Compassionate Parenting For Toddlers

Is your adorable toddler exploring and getting into everything? Toddlerhood can be one of the most fun (and exhausting times) to parent, dependent upon the personality of your toddler!  Some toddlers need to be saved from death every hour, and some are content to be near you and involved in what you are doing.  In any case, having a few compassionate and fun responses to typical toddler situations up your sleeve can be really helpful!

One foundation to keep in mind for all toddler situations is that toddlers do well with a rhythm to their day (try this back post on Finding Rhythm With Littles, and meaningful work  (the post I linked here is probably one of THE top guest posts on The Parenting Passageway for ten years! Go check it out!)

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.  You cannot parent a toddler from the couch so get up and correct things gently the first time with your loving presence and ability to distract them.

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.

These are the top common situations with toddlers and some simple solutions:

“Into Everything”:

Options:

  • Child-proof, child-proof
  • Model how to explore fragile things with your help and put away
  • Keep less things out, access to art supplies, toys, etc should truly be limited

Your Ideas:

Picky Eating:

Options:

  • Rule out a physical cause; check food allergies and sensitivities
  • Limit high-fat and high-sugar choices, have many healthy choices
  • Look at your child’s food intake over a week, not just one day
  • Have a schedule/rhythm for mealtime and snack time  and sit down with your child to eat in an unhurried manner
  • Serve smaller portions – your child’s stomach is the size of their fist
  • Serve your child’s favorite foods as a side dish to a main meal
  • Do not feel ambivalent about your child’s ability to eat what you serve
  • Allow an option to have toast or cereal for one night a week
  • Try frozen vegetables, such as peas and corn right from the bag or raw veggies with dip if your child is old enough and this is not a choking hazzard
  • Let the kids have a vegetable garden – children often will eat what they have grown
  • Start calling green veggies “brain food”
  • Sneak veggies and fruits into smoothies, or finely grate or chop and mix into foods the child likes
  • Fill a muffin tray or ice cube tray with different healthy kinds of snackable foods that the child can pick from
  • Model good eating yourself – eat a wide variety of foods!

Your Own Ideas:

Poor Sleeper:

  • Rule out physical problems  – many children had reflux when they were younger and are off of medications by the time they are a year or so, do make sure reflux has not reared its head again.  Also be aware of a condition called Eosinophilic Esophagitis – see the comment in the comment thread below.
  • Educate yourself regarding normal sleep behavior – segmented sleep throughout the night was the norm until the Industrial Revolution
  • Expect disruptions in sleep around change, stresses, developmental milestones
  • Try a more consistent routine during the day calming and soothing techniques for naptime and bedtime
  • Try lots of daytime sunlight and dim the lights after sundown; put your house to sleep after dinner
  • Limit afternoon over-stimulation, be home and have a consistent routine where things are structured around getting ready toward sleep
  • Look at the foods your child eats
  • Hug, sleep, hold your child – parent them to sleep
  • Co-sleep
  • Remember that many toddlers and preschoolers are poised for an early nap and an early (6:30 to 7:30 PM) bedtime – sometimes we just miss the window!
  • Watch out for TV and other media exposure
  • Many normal, health co-sleeping children do not sleep a 7 to 9 hour stretch until they are 3 or 4 years old.

Refuses bath:

Options:

  • Use bubble bath, toys
  • If she fears soap in her eyes, use swimming goggles or sun visor
  • Try bath in the morning instead of at night
  • Try a shower
  • Get in tub with child
  • If child fearful of drain, can drain tub after child out of tub or after child  leaves room

Bites adult:

Options:

  • Do not take it personally, do not over-react
  • Most common between 18 months and 2 and a half years
  • Re-direct behavior
  • It is not okay for your child to hurt you!
  • Do not bite for biting!

Your Own Ideas:

Bites other child:

Options:

  • Watch child closely during playtime but realize children of this age do not need many playdates if any at all – limit the exposure and situations you are putting your child in!
  • Give attention to the victim
  • Usually biting stops by age 4

Your Own Ideas:

Slaps faces:

Options:

  • Re-direct behavior
  • Do not hit for hitting
  • Model non-aggression

Your Own Ideas:

“Demanding, exacting, easily frustrated”

Options:

  • Review normal developmental milestones and behavior
  • Check how many choices you are giving and how many words you are using and use LESS
  • Try to get in a lot of outside time
  • Go back to the basics of rhythm, sleep, warm foods, nourishing simple stories and singing

Will not get dressed or put on shoes:

Options:

  • Plan ahead and use easy to put on clothing, check for tags, seams
  • Sing a song, look for body parts, dress by a window
  • Dress together
  • Put clothes on when you arrive at destination

Your Own Ideas:

Running Away in Public Places :

Options:

  • Limit the number of public places you take child
  • Bring along a second adult to help if possible

Your Own Ideas:

Temper Tantrums:

  • It is OK to feel angry or frustrated; accept the feeling – All feelings are okay; all actions are not.
  • Look for the triggers – hungry, tired, thirsty, hot/cold, over-stimulated
  • Try to avoid situations that set your child up to fail
  • Give YOURSELF a moment to get centered and calm
  • Remove yourself and child from scene if possible (if in  a public place)
  • Can get down with child and rub back or head if child will allow,  can just be there
  • Once child has calmed down, can nurse, give him a hug, get a snack or drink
  • If child is mainly upset and gets wants you near but you cannot touch child, consider doing something with your hands to keep that peaceful, centered energy in the room!  Hold the space for your child!
  • Do NOT talk – for most children this just escalates things!
  • If child is okay with being picked up, can go outside for a distraction
  • Try back post More About Time-In For Tinies

Your Own Ideas:

Refuses Car Seat

Options:

  • Let child have a bag of “car toys” that can be played with as soon as seat belt is buckled
  • Have a contest who can get in the fastest
  • Be a policman, fireman, truck driver

Your Own Ideas:

There are many back posts on this blog about toddler development and behavior.  I can’t wait to hear from you and your experiences with your toddler!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

5 thoughts on “Compassionate Parenting For Toddlers

  1. spot on for me today! My toddler is getting over a cold but really showing some independence! Trying to remain calm. Thanks for the awesome tips!

  2. This is really great, Carrie! How different it is reading this now that my child is 8! 🙂 I remember when you were my lifeline in the toddler/pre-school years! I also found a lot of help from Hand in Hand Parenting. Just so you know, the pager.org link is no longer valid. And this is reminding me that I’ve been meaning to go back to some of your back posts on GERD to add comments about Eosinophilic Esophagitis. As you mention in this post, my daughter was diagnosed with GERD as an infant and then off medication by 12 months of age. She NEVER slept (and thus we never slept) until her poor little body crashed when she was six. She was misdiagnosed (again) with GERD until a year ago, when her poor little body really, really crashed, and we were sent out of state to a children’s hospital, where she was diagnosed with Eosinophilic Esophagitis. It’s kind of a cousin to asthma, but affects the esophagus, and mimics GERD. Like asthma, EoE is rare (well, more rare than asthma) but increasing. My daughter is doing really well now, and sleeps like a baby…which we wish had been the case when she was a baby! 😉 So just a heads-up to anyone whose child has been diagnosed with GERD but still has symptoms such as poor appetite, refusal to eat, poor sleep…outside the norm of regular toddler picky eating and iffy sleeping…so hard to parse out! Sending so much love to all the toddlers and mamas!!!

    • Chris, thank you so much for sharing your story! I really, really appreciate it because I do think this condition is on the rise. Toddlerhood can be challenging for that very reason – so easy to look back and see the signs after a diagnosis, but so hard when you are right in the thick of it to make sense of it all. And thank you for pointing out that link – I will fix it! Blessings and love,Carrie

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