Talking with My Toddler: Building Character and Cultivating Confidence

Toddlers are my favorite.

Becoming a mom has changed my entire life and while I enjoyed the sweet baby days and newborn snuggles, I have to say that I LOVE being a toddler mom. I long for the interaction and conversation with my son. It makes my entire world turn knowing that he can understand me and respond. It’s helped me build a lot of confidence as a mom because I’m finally getting feedback from the person whose opinion matters most…my son! 

This new level of engagement and interaction with him has also caused me to really make a conscious effort in the way I speak both to him and others. It’s made me understand the seriousness of this level of responsibility. So much of who we are and what we believe about ourselves starts right at home. Today, I wanted to share with you all some conscious efforts I make to ensure that my son can feel confident even from a young age. 

The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.

– Peggy O’Mara

I have done a lot of research about building conversation with my son. There are SO MANY amazing speech language pathologists and child psychologists who utilize social media to share their knowledge with moms all over the world. I love how connected we are to highly trained and knowledgeable professionals. As my son started talking more and more and repeating what we were saying, I quickly realized that every word I say matters. I have the ability to lift my son up or unknowingly crush his spirit. So, rather than focusing on how to make my son talk to me more, I started learning and reading about how I should be interacting with him. I did this not only as a means to encourage the development of his vocabulary, but also to make sure that I’m communicating with him in a way that is developmentally and cognitively appropriate for his age. 

At 18 months old, my child is enamored with the concept of testing boundaries. By nature, I am not the most patient person so this has been a serious exercise of my willingness to bend and change so that I can be the best mother possible to this little boy. I have learned how to explain everything in a reasonable manner that he understands. 

I have chosen to take the time and effort to do my homework and practice patience with him because I want to be the best mom possible, but I also want to raise a confident and strong boy. I want him to grow up and be sure of himself. So, today I am going to tell you a few simple concepts that have really made all the difference in our house. 

  1. When my son exhibits an undesirable behavior, rather than just tell him no, I offer an alternative solution. If he’s coloring with crayons on paper and he then starts coloring on the floor I don’t want him to think coloring is bad, so instead of saying no I explain calmly to him to keep the crayons on the paper. I want him to focus on what he is ALLOWED to do rather than what he isn’t allowed to do. 
  2. I never speak negatively about my son in front of him (and behind his back). As parents, we often complain about our kids and sometimes we need to get it out and that’s ok! However, I never want my son to hear me speak about him in a manner that could be hurtful or cause him to think negatively about himself. I tell him affirmations on a daily basis to ensure he has positive thoughts about himself and that he knows how amazing he is. His inner voice is being developed every minute of every day and if I ever speak about him as if he’s not in the room, then I’m doing him a disservice that will ultimately lead him to think and speak negatively about himself. 
  3. I make an effort to create conversation. I like to ask my son questions that create dialogue. I never really ask him yes or no questions. I also do A LOT of explaining. When we read books, we don’t just read the words on the page, but talk about the things we see in the pictures. If we’re playing with trucks we may discuss its functions, its colors, etc. We also do a lot of singing! I have found that my son really responds to songs…it’s about the only thing that gets his wiggle wormy bottom to lie still while having his diaper changed. 
  4. I consciously model behaviors that I want him to exhibit. Whether it be that I want him to see me hug or kiss his dad or saying hello and goodbye to someone. I need to show him how to interact with and treat others. Whether I chose to be or not, I am his first teacher and I have the responsibility and privilege to lead the way regarding his behavior. 

Making the effort to be conscious, present, and research-based in my parenting has helped me feel much less anxiety ridden in regards to development. Now that we are in the stage where my son interacts and chats with us so much more, it’s fun to see how proud of himself he feels as he accomplishes new goals. I can clearly see that the small efforts we are making are paying off big time in his learning and development, but most importantly, in his happiness.


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