Many parents will readily confess that the toddler stage was the most challenging period they experienced while raising their child. Having to cope with a little one who had boundless energy, could be as stubborn as the proverbial mule, yet was too young to be reasoned with, demanded every bit of patience they could summon.
A toddler is a fearless bundle of curiosity. He is eager to explore every inch of his environment, and must be watched constantly to see that he doesn’t wobble into a dangerous situation. He can move with the lightning speed when something grabs his interest.
Parents who have maneuvered safely through the toddler stage of a child’s development will offer helpful advice, including most of the following suggestions:
1. Provide structure
Set up conditions that will make accidents less likely to happen. Place covers over electrical outlets. Use a playpen to keep the toddler safe while you are busy cleaning or cooking. Place anything delicate, breakable or sharp out of reach. Barricade the stairway with a baby gate.
2. Set Up a Routine
A consistent daily routine is important because it gives the child a sense of security. He cannot tell time on a clock, so his day revolves around the events in his life: breakfast time, play time, nap time, bath time and bedtime. These should happen at the same time each day. If he’s expecting them and they don’t happen, he’ll probably become irritable.
3. Make Rules
You, as the parent, must make and enforce rules. They should be few, simple, and non-negotiable at this stage in the child’s development. For example: making him understand that he must hold your hand to cross the street, he must not bite anyone, he must not pet strange dogs, are good for starters.
4. Positive Reinforcement
Every time you catch your toddler doing something right, give lots of positive feedback immediately. Praise, hugs and kisses, expressions of pride and delight will encourage more repetitions of good behavior.
When necessary, you can begin to use the “time-out” strategy. Sit the little one on a chair and tell him slowly, clearly and calmly why he is there. “You must not hit the baby.” Leave him 1 minute for every year of his age. A one-year-old would sit one minute, a two-year-old, two minutes and so on. It is hard for toddlers to sit still so you may have to restrain him at first, until he gets the idea.
Distract and Divert
The best strategy for toddlers about to misbehave is to distract their attention. It’s usually easy to do. Divert them with a colorful toy or an arrowroot biscuit and they will often turn away from a problematic course of action.
It is best to ignore them. They are bids to get your attention or to force you to do something or give him something he wants. If the noise bothers you, leave the room. Later, say in a calm voice, “I don’t like watching temper tantrums. If you are finished, we will talk about the problem.”
Tantrums can often be averted if the child feels he has choices. Let him choose one of three healthy breakfast cereals. Have three color-coordinated outfits ready on hangars and let him choose one. Have a variety of healthy snacks ready in the fridge, one of which he can choose to eat. It’s not too hard to outsmart a toddler.
Before they learn to speak clearly, or construct proper sentences, toddlers are often frustrated because they cannot be understood. Try to learn your child’s jargon, so you can respond appropriately and translate for him to others. This will avert some temper tantrums.
Above all, try to enjoy the toddler stage with your child. This is the time when he wants to be around you the most. Certainly, he wants to explore his environment but he needs the reassurance of knowing you’re close by to protect him and keep him from getting into trouble. Make rules, and fulfil your duties as a responsible parent, but at the same time, give him lots of love, hugs and kisses, and you will find, as other parents have done, that this stage passes before you know it.