Making Dinner Conversation With A Two-Year-Old

I recently took a lesson from my sister (a school psychologist specializing in early childhood development) on how to get my two-year-old to listen to me.

Her main suggestion was to stop asking so many questions.

I realized this is how I conduct almost all of my interactions with Mazzy— both social and disciplinary.

I ask her if she wants to put on her coat, I ask her if she wants to take a bath, I ask her about the toys she is playing with and I ask her what she did that day.

There are ridiculously few things I say definitively. Even though, most of the time, I get little to no response.

My conversation with my sister revolved mostly around teaching compliance and I’ve been working on her suggestions (not asking open-ended questions, following through on demands, giving acceptable choices) over the course of the last few days.

Yesterday, when we sat down to dinner, I decided to see what would happen if I implemented the “no questions” policy in regular dinner conversation.

Normally, I barrage Mazzy with questions about her day (did you go to school today? what did you do there? did you see your friends? etc.) while she stares unresponsively down at her plate. She usually lasts about two minutes before she yells, “I’m done!” and practically jumps out of her seat. Dinner untouched.

On this night, I decided to switch it up and tell Mazzy all about MY day instead of asking about hers.

“I went to work today.”

Mazzy immediately knew I was addressing her differently. She looked straight up at me with what seemed like surprise, and actually replied.

“Oh! Work!”

I was invigorated.

“Yes! Work! I had an important meeting!”

“Oh! A meeting!”

“I did work on my computer. Then I went to lunch. I had a turkey sandwich.”

“Oooooo! Sandwich…”

Before I knew it, we were involved in an actual conversation. Yes, I know, Mazzy was just repeating everything I said, but she was also making eye contact, being totally responsive and seemed genuinely entertained. Not to mention, the extended time at the table meant more picking at her plate.

“Yes! A sandwich! Then I went back to work and made some phone calls. And afterward I—”

“I’m done!”

And it was over.

But it’s an excellent start.

Read more of Ilana’s writing at Mommy Shorts.
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Article Posted 4 years Ago
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