (a right brain specialty). You want to reflect about 1/3 (not too much....not too little) of your child's upset in your nonverbal communication. By reflecting some of your tot’s upset and intensity: exaggerating your voice (using more oomph than usual), using your face (Be expressive! Purse your lips, furrow your brow!), and adding a little body language (wag a finger, stomp the ground), you can connect perfectly with her sweet spot (finding just the right amount of emotion). While at first Toddler-ese might feel odd, you will soon see how natural, automatic, and effective it becomes in communicating with your little one – even when they’re happy! It can take time and practice so start out at your own pace, practice in private and in public, and soon you’ll become fluent in this not-so-new language!