Surviving Toddlerhood, Part 7: Conclusion

Toddlerhood is such a fun time. Challenging, but fun. It is, of course, important to remember that no two toddlers are the same. Some will be more demanding and some will be easier to work with. But, no matter what, a toddler is just a small person and if we remember where they are developmentally and what their needs are, toddlerhood doesn’t have to be so painful.

Toddlers want to know if they are good enough, if it is okay to be who they are. They are testing boundaries in attempts to figure out who they are and what they can and cannot do. They are also very egocentric. They cannot understand another person’s point of view. To them, the world literally is all about them. Sure, some toddlers are amazingly empathetic and caring (I know my son is probably the most caring person I know), but, most of the time, they are only thinking of what they like and what they want.

Toddlerhood is such a magical time, full of wonder and frustration. They are little explorers who will jump right into the middle of danger. They will push the boundaries and your limits. But they do this to figure out themselves and life. With some solid boundaries and ample opportunities to do self-guided exploration, they can discover their own sense of wonder, and you can experience the world through new eyes. I know my toddler is constantly doing this, always pushing and testing and discovering. It can be tough to let go, especially when they’re so young, but they need it.

Want to know a few things that help me?

Off and on for the past 10 years I have worked as a behavior interventionist for children with autism. I picked up a few things since most of the children I worked with were toddlers.

  • Be fun. Be so much fun they never want you to leave. Well, actually, be so much fun that they become tired and will take that nap! But, seriously, be fun and engaging. I’ve found that the more attention and the more fun I bring to the table, the better behaved my toddler is. Being punished takes away that fun and attention, and most kids don’t like that.
  • Provide ample learning opportunities. I’m not the type of person who will punish the first time a bad behavior occurs. I will, though, reward a positive behavior or response. But I don’t punish. I give a warning, explaining why the behavior was wrong, what to do instead, and what will happen the next time. Of course, the standard is to punish the first time so they learn, but are they learning or are they living in fear because the punishment frightened them since they had no idea what they were doing was wrong? I don’t know about your toddler, but mine takes the warning to heart and doesn’t repeat a bad behavior most of the time.
  • Teach in steps. Don’t expect a toddler to be able to do something in one try. Don’t expect a toddler to be able to clean up an entire mess on their own. The mess is easy to make, but the clean up is usually more structured and may be harder for a toddler to remember or figure out. Guide your toddler and help. Teach as you go along and give increasing responsibility to your toddler as they learn.

Let’s not forget the tantrums. The dreaded, inevitable tantrums. The important thing is to remember to stay calm. When you get worked up, your toddler gets even more worked up. Stay calm and be the emotional anchor your child needs. I’m a behaviorist at heart, so my tips come from that center. To take a look at what I do and what I learned as a behavior interventionist, hop on over here or check out what Just Breathe Mama had to say.

Finally, toddlerhood involves a precarious balance between giving control and choices, but not too much. Toddlers are little people. They should be treated with the same respect as any other person would be given. Of course, that doesn’t mean they are capable of running the show, but give them some choices (that you control) to at least give them the illusion of having some control. Treat them like a person. But remember you are always in control.

But I’m not the only one with a toddler. If you missed them, here are some fantastic toddler moms brimming with wisdom:

I hope some of this has helped make toddlerhood a little less stressful. I’ve found it to be an amazing time and am actually dreading my oldest aging out of these toddler years.

Have fun and enjoy the toddler years! It doesn’t have to be difficult and dreaded! I can’t wait for my baby to be a toddler. Wait. Yes I can. I don’t want her to grow up! The dilemma of parenthood.

  1. MS//Mommy

    Staying calm through the tantrums is such a hard thing to do sometimes. I’ve managed it so far, but we’re at the very beginning of the Terrible Twos. Once he gets more vocal and able to throw himself down with confidence I am not sure how calm I will stay in those moments. Weaponized tantrums are what one of my friends calls them.

    • kat

      Weaponized tantrums, I like it! While I’m lucky my toddler has never done this, I’ve seen it and it is scary. But I’ve learned that toddlers tantrum for a reason, much like adults, and it seems easier to handle them when you know why. And parents like to say the threenagers are worse than the terrible twos, so we’re all really just doomed. Best of luck, but hopefully you have a good toddler!

  2. MS//Mommy

    Thanks! I agree that tantrums are no different than adult “tantrums” – it’s just figuring out the root cause and helping them manage their emotions that can be difficult. I forget to keep that in mind every time (but will think about it later). I think being aware that they are like us but without the words and filter helps a lot. I am trying to beef up his emotional word vocabulary so when he’s upset he can better identify which emotion he’s feeling (mad, frustrated, discouraged, etc) when he’s old enough. That way I can help him work out the problem with minimal discipline (a tantrum out of frustration may not be deserving of a time out whereas one out of anger might). Basically tailor my response to his needs so he can work through it in a healthy manner.

    • kat

      This is such an amazing plan! So many parents always seem like a fish out of water when they happen, so preparation at an early age is absolutely helpful. I wish I had taught my toddler emotions earlier on as he sometimes gets confused now, but we take time now to explain to him and have learned to start early with our daughter. Fingers crossed that tantrums turn out to be easily managed!

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