Judy Arnall starts this chapter with this observation that I see all the time, “Parents believe if they don’t nip many behaviors in the bud at this stage, the behaviors will grow and become monstrous later on and their children will be destined to become criminals because they were too lenient when they were toddlers. NOT TRUE!”
The toddler stage does not involve reasoning. There is no reasoning yet. Toddlers are just realizing they can’t always get what they want, and this leads to temper tantrums. Your toddler is “doing” and the best you can do as a parent is to childproof, supervise, redirect, distract, provide substitutions, pick up your toddler and move them around with your gentle hands away from danger or situations that they shouldn’t be into.
Toddlers can sometimes follow two word commands. On this blog, I write from a traditional perspective and also a Waldorf perspective. The Waldorf perspective on this would be to engage the child’s body and not expect a tiny child to follow a verbal command only. You cannot parent a toddler from the couch. GET UP!
A toddler is going to express negativity. “ No” has power, “no” has meaning. Toddlers often use their body to express their negativity – hitting, biting, pushing – because their words are not totally there yet. Even the ones that are “verbally” advanced lose their words when they become upset! They want to be independent (the “me do it” stage), but still need help. They don’t play with other children yet, they have fears of things such as thunder or animals or vacuum cleaners. Their thinking really is “this is here, this is now” without much memory involved. They do, however, IMITATE what YOU do!
Saying no frequently is not helpful in guiding your child – tell them what you would like to see, and better yet, SHOW THEM. Childproof your environment so you don’t have to say NO fifty times a day. Also, Judy Arnall points out that “parents have no control over eating, sleeping, toileting, and learning. The parent can facilitate those processes, but not force them.” This is something important for a parent to come to grips with.
She lists a page of discipline tools for toddlers including staying with your no, changing the environment, planning ahead, having routines, holding and carrying and restraining the child as needed, giving encouragement, ignoring some things if you can, time-in (see my take on “Time In for Tinies” here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/12/more-about-time-in-for-tinies/ ), saying no another way, letting the child have their feelings (my note is that you can’t “fix” how another person feels! Let them have their feelings!), supervision, parent time-outs, modeling, redirection, holding, hugs and many more tips.
The author recommends anticipating problems ahead of time and planning ahead. She also says “avoid play places if you know they get frustrated and hit other children.” Provide toys whilst changing a diaper or change the diaper standing up or in front of a mirror. She talks extensively about the fact that toddlers love routines, and also gives examples of some “routines” that small children can do – for example, hanging towels after taking a bath, putting clothes in the basket, everyone carrying their things in from the car. Essentially, you are laying down the house rules and chores that will become embedded in the existence of a three and four year old. A three and four year old really knows and understands how things work in your house!
Judy Arnall has sections in this chapter regarding toilet learning, handling emotion, toddler sleep problems, why toddlers don’t understand rules, separation anxiety and how to deal with it, picky eating, toddler aggression and tips for handling this….Another great chapter!
This book deserves a home on your shelf! Check out Amazon for a copy!