What Your Toddler Says Vs. What They Really Mean

Toddlers are fun. I know; I’ve got an almost 3-year-old son who's sassing me daily. While I absolutely love that he has a handle on his speech (asking me for this and telling me that) sometimes a little peace and quiet would be nice. OK, well, maybe not quiet but a little more, honesty? See, my kid likes to say things that he doesn’t always mean. Or, he says things he means but only for a few seconds and before he inevitably changes his mind. So figuring out what my toddler says vs. what he actually means has become something of a daily sport in our household. (Honestly, I can't tell if I'm winning or losing most of the time, either.)

There are a few phrases that I know are always on point. When he says, “No!” for example, I know he means it and I respect it (unless he really, really, really needs a diaper change and I’ll risk getting kicked so he doesn’t get an infection, or he has decided defying the laws of gravity is a thing he really would love to try). Then, of course, there are the moments when he gets excited about a present or box and asks me to open it. He always really does mean that he wants me to open said package.

Other phrases, however, aren’t so simple. He says them for the sake of repeating what he’s heard, or he says them but isn’t using them correctly. Let's not forget the moments my darling son is just flat out lying, either, because he’s almost a 3-year-old toddler and doesn’t really know any better. If you’ve got a toddler, I'm guessing (and kind of hoping, because solidarity is fun) you know what I’m talking about. If not, I suggest familiarizing yourself with the things your toddler is saying, and how they match up to what your toddler actually means. Can't hurt, right?

"I Don’t Want To Go To Sleep"

This means your toddler has likely stayed up past their nap or bedtime. They are internally cranky but are just having so much fun they don’t quite care. They’ll ignore their exhaustion so they can keep playing with whatever they are obsessed with at the moment, making it impossible for you to work, clean, eat, sleep, or anything else.

"Can We Read One More Book?"

It’s never just one more, you guys. This is a sneaky toddler tactic used to avoid going to bed. They enjoy books, but they enjoy them more when they can stay awake and listen to you read about the Queen of the Potty again and again and again.

"I Want [Insert Food Of Choice Here]"

Liars. All of them. They will swear up and down this is what they want to eat, but then you’ll bring it to them and they’ll ask you for something else. Rare is the occasion when a toddler means what they say.

"I Love You!"

No doubt a ploy to get you to melt into a puddle of mommy-goo so they can quickly go and throw toys into the toilet or tear pages out of your favorite book or find crayons with which to write on the walls. They treat you like Michael Corleone treats Fredo; with a hug and a kiss and then a swift kick to the curb.

"Can I Please Watch Cartoons For A Little?"

Cartoons help many of us parents continue to function as adults. I know I can’t be the only one allowing screen time, and for good reason. However, toddlers like to take advantage of this privilege by slowly demanding more and more time. Maybe this is because they technically don’t have a sense of time, but I don’t buy it.

"I Want To Go To The Park/Zoo/School/Anywhere"

Just the other day, my kid asked me to take him to the park. Take a random guess as to what happened when we get there. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Yep, I heard, “I don’t want to go to the park anymore.” Oh, no you don’t, buddy. We’re playing in this playground if it's the last freakin' thing we do. The thing is, you can’t always abide by their wishes because lo and behold, as soon as we walked to the playground, my son was back to being thrilled.

"I Don’t Want To Go To School/Home/Friend’s House/Anywhere"

My kid was excited about going to preschool for maybe two days before he started telling me he didn’t want to go. Still, I drive him there every day and he doesn’t cry; he just pouts a little. Then I pick him up and he’s grinning from ear to ear playing with toys while his teachers tell me what a great day he had. So yeah, maybe he thinks he doesn’t want to leave the house in the morning, but that usually changes the minute mom disappears.

"Can I Come With You?"

It doesn’t matter where you’re going, either. You could be going to the DMV and your toddler will want to accompany you. Grocery store, doctor’s appointment, a trip to the freakin' dentist; they don’t care. Except, of course, when you finally do take them. Then all they want is to go home.

"Where Are You Going?"

This actually just means, "Can I come with you?" They don’t care where you’re headed, mostly because they can’t distinguish the hospital from the post office. They just like to tag along (which is both endearing and frustrating depending on the situation).

"I Missed You!"

That is to say, I need my diaper changed! And I need you to find my favorite toy buried among all my other toys! And I need you to turn on the TV because I’m too small to reach! And I want hugs but only for a minute because then I’m going to pull your hair cause funsies!

"I Had A Good Nap"

This can mean one or both of the following: either they did have a good nap and they’re feeling well rested and will be delightful little people for a couple hours, or they slept so much (or so late into the day) that they will flat out refuse to sleep come night time.

Usually, it’s both.