These are quite possibly the three hardest words to say, in any language. Of course, I am referring to the simple yet universal phrase, “I love you.”
It’s the one phrase that indicates a certain level of affection and a sense of ‘you belong to me.’ In adults. Now with kids, it’s just a common everyday expression we have directed to them since birth.
You would think your child would repeat the phrase just because you said it. Most children learn in a similar way by repeating. It widens their vocabulary and broadens their concepts of ideas.
So why would it be difficult to impossible for your toddler to look at you and say, ‘I love you?’ In our article today we explore the why’s and the why not’s of a child’s ability to express their love.
If you have a toddler who won’t say I love you, the reason may be simple or complex. Either way, let’s look at the issue.
1. Try Being Specific
Some children won’t say I love you until you make it specific to them. For example, if you simply say ‘I love you’ and get no response to try a different approach.
Be specific. Say ‘I love you Sarah.’ put their name to it. Some research has shown by making the request for a reply name specific 9 out of 10 times the child responded ‘I love you too.’
Is it normal for a child to so matter of fact? In a word, Yes. Children sometimes don’t listen to a word we say until we put their name to it.
Now it doesn’t mean to put their whole name, just the first name. By naming the child personally, you get a response. Nearly every time. If they outgrow it then fine. if not they will probably be a very detail-oriented person throughout their life. And it’s okay to be a detailed individual.
2. Are They Hearing It Enough?
There is absolutely no limit to the number of times per day to say I love you. Maybe your spouse works long hours and isn’t home much. The lack of the toddler seeing you exchange I love you’s with dad could be the culprit.
Make it a point to say it as often as possible. And be sure your toddler sees you saying it to other people. Lead by example. They love to imitate mom or dad.
And be sure to say it directly to your toddler or another person. Saying I love you should be personal and it should be sincere. Some toddlers have issues with looking at the parent(s) in the eye. Perhaps they aren’t quite sure who you are saying it to!
Make a few notes on how well your toddler is progressing with saying I love you. If you notice them starting to say it more each day then there is little cause for any concern. Write down, if you have the time, exactly what circumstances were present when the child did say I love you. Soon you will see an improvement.
3. Try a Voice Recorder
Small children are fascinated when they hear their recorded voices. And even more so when they hear mom or dad’s voice. Try using the voice recorder app on your phone and get them to say it into the phone.
By playing the recording over and over you might just condition the child to say this as a reflex. They could be saying worse as a reflex. Give them an opportunity to hear the recording several times per day. You may be fixing it and not knowing it!
There are also several ways to do something similar on your computer. There are many sources for answers such as these on the internet and most if not all are free to use.
4. Try Some Small Figurines
Get your toddler some small figurines that will be used to represent mom, dad, and toddler. When it’s playtime let these figurines tell each other, ‘I love you.’
It’s a fun way to teach them something important. Children always respond well to figurines, puppets, and the like. You can also get creative if you go the puppet route.
Let your child be a part of making each puppet. Tell them to help you make a puppet and you want it to look like mom, or dad. or the child. More than likely you both will benefit from the experience Think of it as craft time with a definite purpose.
Child psychologists have been using the puppet approach for many years with success. Your toddler will be babbling ‘I love you’ in no time!
5. Ask a Professional
If you just can’t get them to say it, no matter what you try, give a professional a call. Or schedule an appointment. There is nothing wrong with you or your child if you choose to seek professional advice. They can probably offer up more plans and ideas than are listed here.
Also, be choosy about the professional you have your consult with. Go with a seasoned professional and get the most out of it. Some of the more experienced child psychologists specialize in matters such as these so use them!
However, most parents who have had these issues will agree. They usually resolve themselves over a short period of time.
Even the children who take longer to grow out of it do so with no ill effects. If you don’t want to go the psychologist route you can always consult with other parents. Some may have had the same issue and can offer advice as well as console you about it.
Saying I love you is an extremely important part of child development. And as mentioned the problem will essentially take care of itself. Don’t get overly frustrated about it. Your child will pick up on your frustration and you will get nowhere with the issue.
Remain calm and as always using love and affection cures all!