This article has been supplied and reproduced with permission from the Reconnect Psychology Wellness Centre, a 96five community contributor.
In the previous article, Tips for Parenting Toddlers Part 1, we discussed three important tips to help those of you who are at the stage of parenting toddlers. These tips included ‘being patient’, ‘let them do it’ and ‘choose your battles’. For young toddlers, they are just beginning a remarkable phase of independence. During this time, they are starting to see themselves as separate from you, their caregiver. Before this, they saw themselves as a part of you. Their world literally revolved around you and they relied on you for everything.
Here are some more tips for parenting toddlers to help you walk this exciting, yet sometimes challenging journey.
- Reflect feelings back to them.
Children, from newborns to teenagers, need to learn how to express themselves. This process can start from the very beginning of life. Saying, ‘I know that you are feeling angry and frustrated’, is far better than ‘Stop that yelling!!!!’ This teaches the language of feelings. Acknowledge how your toddler feels and let them know that you understand them. It helps if you get down into their space. It also allows you time to quickly think of what to do next.
- Tell them what is going on.
By telling toddlers what is happening at that moment and how things are going to happen in the future, you take away their anxiety. Put yourself in their shoes—you are happily playing and suddenly someone whisks you away to eat, or change a nappy or go somewhere. How happy would you be about that? Saying things like, ‘Emily, we need to change your nappy and then you can come back and play’, is so much better than just changing their nappy. Tell your toddler what is happening every step of the way. It may sound silly, but it does work. And yes, you can do this with infants to.
- Play with them.
Toddlers want and need lots of attention. The more attention they have in a good way, the less likely they are to try and get it in other ways. From their point of view any attention is better than nothing. Busy parents, the Internet, TV, socialising and other children, can all mean that sometimes toddlers miss out. Playing with your toddler can make a huge difference! Just have fun with them! Go crazy. Do what you liked to do as a kid. Go outside, get dirty, take risks, get wet, play hide and seek, laugh and tickle. Do whatever you want just have fun! And by the way, the benefits to you will also be awesome.
- Turn off the screen (iPhones, tablets, computers, TV).
Research has shown that toddlers and young children should not be playing with electronic devices. They will play with other and more traditional toys if you give them a chance. When you go out, take colouring books and crayons or other small toys with you. At this young age, overuse of tablets and mobile phones is not good for a child’s development. There are many articles on this topic from around the world so have a read and decide what is best for your toddler. The most important thing to learn from this is that YOU are the most important thing that your child needs to play with! A living, breathing human is better than any computer animation!
The Learn Fast website has an interesting article on the role of tablets and other electronic devices entitled Are iPads Making Children Slow to Learn. What the article highlights is that parent communication is as important as ever, so don’t try to substitute your personal interactions with ‘fun’ activities on the computer.
- Watch what you feed them.
When you feed toddlers a lot of sugar … you will regret it! Avoid all fizzy drinks and junk food as much as you can. At this age, they are learning how to eat. So, if you give them water regularly, it is a great way to get them into the habit of drinking water in preference to sweetened drinks. Children’s brains are very malleable, so giving toddlers examples of good habits now, will be forever a lifetime lesson.
So, be patient while letting your toddler develop their independence. It can be an incredibly rich and rewarding time. I do hope that these tips for parenting toddlers will help make this particular time for you and your toddler be ‘The Terrific Twos’.
Leanne Allen (BA Psych), is the principal psychologist at Reconnect Psychology Wellness Centre.