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Use This Phrase to Teach Your Toddlers Respect

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

Did you ever get the feeling that you were in a zone and being really productive, only to have a boss interrupt you with a completely unrelated request that needs to be done right away? It's not very respectful of you or your work.

Would you respect your boss more if they gave you a say in the matter and granted you a little bit of leeway? Probably.

That's why, after 43 three years of teaching very young children from birth-8, I always keep kids in the loop about my scheduled activities and remind them often about what's coming up and when. It's a matter of mutual respect.

Some people might think that kids should respond instantly to any request an adult makes. Those are the people that don't understand child development enough to realize just how important play is to children. It's the way they learn. That's why they have a hard time transitioning.

But kids do need to listen to adults. We understand time and obligations whereas they pretty much don't. So that's why I have special ways to get kids to understand what's happening and comply.

I have a time-timer that visually shows kids how much time is left with a diminishing red area. You can get them at any teacher's store but most of you already have a timer on your phone that can serve the same purpose.

Kids respect you more if you keep them in the loop, giving them visual and auditory cues. Why? Simple, because you're respecting them by understanding the importance of their play. That's why professionals call "play "a child's "work"!

Children learn through observation and they're always watching you for cues on how to behave. So when you respect them, they learn how to respect you and others.

Here are some things you can say to get your kids to listen with respect.

I'm going to change your diaper. Do you want to do it now or in 2 minutes.

Make sure to set a timer if they ask for 2 minutes and follow through without wavering when it goes off or you'll lose some respect for your words.

Let's get ready for lunch. No? Would you like to do it now or in 2 minutes? (set timer)

Finish up what you're doing because we'll be getting ready to go outside in 5 minutes. Just look at how the sun's shining out there!

Buses and doctors don't wait.

When we're done cleaning up, we'll go outside.

note: I avoid saying, If you don't clean up, we can't go outside. Their brains don't process that as well.

Have a child who is able to clean toys up but won't?

First, make sure you set up for success by organizing and labeling toys with words and/or pictures. Make sure you don't have so many toys on the floor that they feel overwhelmed.

Then you can pick a great place to go that doesn't require a time frame. You can say...

When all the toys are put away, we can go to the playground!

Let's do it together!

You work, I work.

I'll start.

put a toy away and stop

Now you work.

Encourage them to put away just one toy.

Continue with "you work, I work" taking turns putting just one toy away

When they stop or refuse, say,

You stop, I stop.

Then do it until they work again. say

You work, I work! Great, let's get it done!

It's fun, try it!

note: you'll have to occasionally remind young children about the goal of going to the playground when the room is clean. And please remember to always follow through with what you say.

Words are important.

Want more words that really work? Get my 22-page slideshow with all the right words to use to Get Your Kids To Listen Without Yelling Or Time-Outs! This is so cool it can't be free forever so join us now and we'll keep you posted. Click on the photo and get yours immediately!

Nanci J Bradley is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, family aerobics instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning, and most of all, PLAY! She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI and is the founder of the non-profit organization, Early Childhood Rocks!

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