Thursday, January 19, 2012

How to Talk with a 20-month-old (if you must)

The world of the 20-month-old is a confusing one.

The inner lives of children of this age are developing rapidly -- too rapidly, in many cases, for their communication skills to keep pace.
For this reason it can be difficult to understand the needs of your toddler at this delicate time.

But fear not! Having now survived the 20th month with not one, but two children, I am in the rare position to create for you this handy guide to communicating with a child in this age group.


You'll be hearing this word a lot from your 20-month-old. 

At first you may think that your child's use of this word "NO" indicates the traditional negative response, but this is not necessarily the case.

Let me give you an example of a  typical conversation between myself and my twenty-month-old son, Crinks.

ME: Hey Crinks are you hungry?
ME: Here, how about some waffles?
CRINKS: (while gobbling waffles with alarming ferocityNO!!!!!
ME: Are you done?
CRINKS: (while slamming about violently in an attempt to get out of his chairNO!!!!!
ME: Would you like this check for a million dollars?

For the 20-month-old, the newly discovered power of the word "NO" is too much to resist. This means you'll be hearing him or her use "NO" repeatedly and at high volumes in a bizarre range of situations. Be prepared for the word "NO" to become akin to the word "SHALOM" in your home. It will take on a whole range of meanings, including, strangely enough, "YES".  

Uncontrolled violence

As your 20-month-old struggles to express his or her needs, he or she will likely resort to bouts of violence to get his or her point acress. Unfortunately, these bouts of violence will likely be aimed directly at you.

The attacks are likely to come on unexpectedly. One night, as you reach to scoop your beloved toddler into his or her highchair, you will find yourself buffeted about the face and neck by a series of punches. At this time you may also find your abdomen assaulted by a frenzy of feisty kicks. 

The violence has begun.

In dealing with this sudden onset of assaults you have the following options:

  • Develop enough upper-arm strength to enable you to hold your offspring at arm's length at all times.
  • Define a four-foot perimeter around your toddler and then never enter it for any reason.
  • Build up your resistance to your toddler's attacks gradually until you become almost immune to them

The full-body fling to the ground

When your 20-month-old flings his or her self to the ground you should take it as an indication that your have done something intensely displeasing. Your cruelty has broken your child's heart, and he or she is letting you know this through the strategic use of operatic gesture. 

If your behavior has been particularly egregious you may find the floor flop accompanied by ear pulling, hair-pulling, and/or the rending of garments.

In my experience, the full-body fling-to-the-ground can be brought on by a range of parental sins including, but not limited to
  • asking your 20-month-old to refrain from drinking from the toilet
  • attempting to restrain your 20-month-old from eating from the garbage can
  • trying to recover a pair of shears that your 20-month-old has swiped from the kitchen counter
  • gently endeavoring to convince your toddler to stop drawing on your couch with a green Sharpie 
As long as you continue to displease your 20-month-old you will be on the receiving end of the floor flop.

You've been warned.

The Horse Collar Tackle

Your child is too young to have mastered the phrase,

"Dear brother, I see you are playing with a blue train. I happen to feel that I would greatly enjoy playing with said blue train. Might I have a turn with it?"

Instead he or she has a method for expressing this sentiment, and that method is the horse collar tackle.

According to Wikipedia:
The horse-collar tackle is an American football maneuver in which a defender tackles another player by grabbing the back-inside of an opponent's shoulder pads from behind and yanking the player down.

As your twenty-month-old will tell you, when shoulder pads are not available, the back of a playmate's or sibling's t-shirt works equally well. 

I have seen my two-foot tall 20-month-old bring down kindergartners with a well-timed horse collar.

Beware it.

You are now ready to take your communication with your 20-month-old the next level! 

If you find yourself discouraged at any time when learning all this "toddler speak" I urge you not to fret! Take heart in the simple fact that this stage doesn't last all that long. 

You'll be out of the pre-talking phase and on to the terrible twos before you know it, at which time I will offer you a primer in how to listen to a three-foot-tall person say "MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM!" for an hour straight without developing a nervous condition.

Look forward to it!