Member question:

I’m trying to teach toddler to ask for things. Currently she just yells or whines/cries the name of the object. Which after 10 hours makes you insane that every little request is an urgent scream.

I’m also working on her asking for something that someone else has instead of taking it out of their hands. I know this takes time and patience. My child is very verbal.

I’m giving her the phrase to use: “mommy I’m hungry I want a banana” or “can I have the toy”. When she screams the request, I calmly ask her “how to do you ask for that?.” But she doesn’t say anything but “please.”

Even if I tell her to say” I want the cookie” she can’t say it. She only says please. She doesn’t seem to be able to repeat the phrases we go over. I know she knows it. This girl has the entire intro to Elmo’s World memorized word for word! 

So is it because she is held in yuck until she gets the object? And she just doesn’t have the ability to repeat the question at the moment/not in her learning brain? What would be the most effective way to teach how to ask for things? We also talk about it when there is not an urgent request so it’s not Yuck time. Is it not effective to bring it up in the moment if the request?

Response from member A:

I’m in a very similar situation. Highly verbal toddler who goes into a complete panic when she wants something and doesn’t get it immediately.

I don’t know the psychology behind it but I’m treating it like two separate problems, one is knowing the words to say and two is being able to wait for what she wants.

The first problem I’m willing to take slow so when she demands with a single word “baby!” I simply say the correct phrase “mommy, can I have that baby doll?” but I give it to her without expectation that she will say it yet.

The second problem is more critical to my sanity so I put more of a focus in her learning to wait. When she’s in a panic I get right to her eye level and say “calm” and take a deep breath to show her and then say “try again” and she might say “baby, please” or whatever which I accept as good enough since she calmed down.

For grabbing toys we use the phrase “turn, please” and make them wait for the other to give up the toy willingly. We’ve been doing that consistently for a long time so it works very well for us. I still repeat the correct phrasing but I do think it might be too much for them to process when they’re excited/upset.

Response from original member:

I agree! I am trying to find a short phrase too and she can say part of the phrase calmly when prompted. She is getting the idea ? about how to ask. But it’s weird because she will “freeze” and not say anything. Like she is just waiting to be given.

Rachel’s response:

I completely agree with everything in member A’s response! I think your key is going to be finding those short phrases… and just as importantly helping her calm down rather than expecting her to change how she’s asking once she’s in Yuck.

(As you pointed out: “Is it just that she is held in yuck until she gets the object? And she just doesn’t have the ability to repeat the question at the moment/not in her learning brain?” The answer is yes!)

Consistency is key, so choose a strategy and stick with it as well.