Usually my advice on toddler years is JUST GET THROUGH IT. While I recognise this is not terribly practical advice, I recollect days of tantrums over the wrong coloured bowl and the dreaded ‘NO’ word being thrown around on a regular basis.
It’s not easy to reason with little people who have not developed a rational brain. However, our little toddlers DO understand a lot more than we often give them credit for.
One thing I feel very strongly about for children at any age is routine and explicit expectations. This needs to start very early. It’s often hard to see the progress and improvements we make day by day, but I solemnly believe that CONSISTENCY is the key to SUCCESS.
Here are 3 ways you can set your toddler on a path towards independence and confidence
- TALK THROUGH EVERYTHING YOU DO. Cleaning your teeth? Use a dialogue to explain how, why, when and where. You might feel silly saying ‘Time to clean my teeth! I need to get all that yucky food off them, so they are strong and healthy!!’ but your words are teaching your children in a rational way what they need to do to be a grown up like you. This strategy is particularly helpful around all ROUTINE activities – getting dressed, eating breakfast, having a bath… the more playful, present and particular you can be, the more connected and clued in your child will become.
- VISUALS HELP KEEP THEM FOCUSED. Whether your draw a picture, take a photo, do a collage, a painting or print out a clipart – a picture is a great reminder of a task that a child needs to do. When my child was a toddler I bought a manila folder, divided it into four and drew four pictures showing my expectations for the day. The skill I was trying to teach him was independent play, so I kept the other three skills very basic (such as eat, get dressed, teeth). By referring to this chart EVERY day and talking through it regular I was able to gradually detach my son from my hip! Consistency is important – and visuals help reinforce this.
- It is SO important to let kids know EXPLICITY how they are progressing and exactly what they are doing that is demonstrating independence and success. Saying ‘Good girl!’ may seem encouraging, however it doesn’t set them up for repeating this behaviour for the future. More effective would be ‘HEY! You sat on the potty when you needed to do a wee! I could see you needed to go! That was clever thinking!’
The more positive you can be, the more encouraging this will be for your toddler.
Toddler years can be trying; however, they can also be greatly rewarding. Remember to give yourself a break when you can and LAUGH when you can too. There’s a reason why they are so cute!
They were right when they said the days are long, but the years are short. Children offer challenges and rewards at each step of the way. If you can start on a positive path when they are little, this will pave the way for their growth and development.