Sometimes the toddler years are called “terrible” but it’s often because they are seeking more and more independence, when you’ve been used to them needing you every step of the way – so embrace this time, and help them bloom by recognizing and encouraging these developing characteristics.
- Offer choices. Choice can feel great, so let your child pick out what to wear, what to do at play time, and a snack. Empowering them to choose can build positive independence. When it matters a ton to you, then pick two items and let them choose between the two.
- Foster a helping attitude. Toddlers are becoming more capable, nurture them by letting them put their toys away, put their shoes away, and help with folding or putting away clean laundry.
- Avoid daily power struggles. Acknowledging the hill to die on is important! There are some struggles to take up and others to avoid – know your child’s triggers. Be consistent when the struggle begins, making it clear what you expect. For example, if you have a set time to leave each day, provide enough transition time, or if you expect your child to help with cleaning up, offer them a choice over which chore to do first.
- Be cheerful. Have you seen how quickly your child can mirror your attitude? Teach an attitude of cheerfulness in your child by setting aside intentional time to play, laugh and encourage. It will rub off!
- Choose your words wisely. Sometimes you offer your child a choice, when you do that, ask it as a question: “Would you like to wear your pink coat, or your purple windbreaker?” When it is not a choice, then make a clear statement: “Go and get your coat on before we go outside.” Being straightforward with what the child can make a choice on will help increase independence and reduce frustration.
- Create and keep a routine. Keeping a systematic routine for your toddler can be a benefit for both of you! It doesn’t need to be set times but can follow a flow that can be anticipated. Examples are having a bath and story at bedtime, or getting a kiss, hug and wave goodbye at childcare drop-off. Having a predictable routine helps the child maintain “control”, helping to avoid surprises, struggles or tantrums.
- Set your child up for success. Tell your child what’s on the agenda for the day. Then give cues: “We’ll start putting our toys away in five minutes.” Give them the opportunity to do more things for themselves: “Do you want to put your shirt on by yourself?” Respect your child as an individual.