Parenting 5 things you say every day, that may not make sense to...

5 things you say every day, that may not make sense to your child

2016 Jun 6

Parenting with Joanne

Rarely do we pay attention to the fact that toddlers are still merely learning to understand the daily lives of the adults who live with and around them. Our lives, apart from their own, are not very significant to them. Our lives in relation to them and their lives in relation to themselves is the only world that makes some amount of sense to a toddler. Whilst we take time to wrap our heads around this fact, let’s take a look at five things we may be regularly telling our children, which they actually find hard to understand.

  1. I’ll be back, soon

child 3

When you drop your child off at day care or leave him home with a caregiver and say the words ‘I’ll be back soon or after work’, you may find your child waving goodbye, crying, protesting or silently turning back to whatever he was doing before you had his attention. Whatever the response may be, it does well for us parents to understand that a toddler has almost no conscious understanding of the concept of the passage of time. Needless to say, he is also incapable of fully understanding why you have to leave in the first place. Thus, I say, do not expect a perfect response from your toddler at this moment. He is merely adapting to routine when this happens with little understanding of what your personal schedule entails.

  1. Wait!

I have watched with delight, when I say ‘wait’ to my two and half year old and he watches while I lay the table for dinner, all the while looking at me to remove the command that has been just uttered so that he can proceed to touch his plate filled with his favorite food. Many a times, I’ve had to repeat the saying ‘wait’ over and over in similar situations. To reiterate what I said before about the concept of time, even a request for a toddler to ‘wait’ in situations can seem very frustrating as he doesn’t fully understand the length of time involved in that ‘wait’, only that it involves a period of increasing anticipation for what he wishes to do. Therefore, I say, go easy when your toddler, fails to respond to such a request.

  1. I’m busy

As a working mom, with pending work assignments that need to be done at home almost every day, there are many occasions where I have had to, if not verbally said, at least implied that ‘I’m busy’ to my son. It is however, interesting to watch him slowly creep into my working space and request to sit on my lap while I type out reports or set examination papers on the laptop. He then, asks to watch his favorite train video. This is when I realized that, explaining to your child that you need time away from him to get your work done, can be very challenging.  However, I have observed that in many cases such as these, it is better to establish some ground rules for when your child enters your work space. Little guidelines like ‘No touching, mommy’s laptop, papers, books’ etc can be easier understood by your young child than you being ‘busy’.

  1. I’m tired

Depressed young mother (age 30) with her crying daughter in background.

Although toddlers feel tired themselves, they hardly ever use the feeling as an excuse to stay away from something that they love doing or even getting through a routine exercise. If very tired, they may perhaps, fuss or fall asleep on their own. Hence, it is almost unreasonable for us adults to expect a toddler to understand that you cannot attend to or be with him, because you are ‘tired’. If on the other hand you play turn taking games with your child and introduce also the concept of ‘break’ in between, you can perhaps hope to have a maximum of 5 minutes to yourself when you really need a break.

  1. Not now, but later

child 2

This saying also falls in line with what we established before about the concept of time.  We need also note that toddlers, like most children through other phases of development live ‘in the present’. Therefore a possibility of doing or having something that he can do or have later but not now, may well be forgotten, by the time, it is appropriate to do so. This is why we find our young children easily comforted by some form of distraction which was intentionally introduced to distract him from the unpleasantness that had accompanied a previous situation.

Although this piece of writing didn’t really give us solutions or suggestions on how to help them understand such phrases that we use every day, I hope it gave us insight into our young child’s life. With time, these ideas are things he will begin to understand. But until then, let us “WAIT” and “BE PATIENT” while we wait.

Joanne Sathyadass has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Journalism, Psychology and English Literature from the University of Bangalore now serving as a Special Needs Educator

For any queries please email Joanne on


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