The steepest learning curve, however, occurred when I stayed with Alexander (then aged 20 months) and his parents, Mummy and Daddy, for three weeks.
At 20 months old (I started to count out my age in months and quit when I got to 500), Alexander looked like this:
Yes, I completely agree. He is adorable.
And these are the invaluable lessons I learned about being an aunty to a toddler:
Lesson One: The Third Person
It is remarkable how quickly Aunty Sandy adapted to speaking about herself in the third person. After only hours in the house, I was saying things like, “Aunty Sandy is eating her breakfast too, Alexander,” and “Aunty Sandy is going upstairs. She’ll be right back,” and “Aunty Sandy loves you, darling.” Aunty Sandy noticed that Mummy and Daddy both referred to themselves in the third person too.
Lesson Two: Narrate Everything
No task action or task should be carried out unless accompanied by a toddler-appropriate commentary. “It’s dinner time! (be very enthusiastic about everything – see below) Let’s get you into your high chair. Tuck your feet in. Good boy! (praise often – see below). Let’s get your bib on, so you don’t get food all over your clothes. Here’s your dinner. Would you like Aunty Sandy to help feed you?”
Tone is very important, as toddlers do not fully understand all the words yet.
Lesson Three: Everything is Amazing
In the world of a toddler, everything is amazing. They are little people who get quite chuffed when they walk from the couch to the table without falling down, and think that choosing their own socks is an incredible honour. As an adult in close proximity to a toddler, everything should likewise be amazing. This manifests as enthusiasm for things you otherwise would not find that amazing. Example: “Yay, Alexander, it’s time to watch Peppa Pig!”
This is Peppa, by the way. If you can draw a whistle, you could probably draw Peppa.
That said, Peppa is an inquisitive little thing, giggles a lot, and the show follows Lesson Two: Narrate Everything. Alexander loved it so much that he started saying “Peppa Pig” long before he could say ‘pease’. Ahem, I mean, ‘please’.
Lesson Four: Praise Often
The ratio for praising appropriate behaviour to correcting inappropriate behaviour of a toddler is about 20 to 1, which is the exact opposite to what most adults experience in their everyday lives. It means that you spend a lot of time seeking out ways to ‘catch them being good’. So, “Great job eating all your peas!” rather than “Well, it took you 45 minutes to eat your peas and more of them ended up on the floor than in your mouth, so work on that, will you?”