The Fast Food Rule: Communication With a Toddler.

Communication with a Toddler is a challenge!

As a Mom, it gets really old when your toddler, or child of any other age, comes at you hysterical over something simple and wants you to say YES to whatever it is they want. When we say, “No,” not only are we me

t with more cries and fits, but we start to get frustrated as well. This little technique is a great way to connect and have clear communication with your child, take the power struggle out of the conflict, and both get what you need.

What’s fun about this strategy is it can be used with anyone any age. It’s especially powerful for parents of young children. At the age of 2 and 3 there is a lot of mental development going on and emotions run high in toddlers. They really can’t control their emotions. They don’t know what to do. That may be why often we call this stage the “Terrible” two’s or threes. Parents often struggle with this stage. This tip helps lessen power struggles. I know because I use this tip everyday.

The Fast Food Rule

This strategy is called the Fast Food Rule because if follows the pattern that happens when

you go to a fast food restaurant, or any restaurant really. When you enter and order, the person working will repeat back to you exactly what you ordered. If you are pointing to a picture or writing back and forth, the person will point back or write questions to make sure he or she has the order just right. When mistakes are made, it gets frustrating. It’s important that both the customer and the worker know just what is being ordered; that they both understand each other.  This mutual understanding is the first step of this strategy.


Now we are going to apply this to when your child may feel the same way you feel when you enter that restaurant: hungry. Only your child is so hungry he is now upset and crying. (It could be any other reason as well… there are so many things that upset a toddler). He runs up to you and yells/signs, “Mom! I’m Hungry! I want a cookie!” Or maybe he doesn’t use so much language and just yells and points at the cookie. I can look and see the cookie and know what he wants. Then I use the first step and repeat what he just said back to him, “Oh, you want a cookie. Are you hungry?”

So, the child says what he wants or what he is feeling and the parent repeats back exactly what he said. This helps the child know you understand what it is he wants. What happens is, when a child or any person is angry or full of emotions, the doors on their mind close shut. It’s like their brain is shut and they can’t think clearly. They are focused on their need and their emotions. When someone listens to their expression of emotions, they feel validated and know they are heard. They know I understand. This helps to open the doors to the mind again.

Now the child can listen to the parent better.

Mother says, “Oh. You’re hungry.”

Child “YES!”

The mom calmly continues, “You want a cookie?”

Child: “YES! YES!”

Now the mom can say, “Well, when you are hungry, it’s better to have an apple or a carrot. Which one would you like?”

Offer both choices and allow your child to choose.  Most likely, if your child is calm, he will pick one or the other (make sure the choices include something he likes!) and be satisfied. It’s really cool! Not all conversations go this smoothly, but with practice it can happen! You are on your way to better communication with your children and everyone around you!

I have more tips to share with you.

I will post them from time to time. Next time we can focus on the last part of this tip where I gave a choice to my son. I’ll expand on this to teach you to give good choices to your children and explain why you need to do this! One great reason is that it lessens those power struggles even more!

I am Lynell Smith, your Transformation Mentor! I’m so excited to be teaching you and helping you become the great parent you were meant to be!

Resource: The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D.

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