8 Simple Ways to Better Parent Your Toddler

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8 Simple Ways to Better Parent Your Toddler

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Oh my, aren’t toddlers a challenge? Well, maybe not ALL toddlers, but most moms and dads are given a run for their money at some point along the way when parenting these little balls of “me, me, me” control freaks. These pint size love bugs sometimes make parents lose their sense of routine and consistency and guess what? That makes parenting toddlers even MORE challenging!

Here are eight simple tips that moms and dads (and grandmas, grandpas & aunties) can use to better manage the toddlers in their lives by minimizing the meltdowns and maximizing the learning.

 

motor skill development

 

  1. Limit Screen Time: Yes, we live in a digital media world, there’s no getting away from technology. However, as parents, we can control and limit how much screen time WE and our children use. Did you know that there are studies linking early childhood speech delay to parents who spend so much time glued to their screens that they fail to talk & interact with their babies? Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “…parents prioritize creative, unplugged playtime for infants and toddlers. Some media can have educational value for children starting at around 18 months of age, but it’s critically important that this be high-quality programming, such as the content offered by Sesame Workshop and PBS. Parents of young children should watch media with their child, to help children understand what they are seeing.” Many advocate holding off on using TV as entertainment until age two, but the point is, that whenever a child uses digital media that it not be in isolation and that it be made into an interactive experience. In other words, plopping your baby in front of the TV for an hour while you clean is a no-no, and so is handing your child your phone to play games for a half-hour at the restaurant if you are not involved in the game.
  2. Be Consistent-Toddlers respond best to CONSISTENT daily routines. You will be surprised at how much easier their day goes and how much easier your own day goes if you set consistent times for bed, bath, meals, play, naps and wake up. Sure your toddler may protest, but trust me, do NOT deviate! Plan ahead for special occasions and holidays which may necessitate slight changes in routines.
  3. Back Off-Yes, you heard me, back off! Parents want their kids to do well and to be safe and sometimes that means that they tend to over-assist or help their kids too much. And guess what? Helping too much, not only hinders their learning and independence, but it can actually create a learned helplessness where kids tend to ask for help with tasks even when they can do it themselves! It can also create irrational fears of trying new things.
  4. Create One-on-One Time-If you have a bigger family and a busy daily routine with siblings going to dance, soccer, gymnastics or what have you, try to combine family time activities with some one-on-one time with your toddler. Sure, family time is great and encouraged, but each of your children need some one-on-one time with both mom and dad individually several times per week. Send Dad to the grocery store once a month with Billy and Kim, so you can stay home for a solid hour of Mommy and Jessica time. Or plan every Wednesday night as Daddy and Jessica hour before bedtime. Kids learn so much from each parent individually and Moms and Dads have different styles of play and parenting which is equally important to their child.
  5. Limit Your Words-Talking to your toddler is extremely important for speech and language development, but many adults tend to over-talk to their toddlers. Over-talking creates problems because toddlers can’t listen, attend, process and understand at the same level as adults or even at the level of their 5 year old sister. So slow it down and limit your words. Instead of saying “Josh, it’s time to pick up your toys and put them into the toy box because Dad will be home in 10 minutes and then we need to go to the store and pick up orange juice and milk”, say “Josh, put your toys into your toy box”. If you said it all the lengthy way, Josh probably already forgot the request to put his toys away. Once that is complete you can tell him that Dad will be home soon. When Dad gets home you can can let him know you are going to the store in the car…and once you’re at the store you can talk about what you are buying to make it a language rich learning experience.
  6. Be Careful of Your Praise-Do you have a toddler that has the habit of clapping and saying “yeah!” after completing every single task? Well, you created that little monster. Praise is a good thing, but there are many ways to encourage a child without clapping or saying “yeah” after every single block that is correctly put into a shape sorter. Save praise for major accomplishments, such as the first time they strung 4 beads on their own, or for when they followed through with picking up toys without being asked a second time or when they laid down for their nap without putting up a fuss. That makes praise meaningful and not expected.
  7. Don’t Push Potty Training-Of course it would be easier if your toddler was fully potty trained at 18 months. But you can’t force toileting and pushing potty training too soon can backfire on you by scaring your child away from using the toilet. If your child shows dry periods after naps, indicates they want changed because they are uncomfortable or shows an interest in sitting on the potty by all means encourage them. But don’t rush them. These days many children are trained after age 2 and many boys not until 3 or after. If your child is still in diapers at 4, don’t get too stressed out, it is quite rare for a child not to be trained before they enter kindergarten!
  8. Don’t Rush Academic Skills-Many toys for toddlers teach ABC’s and 123’s, but what is more important than letter recognition and counting for toddlers? PLAY! Play is the work of childhood and so many parents want to rush their child into learning the alphabet or counting to 10 that they fail to realize all the important concepts a child is learning simply through playing with trucks, blocks, nesting cups, ring stacks, shape sorters, puzzles and books. Hands on toys, especially toys that DO NOT include batteries, teach a multitude of math, language, sensory, motor and cognitive skills simply through playing with them. Interaction with adults and peers during unstructured play teaches important social and language skills such as cooperation, turn-taking, learning to follow rules, appropriate behavior and more.

Happy Toddler Parenting!

 

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