The toddler years can be challenging. A hungry or sleepy toddler could easily evolve into a screaming toddler (and this inevitably happens in the middle of a restaurant or grocery store). In spite of this, there are ways to parent so that you raise a happy, well-behaved toddler. Here are some tips to help you establish a healthy bond with your child while teaching and modeling proper behavior.
- Model self-control — It can be tough to maintain composure for parents and kids alike. We are all human, after all. You can help yourself by practicing breathing or counting if you’re in a frustrating parenting situation that you can’t step away from. If you do have backup, take advantage. Taking a break isn’t a sign of weakness. Parenting a toddler requires mental and physical energy and you need to recharge sometimes to be the best parent you can be.
- Make sure your child gets enough sleep — Toddlers need anywhere from 10 to 13 hours of sleep daily, and most benefit from an afternoon nap. When children are tired, this is when meltdowns are most likely to occur, so it’s important to plan your day around naps and stick to a good bedtime schedule and routine.
- Focus on the positive — The tendency of many parents is to correct children for undesirable behaviors. When you reward children for good behavior, this gives them positive associations with following the rules. Sometimes negative behaviors are attempts to get more attention, so giving positive attention for positive behavior may thwart bad behavior in an attempt to get any kind of attention.
- Redirect your toddler’s attention — If your toddler is doing something you don’t want him or her to do, try redirecting the behavior by leading to another activity. If your child is in imminent danger from the activity, firmly say “no” and remove him or her from the dangerous situation.
- Be consistent — It’s not always easy to be consistent with your efforts, but it will pay off for you in the end. Children are very observant and will pick up on lack of consistency. Keep nap and bed times the same, and don’t reward negative behaviors.
- Have realistic expectations — Expect age-appropriate behaviors from your toddler. Crying and tantrums are expressions of frustration from not being able to communicate their needs or put their feelings into words. These behaviors are a natural part of development and there’s no way you can parent your way out of experiencing them.
- Be affectionate even when disciplining — It’s important to remain firm and in control when disciplining your toddler, but let your toddler know he or she is safe and loved at the same time. Don’t use abusive language or tell your toddler her or she is “bad.” Rather, focus on the behavior you want changed.
- Coordinate with other caretakers — Just as it is important for you to be consistent with your parenting efforts, it’s important for others to follow suit as much as possible. Get on board with your partner to develop a parenting strategy and communicate clearly with anyone taking care of your child. Let other caregivers know the way you discipline and reward behaviors.
- Model good manners — Practice polite behavior like saying “please” and “thank you” at home, and reward your toddler with praise for being polite whenever you observe it.
If you have questions about your toddler’s behavior, we’re here to help. Ask your child’s teacher how your toddler behaves in class and how difficult behavior is handled. We’d be happy to share with you what works for us in the classroom.