Toddlerhood really is a wonderful stage in a child’s life. The behavior of the one- to four-year-old is judged as being difficult and ‘naughty.’ Parents and caregivers can learn how their toddler’s behavior is developmentally appropriate and correct for their age. Here are some stages that toddlers go through and helpful parenting behaviors:
One to three year olds developmental tasks:
• They need to assert independence. They start saying, “No!” quite a bit. This is not being ‘naughty,’ but is a healthy sign of growing autonomy.
• They need to begin separating when secure, and cling when insecure. Toddlers decide when they feel secure or not. They often go through separation anxiety when their loved ones leave them. They don’t understand that the loved one will be coming back to them very soon.
• They need to explore and discover. Their job is to explore their surroundings with all their senses. Taste (putting everything in their mouths), touch (even when you say, “No!”) hearing, seeing and smelling.
• They need to achieve a measure of control over their lives. They have so little control over their surroundings that spirited children have a difficult time when restrictions are placed on what their desires are.
When a toddler says, “No!” they mean:
• “I want to do it myself.”
• “I don’t want you, I want you.”
• “I can’t share because I don’t understand the concept of ownership yet.”
• “I want to have some control over what happens to me.”
Helpful parenting strategies to facilitate toddlers mastering of developmental tasks:
• Offer many choices between two or three acceptable options.
• Offer many chances for your toddler to try mastering a task. Give them the time to struggle.
• Respect your toddler’s desire for separation or clinginess. A child whose dependency needs are quickly met by the parent become much more independent sooner.
• Childproof your surroundings for safe exploration and discovery.
• Reduce your use of the word, “No.” Use “later”; “after”; “when/then…”
• Accept and acknowledge all feelings. Only behaviors have limits.
• Don’t expect a child under three to share their possessions.
Toddlerhood is a terrific stage of a child’s life. Enjoy!
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