My son was about a year-and-a-half when we noticed he wasn’t calling up words as quickly as his peers. So, we consulted a speech therapist who, after an evaluation, assessed that he had a small motor delay that was making it challenging for him to round out his consonants. In other words, he could make plenty of sounds, but rounding his lips to shape them into intelligible words wasn’t coming naturally for him. Expert help came next—which a year later has been met with remarkable improvement. (My three-year-old is officially a chatterbox.) In the process, our speech therapist taught me one of the most invaluable phrases to diffuse a tantrum—and it’s one that applies to all kids.
It’s just two words: “Show me.”
See, speech delay or not, the process of uncovering language skills (which explodes between the ages of one and three, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics) can cause frustration, both for parent and child. For example: Your toddler wants you to find him a specific toy, but his word for toy (say, “bubbub”) doesn’t mean anything to you. Still, in his mind, that’s what it’s called and also exactly what he’s verbalizing. And the more you say, ‘What honey?’ the more worked up he becomes.
Saying ‘show me,’ however, can work as a tantrum diffuser. First of all, it’s a statement instead of a question and is a kinder way of putting the onus on them to demonstrate their need when they can’t yet find or express the right words. Secondly, it eliminates a back-and-forth that can lead to exasperation. (“Bubbub.” “Do you mean water?” “Bubbub!” “You want bubbles?”). Instead, your burgeoning talker will walk over to the thing in question, and show you what he means.