Six Steps to Toddler Success

One of the greatest benefits of the Early Childhood Family Education program in the Hopkins School District is the acknowledgement from others that you aren’t alone in dealing with the parenting issues that arise. The parents in ECFE produce great brainstorms and ideas when they put their heads together to find solutions to parenting conundrums.

Lately, one of the top discussions we have been having in our classes is how to best meet the needs of the toddlers in our families. We have an understanding and compassion for what it is like to be a two- year-old.  We understand that developmentally much of what they do that drives us crazy is also very typical behavior and in many ways necessary behavior if they are to grow, learn and develop into competent teenagers (who will likely also drive us crazy…) 

Toddler goals and adult goals are very often wildly different. In fact, a toddler’s entire approach to life is wildly different than an adult’s approach to life! We as parents need to set up practices that allow for our child’s success at this stage in life, while also ensuring his long term success by shaping behavior slowly into something that will better suit him as he gets older. No small feat!

When the parents (and we have been lucky to also welcome grandparents into our classroom as well!) in our ECFE class looked at this monumental task, we decided to focus on just a few things we could do that would ensure a child’s success during these years. We spent some time deciding what were the most important steps we could take right now. The group came up with a great list of concrete and applicable practices that they could fit into their parenting immediately.  

We wanted to share the list with you, so that you too could benefit from their hard work and supportive brainstorming:

Lower your expectations for what you can do in your day. Give yourself a break as a parent. No one is getting everything done–they are prioritizing their schedules. Be the parent that prioritizes the health and success of your child–let that last errand go if your child is getting tired, or take the time to read one more story at bedtime rather than finish up the last of the laundry.

Label your child’s feelings and your own feelings. Starting early to label your child’s feelings (angry, frustrated, happy, calm) helps them to learn to associate the feelings in their body with the word that goes with it. This is the first step in being able to deal with feelings through words, rather than tantrums or outbursts. By modeling for your child the labeling of your own feelings, you are showing him how to respond appropriately to the situations that arise in life. For example: “Mommy is really frustrated the toys are all over the floor. Let’s solve the problem by picking them up together.” 

Avoid rushing as much as you can. Toddlers are natural dawdlers. It is in their nature to be easily distracted by every detail. Set yourself up for success by streamlining your environment for efficiency, and by preparing in advance in order to have that wiggle time so you don’t feel rushed.  Waking up 15-30 minutes early in the morning, or setting clothes or lunches out the evening before, or canceling one activity so that you have more time in the day are all strategies that can help you feel more in control of your own time, and therefore more focused on helping your child complete the few activities he needs to get done in his own time.

Use concrete examples for time. Moving from one thing to another for most toddlers is really difficult. Ease their transition between activities by using real life examples of how time is going to pass before you have to leave an activity or shift to something new. This helps him to see what is going to happen, and helps you to focus on following through on the transition once it is time. For example: “After I push you three more times on the swing we are going to go to the car and go home.”

Be strong and be consistent. Toddlers may give the impression that they are unhappy when we follow through with a limit. Whether they see it or not, they need to understand at a very basic level that what we say is true. If we say that on the third push of the swing we are going home, the toddler needs to see that follow through. He won’t necessarily be happy that he is leaving the park (saying goodbye to fun things is hard for all of us) but he does need to know that his caregivers are strong enough to follow through on what they say. This means that he can trust them in all aspects of his life.

If this list is intriguing, and you are interested in learning more and sharing more with parents who are putting their heads together for the success of their children, we invite you to explore an ECFE class yourself! Follow the Early Childhood Education link. or call our office at 952-988-5000.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: