Today we are sharing 10 toddler parenting tips that we learned by raising our own toddlers and that I used as a former early childhood educator. Managing toddler behavior can be difficult and frustrating for many parents.
Your two year old can go from loving and sweet to screaming red-faced meltdown in 5 seconds flat. You are not alone. Toddlers want to exert their independence, have their desires honored, and test their boundaries. That is all part of normal childhood development. But normal doesn’t mean easy to deal with.
10 Toddler Parenting Tips:
1. Consistency with rules, expectations, and consequences.
How many times do you hear the word consistency used when talking about toddler parenting tips and how to discipline your child. Toddlers need consistency. They need rules and consequences that are age-appropriate.
Be careful about how you communicate the rules and expectations that you have. You want to address the behavior, never make your child feel like their behavior defines them. For example say “We color on paper, not on the walls”. Instead of “you are so much trouble” or ‘You are such a brat”.
Make corrections about the action, not about who your child is. We all get upset and say things in anger. It happens. But it is so important to choose your words with care. Be kind, but firm. It should never be about punishment. That isn’t helpful in the long term. It should be about guiding and modeling the behavior you want from your toddler.
Consequences should be age-appropriate and related to the misbehavior. Allow natural consequences whenever possible. Sometimes you will need to impose and enforce your own consequences. that’s OK. Learning that there are limits and boundaries is an important part of your toddler’s development.
2. Predictability with routines and bedtimes
Establishing a routine with toddlers results in better behavior in the long term and can make your life much easier. Routines with consistent expectations is a way of life that we keep with us throughout our lives.
Knowing what to expect makes your toddler feel safe and secure in their world. Predictable meal times, bath times, read aloud times, bedtimes let your toddler know what to expect and can make focusing on what they can do vs what they are not allowed to do much easier. If you do bath time around 7:00 PM every night, you can tell your toddler at 6:50 PM “You can watch Paw Patrol for 10 more minutes then it is bath time at 7.” It is predictable, focuses on the positive, allows your toddler to feel like they have some control.
Predictability helps to reduce power struggles. Power struggles happen when your toddler is frustrated because they feel misunderstood and not listened too.
Predictable routines help you as their parent be less scattered and less stressed. When we are scattered and stressed we may miss signs of an impending meltdown, we may miss when our toddler is winding up, or worse we may react out of frustration from our own stress and make the situation 10 times worse.
3. Instill confidence and don’t do everything for your toddler
Let your toddler explore and do projects independently as long as there is no danger. As parents, we always want to help. If we see our child struggling in any way, we want to make things easier. But easier is not always better, especially when you are learning a new task or skill. Even as adults, we are encouraged to do a project independently and then get help. If we accomplish a task without assistance we admittedly feel proud of our accomplishment.
If you want to instill confidence in your child, let your child try to figure something out first and the times they get it right or close enough, they will feel good about themselves and more confident about the next task they do. Praise their effort and hard work.
The time to step in and help is when you see your toddler getting overly frustrated. Toddlers often lack the ability to verbalize their feelings of frustration and becoming overly frustrated can lead to tantrums and meltdowns. you want to find the right balance between assistance and allowing your toddler freedom to explore and learn.
4. Speak gently and avoid baby talk
The tone of your voice matters. What you say and how you say it, matters. Speaking to your toddler calmly and gently models being respectful and in control of your child. Your toddler learns how to interact with others by watching and interacting with you. No pressure right? If you want your toddler to grow up to be respectful, kind and empathetic to others you need to demonstrate the same behavior towards them when you speak to them.
Yelling and harsh tones are ineffective in the long term. There are times when you must be firm, but try to remain calm and speak softly.
Avoid baby talk with your toddler. Speak clearly and say exactly what you mean.
5. Be a good role model.
Often parents feel that their child is too young to learn a behavior, be it good or bad, based on your actions. When it comes to toddler parenting tips, this is huge! Your toddler is able to read facial expressions, voice intonations and certainly violent physical activity. So if you think your 2 or 3-year-old is too young to mirror your actions, think again.
Always remember that you are your child’s primary role model. They are always watching you and learning from you.
6. Reward good behavior.
It is just important to reward good behavior as it is to correct misbehavior. Focus on what your toddler does right. Praise your child when they are doing the right things. Encourage and praise cooperation and effort.
7. Avoid “NO” Whenever Possible
There will be many times when you will have to say “No” to your child. The fewer times you have to say no the more effective it will be.
Look around the house and remove any items or temptations that are frequently causing you to have to say “No”, “Don’t Touch” or “Stay Away” etc..
Try to be preemptive. Think ahead. Make the environment as toddler-friendly and as safe as possible to reduce how often you need to say “No”.
8. Watch the amount of screen time you allow.
Technology has come a long way over recent years. It is important for parents to remember that children, starting from birth, need to learn about their surroundings in a hand’s on way.
Toddlers enjoy sensory play. Research has demonstrated that sensory play promotes self-learning and impacts a child’s behavior and personality. Technology can be introduced into their world but should not be used in place of sensory activities and outdoor play.
However, it is unlikely that allowing your toddler some screen time while you make dinner or need to get some work done is going to be harmful.
9. Consider a minimalist bedroom design
We are often told that sensory stimulation is important during early childhood development. Although this is very true, it is also well known that rest and relaxation, even as adults, is just as important to maintain mental clarity and focus.
Anyone with a toddler will tell you that their child’s brain experiences more than enough mental activity during the course of the day. The challenge is transitioning from their often high-energy state to a peaceful state that will allow them to fall asleep.
Having a bedroom, that is serene and with minimal distractions can help make the transition to bedtime a little easier. This suggestion may not be for everyone as it is a rather new approach to the whole concept of mindful living. Yes, we are talking about toddlers, but it has to start somewhere. If the bedroom is peaceful with a minimal design, rather than cluttered with toys, your child, over time, as is the case with any habit, will start to associate his or her bedroom with downtime and sleep.
Transitioning a toddler to sleep can be a time-consuming process. You can easily spend an hour or more getting your child to sleep the point of even wanting to fall asleep. Establishing a calm bedroom environment by reducing both audio and visual stimulation can be a godsend.
It is certainly best to start out with this approach and not resort to this after bedtime has become a nightmare. Establishing a new habit versus trying to change an old habit is far easier. Toddler parenting tips need to be applied and not postponed. If you wait you will lose the opportunity to make a difference.
10. Always respond with empathy and affection.
When you are implementing toddler parenting tips, always respond to your child’s feelings with empathy and affection. We encourage parents to ignore tantrums, but not the feelings behind them. Don’t react with anger, remain calm, loving, remove the child if you are in public so that your toddler knows tantrums mean we go home.
Tantrums and meltdowns are not about you, they are not a reflection of your parenting skills. They are the way your child deals with frustration and overwhelming emotions that they do not have the skills to cope with or verbalize yet. The most important things for your toddler are to feel that they are safe and understood.
It is important to balance consistent discipline and expectations with empathy and affection. Tantrums and bad behavior are going to happen. It is a normal part of toddler development. If you expect it, have age appropriate expectations/consequences for your toddler, and respond with empathy and affection your toddler will learn self-control and make positive behavioral choices. Your toddler wants to behave, so guide them to make the right choices.
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