The toddler years are exhilarating and exhausting. Your little one’s budding personality, interest and excitement for all they are learning, as well as their neediness and desire for independence are bound to make for both amazing and trying times. Following are a few tips about development and how to best raise a capable and confident child based on Positive Discipline, The First Three Years.
Feeling a sense of belonging and significance is a basic need.
- Engage your toddler by giving them helpful tasks that are age appropriate (holding the clean diaper while being changed, helping put toys into the bath tub, etc). Welcome and encourage their innate desire to be helpful.
We all have mirror neurons that fire when we see an action performed.
- If you want a kind, compassionate, thoughtful child, you must demonstrate this in your own behavior by being patient, loving, and caring toward your child and others.
Your child will have feelings. Your job is to help them develop their emotional intelligence.
- Help your child understand emotions by using words to label the feeling(s) they are experiencing. Validate their feelings (there is no such thing as a wrong emotion, only actions that are not), and then provide appropriate ways for them to express their feelings (ie. scribble with markers or run around the backyard, cry, etc).
Use positive time outs for children over the age of three and a half.
- Little children are not capable of recognizing and managing their emotions so sitting in time out to think about what they have done wrong isn’t fair or helpful. A positive time out, however, can be a great way to teach your child to calm down when s/he is angry or upset. Click here to learn more about positive time outs.
Children do better (and will be more cooperative) when they understand what is expected of them and what will happen.
- Even if your child is preverbal, take time to explain what will happen or what is expected from them. This is particularly important if you need to do something quickly or if things will be out of the norm for the child.
Say no with actions instead of words.
- Instead of telling your child no, ask yourself what you do want to have happen and then tell your child what you want. If you must say no, use distraction and redirection (it is helpful to remember that “no” is an abstract idea that little ones don’t really get until they are about four). Toddlers aren’t trying to be disobedient- they are exploring their world and following their developmental intuitions to do so.
Be firm and kind while focusing on love and relationships.
- Provide opportunities for your toddler to explore their world by creating safe places for play. Use distraction and redirection instead of yelling, slapping, or spanking. Repair with hugs, kisses, and apologies when things don’t go so well
Remember that your child is working toward autonomy.
- Remind yourself of your child’s developmental abilities and calm yourself before responding. Make time to enjoy the process of raising your little one. Avoid power struggles by offering limited choices (all of which are acceptable to you) and giving them opportunities to say no when appropriate. Teach by doing and being kind and firm.
Remember in moments when there are impossible messes, tantrums and meltdowns, you are shaping little hearts and minds, and with a little patience and grace, there is sure to be a heartwarming, sweet and tender moment right around the corner.