Parents eagerly await that first step and first word from their emerging toddlers. Even a toddler's first defiant, "No!" is usually met with a smile. But eventually, there’s a good chance that you won't be smiling when that same adorable child is screaming "No!" at the top of his lungs in the local library—all because you won't let him pull all the books off the shelves or use his newly-acquired mobility to dart across the parking lot.
All infants eventually become little people on the move, full of energy and into everything that’s in front of them. They dance to the beat of their own drums—they’re in the midst of transition, straddling the dependency of babyhood and the growing autonomy of preschool.
At this stage, toddlers are explosively learning so much about the world around them. It's easy to think that they're demanding and stubborn, selfish and out-of-control, unable to share, and even aggressive. And at times they are--but they're also so much more.
Toddlers are just learning the rules and figuring out how to act in a socially acceptable way. They will make mistakes and so will the adults who guide them. It is hard to keep up with little people who can't verbally express themselves, are habitually repetitive, and never stop moving. As parents, we'll need to understand toddler development, have lots of patience, and wear comfortable shoes to keep up with them.
Expect Toddlers to Act Like Toddlers
Don't take tantrums or disagreements personally. Toddlers aren't out to get you--they're simply curious and eager to explore as much of the world as possible.
Pick Your Battles
Decide what matters a lot, a little, or not at all. Does it really matter if they have messy clothes or that they dump the toys out of the toy box in the middle of the room? In the grand scheme of things, probably not. But on the other hand, it's not OK to let a toddler run down the sidewalk alone just because he or she wants to. Sometimes the best solution is to restrict behavior that's unsafe or destructive and let the rest go.
Redirect and Avoid Confrontation When Possible
If you sense an outburst coming on, steer your toddler's attention to new activities or other interesting things to notice by redirection or distraction.
Make Life Simple
Prepare the environment and modify your toddler's schedule to minimize frustration before it even starts.
Anticipate Frustrating Situations
Toddlers are more likely to be overwhelmed or act out in crowds, unfamiliar places, or when they are tired. Knowing this ahead of time—or avoiding it altogether—can help stop a tantrum in its tracks.
Give Lots of Recognition and Encouragement.
Toddlers continually look for our approval and satisfaction. Let them know when you’re happy, and let them know when they’ve done a good job.
Enjoy Toddlers for the Wonderful, Amazing People They Are!
Toddlers become preschoolers almost overnight, and believe it or not, you may soon reminisce with a chuckle about the time your toddler flushed your car keys down the toilet just to see what would happen. Enjoy every second you have with them.
Gigi Schweikert is the president and COO of Lightbridge Academy and an expert in the field of early childhood education. She has managed corporate childcare centers and their educational programs for more than 30 years. Schweikert was the host of Today’s Family and is a bestselling author of eighteen books. Follow 1851 Franchise as she shares her tips on parenting and childcare.