Communication Nation: What You Say vs What Your Toddler Hears

Communicating with a toddler can, at times, be quite frustrating, and not for the reasons you might think. Sure, the ear-piercing “NOOOO!” that can be heard 300 miles due South can be difficult, but our main issues seem to stem from what are turning out to be simple miscommunications. When I say something like “Go get your pink shoes,” what I am asking our daughter to do seems clear enough, and until recently I thought she was understanding me. But as time goes by, it is becoming more and more clear that Baby 1.0 does not understand approximately 80% of the words coming out of my mouth. Sure, there are people who will argue that she is hearing and understanding me, and then deciding to mentally flip me a tiny, perfect, pink, middle-finger, but she’s so sweet and precious and there’s just no way that she would consciously and intentionally disobey me this often. Clearly the only explanation is that she just has different definitions of nearly every word in the English language.

Here are our most common trouble words:


What I say: Pick out a story and go sit on the couch.

What she hears: Quick! Go collect 210 individual random items, and pile them all on your workbench. Be sure to include all the recycling that has been sitting by the door for 3 days, as well as every book and toy within your reach. Extra points if you can also include any random socks, and at least 1 pair of dirty underwear that are at the top of the hamper.

messy desk


What I say: I just washed all your sheets and made your bed! Looks extra cozy for your nap.

What she hears: I challenge you to a 5-round championship fight in the octagon, bitch.



What I say: Okay, sweet baby! It’s time to put on your pants!

What she hears: I will now feed your legs to two tiny alligators. This may hurt quite a bit.


Brush your teeth

What I say: Okay my dear, it’s time to brush your teeth! Open wide and it will be super quick!

What she hears: Okay my dear, it’s time to steal your soul by use of this Winnie The Pooh themed torture device, and fruit-flavored sugar gel! Don’t open your mouth, and be sure to go completely limp so I will have to focus extra hard on not accidentally poking you in the eye.


What I say: Don’t touch the TV.

What she hears: Be a doll, and take a few minutes and work on that empty black canvas sitting over there. Maybe spruce it up with some crayons and yogurty fingerprints? Be sure to smear at least one booger on that thousand dollar screen. Be a shame to waste such a versatile canvas!



What I say: Pick up your books and put them back on your bookshelf, please.

What she hears: Take everything off that cube of confusion I have pushed up against the wall. Books belong on the floor, so whatever you do, make sure to NEVER put them on there. Also the toys, pictures and breakable piggy bank that I try to keep out of your reach- be sure to reach that and throw it at the cat.

Cube of confusion

This is literally what you get when you google image search “cube of confusion.” Too good not to use.


What I say: Hold still so I can brush your hair.

What she hears: Do you want to play a game? I’m going to place this medieval torture device up against your scalp, and mercilessly pull out every single one of your hairs because I am evil and twisted.



What I say: Please don’t put your hands in the toilet.

What she hears: Look at this majestic indoor miniature pool/waterfall combo we have in this special room because we are royalty. I control it with a handle! The water is so fresh! Feel free to bathe any toy or stuffed animal you have in it’s magic depths. No harm ever came from playing around in human waste!

Image credits: DeskUFCAlligatorsCat, PaintCube of ConfusionSaw, Waterfall, Cover image


  1. So funny! You made my day 🙂
    Makes me think about my kids when I want them to eat veggies and they hear something like :
    ”I am trying to poison you so fight with your life not to get any of it into your mouth”


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