“Juice.” Your toddler says, banging on the refrigerator door.
“Sorry honey, we’re out of juice. How about some…”
“NOOOOOO!!! Want juice!” He screams as he crumples to a heap on the floor, sobbing.
Lack of juice doesn’t seem like a huge problem to you, but it obviously is the end of the world to your toddler.
Before you run to the store to buy juice or yell, “stop that crying, it’s just juice” let’s take a peek into the world of a 2-year-old.
What to expect?
Every child is different. Some children are more intense or more sensitive, some are easy-going. Some kids exceed developmental milestones by leaps and bounds, some get to them eventually.
In general, you could expect these behaviors from a 2-year-old:
- Showing BIG, BIG feelings.
- Claiming everything as “mine” (even if it’s not theirs).
- Wanting to “do it myself.”
- Still wanting to be babied.
- Thinking they’re big, feeling sad/frustrated/upset when they realize they’re not
- Difficulty sharing, waiting, taking turns, impulse control, etc.
- Difficulty with transitions.
- Change in eating and sleeping habits.
What to do.
Like most things in parenting, there is no 3-step procedure to curb all of your child’s unwanted behavior. Many parents turn to “quick-fixes” like timeouts or ignoring.
Your child needs your help to regulate their big emotions, and to do that, you need a variety of strategies, tips and tricks.
These 10 things work together to provide your child with support, encouragement and safety during this time of growth and development:
- Empathize: You may not care that the blue plate is dirty, but your child does. Put yourself in their shoes and let them know that you understand the challenge (even if you don’t agree). “You were really hoping for the blue plate today! I know it’s your favorite.”
- Limit “no”: Save the word “no” for dangerous or really serious situations. Instead, use redirection, “Those are mommy’s pens, let’s find some crayons for you to use.” Or, turn a “no” into a “yes, with a condition” by saying, “You may go outside after we change your diaper!”
- Make observations: Toddlers learn by doing. Instead of doling out consequences for these “learning activities,” talk about what happened. “Wow, all of the blocks fell out of the basket when you dumped it over!” Or, “You pulled all of the books off the shelf!” (then move on to teaching…)
- Teach: Act as your child’s guide to better behavior by taking the time to explore and practice new ways to manage difficult situations. “You both want the ball. I’m going to roll my ball to you. Can you roll it back?” Act it out together, use their toys, tell a story, draw a picture, etc.
- Be silly: Channel your inner-child by bringing some joy, laughter and silliness into your day. Use a robot voice to make a request, chase them around the room walking like a gorilla, or put a pair of their pants on your head. Look for ways to turn boring or mundane things into a game.
- Give them the words: Your child may not be able to verbalize her thoughts or feelings in a way that is rational and logical (or coherent). Model alternative ways to express her need: “Your shoe is too tight.” or “You need one more hug before mommy goes bye-bye.”
- Set boundaries: Help your child feel safe and secure by clarifying the boundaries in their life, such as, “no running in the street,” to “you can be mad and we do not hit others.” Expect some resistance, and stay consistent and empathize with their feelings.
- Slow down: Toddlers move at their own pace. (Sometimes this pace requires a lot of patience from you!) Look for ways to go with their natural rhythm. Instead of always forcing him to “hurry up,” plan a lot of extra time so he can look at each and every bug on the way to the car.
- Change the environment: Use baby gates, cabinet locks, and limit access to breakable or unsafe objects. Give them access to age-appropriate things using low coat hooks or stools. And, find areas of the house or community where they can be loud, messy or energetic!
- Encourage independence: Your child may be capable of more than you realize! Your first instinct may be to step in and do it for them, but kids learn a lot through struggle and challenge. Give them opportunities to help with tasks or try something new before you intervene.
And one more thing…
Enjoy this time!
Pretty soon your child will stop calling trains “choo-choos” and cats “meows.” They will stop asking for you to push them on the swing or help them feed their baby dolls.
Even though you can’t imagine it right now, as you stand in your juice-less kitchen with a crying toddler…but, you may actually miss these days.
Still not so sure?
Sometimes, reading a blog post can leave you feeling even more confused or overwhelmed. If the toddler phase is a little too overwhelming or if you’re struggling to understand just how these pieces actually work for your child, I offer Parent Coaching to parents worldwide. We will meet “face-to-face” and talk through these challenges, finding personalized solutions that work for you and your child. Learn more about Parent Coaching!