(This post is written more from an attachment parenting perspective).
Toddlerhood IS a time where children have a lot of energy and curiosity, and a time when many parents feel there is a shift in parenting going on – the wants and needs of the toddler are becoming two separate things!
Before you can decide how you want to channel the energy of toddlerhood, it is helpful to know two things: 1. What type of family are you? (this is a determinant in how you perceive and handle typical toddler challenges) and 2. Normal developmental milestones of a toddler ages 12 months to about age 3 and 3. How do you view guiding your child? What are your foundational principles?
What Kind of Family Are You??
In the book Kids Are Worth It! Barbara Coloroso defines three types of families:
- Brickwall – This type of family has a definitive hierarchy of control with the parents being in charge, has lots of strict rules, a high value on punctuality, cleanliness and order, a rigid enforcement of rules by means of actual or threatened violence, the use of punishment to break the child’s will and spirit, rigid rituals and rote learning, use of humiliation, extensive use of threats and bribes, heavy reliance on competition, learning takes place with no margin for error, love is highly conditional, gender roles are strictly enforced, children are taught what to think but not how to think.
- Jellyfish A families – most likely raised in a Brickwall family, this parent is frightened of repeating the abuse he knew, but does not know what to replace it with. So he becomes extremely lax in discipline, sets few or no limits and tends to smother his children. Anything his child wants, his child gets, even if the child’s wants are at the expense of the parent’s own needs. The lack of structure can then lead to a frustrated parent who ends up resorting to threats, bribes, punishments.
- Jellyfish B families – May be struggling with personal problems that keep her almost totally centered on herself. No one is around to provide a nurturing, caring, supportive environment.
In both types of Jellyfish families, the following characteristics prevail: Anarchy and chaos in the physical and emotional environment, no recognizable rules or guidelines for the children, arbitrary and inconsistent punishments and rewards are made, mini-lectures and put-downs are the main parenting tools, second chances are arbitrarily given, threats and bribes are frequently used, everything takes place in an environment of chaos, emotions rule the behavior of parents and children, children are taught that love is highly conditional, children are easily led by their peers.
- Backbone families – Democracy is a learned experience where children see their feelings and needs are respected and accepted and they also see that it is not always easy to juggle the wants and needs of all members of the family, mistakes are viewed as opportunities to grow, rules are simply and clearly stated, consequences for irresponsible behavior are either natural or reasonable (see attached handout), children are motivated to be all they can be, children receive lots of smiles and hugs, children get second opportunities, children learn to accept their own feelings and to act responsibly on those feelings through a strong sense of self-awareness, competency and cooperation are modeled and encouraged, love is unconditional, children are taught how to think, children are buffered from sexual promiscuity/drug abuse/suicide by three messages: I like myself, I can think for myself, There is no problem so great, it cannot be solved.
Linda Budd, Ph.D., looks at three traits central to all families in her book “Living With The Active Alert Child”: who’s in charge, what the family values, and how the family handles emotion. She breaks families down into the following categories:
- The Closed Family – There is someone clearly in charge, and the others are expected to follow and be obedient. The family values stability. There are many traditions and rituals to create this strong sense of family unity. The family has a hard time with the intensity of emotions. Benefits of this family type include the children growing up with a strong sense of order and feeling secure within the family structure.
- The Random Family – Control in this family changes hands frequently- no one person is in charge. This family values freedom, choice, competition, challenge, creative expression. Individuals are valued over the family unit. People in this family express themselves passionately, intensely, authentically. Children in this system have few limits and limited supervision, but their creativity and intensity are confirmed.
- The Open Family – The family values equality. Control is cooperative, participatory and persuasive. Consensus is used to make decisions. The family values dialogue, tolerance, adaptability. The family needs are balanced with individual needs. The child is valued as a partner who needs help in discovering her own limits. Parents and child negotiate limits and collaborate in problem solving. Cooperation and responsibility are valued. Children feel as if they have mutual power, and that their feelings are acknowledged.
- The Synchronous Family – Control is understood without one person being the source. Control comes from a shared goal or value system, not from an individual. Adults assume children will learn what is correct and what is expected by watching the parents’ example. Emotions are reserved. Children gain a strong sense of security, order and routine.
Food for thought: What kind of family is your family according to either Barbara Coloroso’s or Linda Budd’s structure?
Are you and your significant other different according to Barbara Coloroso or Linda Budd’s structure? What was the family you grew up in like?
NORMAL DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES FOR THE ONE AND TWO-YEAR OLD
Age 12 months – Typically…
Nurses very frequently, almost like a newborn at times
Many mothers pick a code word for nursing at this time
Cannot accept delays or explanations regarding nursing
Heads into period of disorganization (waking up at night, separation anxiety) prior to new developmental milestones.
The drive to stand and walk takes precedence over all other activities
Loves an audience, sociable
Control over feeding is (SHOULD BE) the child’s
Molars coming in; chewing on everything
Very few distinguishable words, points and gestures
Separation and stranger anxiety
Age 15 months – Typically…
Still nursing very frequently, almost like a newborn at times
The dash and dart and fling stage
Demanding, tends to grab, cry, scream
May be rather asocial, undemonstrative
Temper tantrums emerge (if they have not already)
Cup and spoon mastery may be happening
Attention span is short but will examine objects with real interest (but for less than 5 minutes)
Age 18 months-Typically…
Negativism prevails – wants what he wants, when he wants it
Turns to mother when tired, unhappy
Likes to mimic household activities
Not interested in other children – to large extent ignores them or tries to explore them by poking their eyes, pulling hair
Can play alone
Nighttime waking appears with new stresses
Walking may still be a bit uncertain, loves to go up and down stairs, squat, climb into chairs or sofas
Will lug, tug, push, pull, pound things
May run away from parents in public places
Protests violently at separation from parents
Parallel play with peers
May see biting, hair pulling, scratching, hitting toward other people
Play is child’s most powerful way to learn
Age 21 months…Typically…
Can be one of the hardest ages – wants are more definite
May be height of wakefulness at night
Height of taking clothes off and running around naked
Still easily frustrated with lots of temper tantrums
Understand which objects belong to individual family members
Cares about “mine”
Knows where household items belong
Can solve some of their own problems themselves when playing
Age 2 years – Typically…
Many still need to nurse often in order to calm themselves, but some children may nurse only around bedtimes and naptimes
Some children can begin to adjust their requests for nursing to places and times that are most comfortable for the whole family
May have difficulty going to bed/falling asleep
Can run little errands within the house
Touches and tastes everything
Uses sentences with verbs and is beginning to use adjectives and adverbs
Parallel play with other children
Age 2 and a half – Typically…
Much improved coordination – can walk on tiptoes, jump with both feet, climb, slide, speed up, slow down, turn corners, make sudden stops
Tense, rigid, explosive, bossy, demanding – (but unsure of himself/environment)
Demands sameness, routine
May stutter, have increased tensional outlets
May have frequent night waking, talking in sleep, night terrors, difficulty going to sleep
Self-feeding with lots of messiness prevails, smearing of food, may throw dishes on floor
May be interested in potty training
Masturbation and genital exploration common
Violent mood shifts – will suddenly become angry and out of control
Can most certainly help around the house
Closer to 3 years old, may get tired easily, easily fatigued, wants to be carried
Interacts with other children but may be in aggressive manner, possessive of his things
Hitting, slapping, pushing, screaming
Accept need for sameness
Bypass head on confrontations
Divert with conversation
Distract, change the scene
Talk in advance about what will happen
Use music – sing, use verses
Age 3 years – Quick look ahead: Typically..
Can usually go along with your nursing preferences most of the time
Is tranquil, cooperative
Can help set table, prepare simple foods, clean up afterward
Usually potty trained by this point, at least for the daytime
Can be fearful and have phobias
Imagination begins to take fire, may develop imaginary friends
Has a newfound sense of humor and is able to show empathy
Friendships become more important
Will focus completely on one parent and ignore the other and then switch
Help Channel the Energy:
15 to 18 months
Gross motor activity
Loves to swing and bounce up and down (no walkers or such, please!)
Pounding toys, xylophones
Lots of time outside
Remove all breakable objects from reach
Loves to fall on purpose, slide down or bounce down a small slide
Loves to rock on a rocking boat
Loves to push furniture or toys
Two Year Olds-
Likes routine, imitating grown-up tasks
Play with homemade playdough
Enjoys music, rhythmical activity
Acts out their own eating or sleeping
Daily walks with opportunity to touch everything
FOUNDATION OF LOVING GUIDANCE
Use the least intrusive strategy for a situation – you will never err by being gentle
Remaining calm and being patient is VERY important
Model what you want and set the example
Attribute the best possible motive to your child’s behavior
See the positive intent behind your toddler’s behavior,