"Use Your Words"

Before your toddler can learn to problem-solve, she needs your help expressing what she feels.

The Meaning of Words

girl holding dictionary

"Use your words" is one of those phrases parents of toddlers repeat a lot. But if it doesn't work, there's a good reason: It's much easier for a child this age to express herself by hitting, biting, and kicking than by stringing together a polite request with her limited vocabulary. "Simply saying 'use your words' during a tantrum doesn't help if your child doesn't have the right words to begin with," says Rosemarie T. Truglio, PhD, vice president of education and research at Sesame Workshop. "Toddlers are just beginning to learn that there are words to represent their feelings." Your mission? Work with her to find the right words to describe her emotions and show her how to communicate them. These tips will help your child use language (not her left hook) to express herself.

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