"Through his powers of intellect, articulate language has been evolved; and on this his wonderful advancement has mainly depended" — Charles Darwin, 1874
With toddlers, the key to good communication and a solid parent-child relationship involves this process of translating - translating the child's words back into the basic feelings. The parent can then respond to the feelings and not just the words. The child feels understood; and the parent understands her child. This is the power of translation. You return to the feelings of the child.
Why is this important? Because it is feelings which are the true motivators of your child's actions and words. Just as it is important to translate the infant's facial expressions and vocalization into the feelings, so it is crucial to translate the young child's early words into feelings!
This allows the parent to realize that the child doesn't really want you to go away; the child doesn't hate you; the child is simply expressing anger and frustration. At this point-when words are vehicles for raw emotions-translating allows parents to defuse the growing conflict and their own distress. This technique has amazing powers to transform the parent-child relationship and to help the child learn to identify his or her own feelings. Your child can then articulate feelings in a more direct and less confrontational manner.
Here's an example. A family comes home from a nice vacation, during which the father has spent lots of time with his three-year old son; they had fun being with each other. After the first day back, father comes home from work and goes to hug his son hello. His son reacts negatively, pulling away, saying "No kiss, I no like you... go away!" What's happening here? Let's go back to the basics. What feelings underlie the words "no kiss," "no like," "go away"? Distress and anger are the feelings. So why is the little boy distressed? Because he missed his Dad! He felt left, abandoned by his Dad after they had spent all those nice vacation days together. With this understanding of the feelings behind the words, father and son can begin to sort out the problem. Father can take a breath and try to say something like: "I think you're distressed and angry at me... "hate" does not give me much information... maybe you can say 'I am angry at you'... I think you're angry at me and wanted me to go away because I hurt your feelings, I disappointed you, I left you this morning after all those days of fun together! And I loved our time together! I'm sorry I had to leave you and go to work this morning."
Children can understand such seemingly sophisticated ideas and feelings; in fact they long for them. Understanding and validating feelings are vital for a child to feel valued, that he matters, that his emotions have a place in the world, and that he is loved.