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Home » Obedience Issues, Toddler

Sushi taught me how to talk to my toddler

Submitted by on Thursday, 4 December 20086 Comments

I learned an important lesson about how to talk to my toddler from one of his favorite foods – not chocolate – but sushi.  Cucumber rolls to be exact.

My toddler boy, Smarty Pants, devours cucumber rolls.  He loves them.  He scarfs down a dozen in about 10 minutes.  It is amazing to watch.  He chants “Sushi, Sushi!” before he starts his feast, and doesn’t stop until the last bit of sticky rice is cleared from his plate and safe on its way to his tummy.

Getting sushi for dinner has become a near weekly ritual for Smarty Pants and I, and I enjoy it a lot.  We walk to the sushi place together, and he is excited the whole way there.  Today was no different, except I wanted to have some fun with him along the way.

Here’s how our conversation went:

Me: “Let’s get sushi!”

Smarty Pants: “Yeah!”

Me: “Actually, let’s get….hmmm… broccoli!”

Smarty Pants: “No, sushi!”

Me: “Let’s get… mmm…. pizza!”

Smarty Pants: “No, sushi!”

Me: “Okay… let’s get… cucumber rolls!”

Smarty Pants: “Yeah!”  (he knows what cucumber rolls are, and that they are the type of sushi that he likes)

Me: “Okay… let’s get… rice and cucumber wrapped in seaweed!”

Smarty Pants: “No, sushi!”

Um.  Wait a second.  Rice and cucumber wrapped in seaweed IS sushi.  It is a cucumber roll in fact.  His favorite type of sushi.  My little Kappamaki (河童巻き) experiment worked.

I was actually trying to prove that the words we use, and how we frame them into sentences, can make all the difference in the world when talking to our kids.

Young kids, like my toddler Smarty Pants, don’t yet share the same expansive vocabulary that we do, and don’t always look at things the same way that we do.  If you have a child, I am sure this is obvious to you.  Sushi is either sushi or a cucumber roll.  It is not cucumber with rice wrapped in seaweed.  What is seaweed?

This is very important to remember when we talk to our kids.  Sometimes we think our kids aren’t listening, but sometimes they just don’t understand what we are asking of them.  Frame your request slightly differently, and you’re no longer speaking Greek.

Stephen Covey gives a wonderful example of this theory in action in one of my favorite family and parenting books, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families.  He tells the story of a father who was frustrated because he couldn’t keep his son in sight when they went out shopping.  His son would always go around corners where his father couldn’t see him.  Every time this happened, the father told his son not to go around the corner.  Sure enough, his son scooted around the corner every time.  The father’s “aha” moment occurred one day when his son inquired, “Daddy, what’s a corner?”

Bada bing.  Bada boom.  Aha.

This applies to food and mealtimes in a slightly related and unrelated way.  The exact same food might be heartily devoured, or shunned in disgust, depending on how it is presented.  Smarty Pants likes cheddar cheese, but sometimes he only eats it if it is grated.  He might not eat certain vegetables if they are just served whole on a plate, but if they are made into a vegetable patty they stand a chance at being consumed.  You probably have a lot of examples of your own too.

So, next time you find yourself frustrated that your child is “not listening” or not eating, just think of sushi.  Try to change your approach, your wording, or your presentation, and you might just get what you were after.  And if not, go for a beer and try again later.

Flickr photo courtesy of avlxyz.

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