As your toddlers’ exploration skills improve, they might unintentionally get themselves into dangerous situations. It is imperative, therefore, that they learn to respond properly when you say ‘Stop!’ or ‘No!’ Your toddler’s safety and very life, after all, will depend on how well they perceive and react to your warnings.
But since toddlers are unpredictable and because they are yet unable to fully express their thoughts verbally, parents often don’t understand why they do what they do. Even toddlers who may be well trained to react appropriately to ‘Stop!’ or ‘No!’ may occasionally disobey their parents and proceed with something.
So here are some ways by which you can train your toddler to listen to your command to stop. These are designed as games and therefore promise to be enjoyable. Just remember to keep your voice light and playful, because your aim is to help your toddler understand danger and respond reflexively to the word ‘Stop!’
- Play the ‘What if?’ game – Do role-playing with your toddler by describing different scenarios and an appropriate response to it. For example, you can say, ‘What if your ball rolls into the street?’ Wait for a response—even a non-verbal one, then say, ‘You should never run after it, because a car can hit you.’ Remember that your toddler understands much more than he or she can express.
- Play the stop game – Take your toddler to a park with lots of space to run around on. Explain that he or she can run ahead of you, but that you will play a game and if you shout ‘Stop!’ he or she has to stop immediately. It is best to have a couple of children for this game with older children in the mix. The younger children imitate the older ones and learn much quicker if they play this game as a group.
- Play the freeze game – You can play this game in the comforts of your home. Explain to your toddler that both of you will march up and down the living room floor and when you yell ‘Freeze!’ the two of you must freeze your actions immediately. Give your toddler a chance to shout ‘Freeze!’ too.
These times when toddlers can’t seem to stop moving are indeed weary periods for parents, since they have to watch their toddler’s every move. As a parent, your tone of voice, more than your words, will move your toddler to respond. This is why you must learn how to communicate firmly, but gently, with your toddler. You can do this by increasing the volume and pitch of your voice slightly without shouting. When your toddler’s life is in danger, a shout is more than warranted, but in normal day-to-day adventures, refrain from shouting as much as possible. By communicating firmly and keeping your face serious, your toddler will grasp your intent clearly and react more readily.