Toddler behavior is one of the most delightful yet sometimes infuriating experiences of all time. Parenting a toddler with limits yet without squelching their vital energy and spirit requires a combination of skill, patience, and love. And toddler behavior problems tire even the best of parents!
So what is normal toddler behavior? As a new mom or even for a veteran mom, how do you know what is healthy autonomy sprouting? And how do you redirect a child's behavior compassionately, though firmly? Keep reading to learn tips for redirecting children's behavior and increase more parenting ease and fun!
From the Perspective of a Toddler
Imagine for a moment that you are a newborn. Mom and Dad are ecstatic about your every little move. Every milestone invokes major attention and is fully photographed and documented: your birth, your first smile, your first word, your first food, your first haircut. Everyone gathers to watch you roll over, sit up, and take your first step. There are looks of adoration and coos oozing from every face that greets you. Everything revolves around you! You are the center of the universe for two whole years!
Then, one day—you're not really sure when—the rules change. Mom and Dad no longer respond so quickly; they do not cater to your every whim. You are required to wait. You have to walk more than you are carried. No longer does whining or crying get you satisfactory results. You are now asked to use words instead of pointing. At every turn, your plans are thwarted. You are fed up with your revving engine being slowed down.
Then it happens. You discover your POWER—an arsenal to maintain attention and control! Those simple sounds "n" and "o" blend together and spring out of your own mouth almost involuntarily. The magic trigger word "No!" is discovered—and boy, do you get a response! Then, you uncover one more secret that adds to the excitement: you don't have to come when they call. In fact, it's more fun to run the opposite way!
The two-year-old is full of contradictions—one minute begging for the warmth of your smile and the protection of your arms, the next declaring independence and insisting on doing everything "by myself!" or biting his friend!
On fire with the purpose of self-discovery and a grand adventure of exploring the world, two-year-olds are energetic. (Sorry, that's not going to change, Mom.) Their laughter can quickly turn to tears; one minute they love bananas and the next they scream when you offer one. The newfound freedom that words and mobility provide intensifies their willfulness. This is a time when power struggles with toddlers often increase. And I imagine that you've said to yourself from time to time, "My toddler is driving me crazy," right?
However, toddlers still need safety and security. They are very attached to their caregivers and need the reassurance that you are there. They explore but always circle back to the comfort of a familiar lap. They proclaim boldly, "I am independent!" and whisper softly, "But don't go too far! I need you."
Parents can begin to feel like yo-yos as battles increase, meltdowns are immediate, and what was perfectly fine five seconds ago is now the focus of a tantrum. Toddler biting or toddler tantrums can make parenting even more challenging. To make life with your toddler a lot less stressful and more fun, here are some practical tips to help you establish a nurturing environment for your toddler and loving yet firm limits for your sanity.
Find out some positive parenting solutions that give your toddler freedom to explore and develop while decreasing power struggles and capturing more sanity for yourself!
Related reading: "The Secret Language of Toddlers: What Their Behavior Means"
TIPS for Toddler Behavior—Decrease Battles and Increase Cooperation
- Get down to their level.
Towering over a toddler can be very intimidating for them. Getting down to their level is a simple act but communicates that you are there to support them rather than overpower them. Often, this easy shift of positioning reduces power struggles dramatically. Try it!
- Give toddlers choices to avoid power struggles.
Ask, "Do you want to wear your green pajamas or your red pajamas?" Limit choices to two. Complex choices can be difficult for this developmental stage and frustrate or overwhelm your toddler. If they want to wear their green bottoms with a red top from another set, let them! The more you let a toddler make decisions in situations with little consequence, the more cooperation you'll get when it comes to something important.
- Use fewer words and more action.
The key with small children is movement. We tend to use too many words with toddlers at a time when their language development is just beginning. Use words easily understood. Animate requests—become a tugboat with sounds as you chug, chug, chug, all the way to their bath. Creatively find ways to invoke joy and provide incentive.
Related reading: "What You Need to Know About Your Children's Cognitive Development"
- Set up routines to provide a sense of safety and security.
Routines are very important for two-year-olds. They will often get upset when the regular order of the day is disrupted. As much as possible, stay on schedule with meals, naps, and bedtime.
- Create rituals to make transition times easier.
Transition times, such as from play to bath or from home to daycare, can be very difficult for toddlers. It helps immensely if you provide daily rituals that signal the toddler that a change is coming. For example, every night before bed the toddler takes a bath, you read a story together, then you say a prayer or sing a song. With a ritual in place, the toddler learns what to expect and prepares for it emotionally and mentally. This consistency equates to fewer battles.
Toddlers' tireless zest and curiosity make life very challenging at times. Pick one or two of the above tips and try them on for size. However, the best advice for those with toddlers is to take care of yourself! When we are at our best, we are patient, creative, playful, and ready for another day with a gusto-filled toddler! Visionary parenting helps us to remember our highest hopes and dreams for our toddler and gives us courage for another day.
For help with toddler behavior problems, reach out to Heartmanity. Some new skills can go a long way to having more fun with your toddler. Or check out our Redirecting Children's Behavior parenting class.
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