Toddlers (which I deem ages one through three, with ages three and four being “nursery school” aged, and ages 5 and 6 being kindergarten aged) are in a very special place in life. They are all about movement and doing! They are developing speech! They are discovering their world.
Parenting toddlers is a hands-on adventure. It is not one to be embarked upon by yelling from the sofa, “Don’t do that!” Get up and get moving with your toddler. A toddler needs constant supervision and reasoning, and punishment does not have a positive effect. Spanking is harmful! This is a bulletin from 2012 from the American Psychological Association regarding spanking. Thirty countries have banned corporal punishment in all settings, including the home.
There has been much debate in the parenting of older children regarding the use of rewards or even punishment in terms of the use of “taking something away”. (Of course if there is a safety issue with an object, it may need a boundary and a rest!) I bring this up now, because if you are parenting a toddler for the first time, you are figuring out your parenting style and learning what works and what doesn’t. You can see an article about the link between materialism and this style of parenting here. Here is an article about “Rewards and Punishments” from the Natural Child Project. Alfie Kohn has an article about “The Risks of Rewards” here. However, if one also searches Pub Med and other places for articles regarding the effects of rewards, I have found the research to be more conflicting and much of the research to be associated with either food/diet related or with children with ADHD. More work is clearly needed in this area as it applies to real, in-life, parenting.
So, back to the present moment of living with a toddler who in turn is mainly living in their physical body and who is exploring everything in the world new. Here are some tools that may be of great assistance:
An Ongoing Loving Relationship with YOU. That is huge. Children need to feel connected and loved. You are not going to do everything right in parenting a toddler, but you can still hold your child and love your child. You can tell your child positive things, and you can actively respond to your child’s needs. You can listen! Here is a bulletin from 1991 from the Pediatric Clinics of North America regarding active listening, natural consequences and logical consequences: the importance of active listening and natural consequences. Consequences are harder with toddlers (ie, rarely is a toddler refusing to brush their teeth choosing to get cavities and rarely is a toddler who won’t wear a jacket wanting to be cold or get sick), so we also need strong doses of loving limits housed within the following areas….
A Strong Rhythm to your day. This means that you, as the parent, should be getting up at the same time each day, going to bed at a rhythmical time, providing meal preparation and meals about the same time each day and having a routine that your toddler can settle into. Work, play, rest and love are so important.
The Environment. It is important that you look at the things in your home with an eye for beauty, order, and yes, putting things up you don’t want a toddler to get into unsupervised up. Simplicity is key. Toddlers do not need a million toys, but they do some open ended toys along with doses of love, sunshine, work, play and rest.
Work. Toddlers love to work and they need to move their bodies. Everything will take more time, yes, but what else are you really doing? Many parents whose toddlers watch a good deal of media have told me they do it because they need to fill up the day with something. There is a beautiful post here about working with your toddler.
Play outside. Going outside in the morning and in the afternoon is not too much for a toddler – (and not just in a stroller or being worn either, let them run and play and get energy out and move!
And when things go wrong?
Distraction can help. Distraction with singing, humming and moving through things can be helpful.
Time-in for tinies. If a temper tantrum ensues, try a time in for tinies.
Have strategies before the time of a melt-down. Think it through. Almost every toddler challenge known to man is listed in this back post, along with ways to solve them.
Movement and singing. If you want your toddler to put on his or her coat, try helping your toddler’s arm into the coat whilst singing a song about going outside.
Always go back to the basics of sleep, rest, hunger.
Respect the need for protection for your toddlers. Toddlers are not miniature adults. They are wide open to the world and as such do not need a lot of stimulation. Being in their own homes and neighborhood is enough of a world for a toddler.
Blessings and love,