Sunday, September 24, 2017

Toddler… . What a unique and special time in your child’s developmental process.  If you have a toddler, you will be very familiar with most of the points on this list! If you have a newborn, you will become familiar with these points very soon. If you don’t have kids, you probably have seen toddlers in the store, park, or airplane.
Wikipedia describes a toddler as “a child 12 to 36 months old.The toddler years are a time of great cognitive, emotional and social development. The word is derived from "to toddle", which means to walk unsteadily, like a child of this age.”

So, let’s look into the most common behaviors our toddlers will most likely demonstrate in their 2-3 year old period. I personally do not like the term “terrible twos”, and prefer it to be called in a more respectful and loving manner. How about “new stage of emotional development” or “a young learner of his boundaries”?

1) Biting
Biting is a normal part of childhood development. Many children between age 1 to 3 will go through a biting phase, but they eventually outgrow it. Especially for first time parents it’s shocking to see how their sweet and cute little boy attacks his friend at the park and bites him to tears. Of course, we want them to stop biting and discourage this behavior as early as possible. The most common reasons for biting are the following: curiosity (checking adult’s reaction), frustration (haven’t learned how to deal with this feeling), teething (mostly for 12-18 months old), lack of attention. So, how can we react to our children's biting and help them outgrow this stage faster? Encourage your child to use his words instead of biting. Say, “Please, stop biting and use your words. Tell him why you are frustrated, but don’t hurt him. He doesn’t like your actions.” (Never tell your child, “He doesn't’ like YOU, instead be specific in describing his actions that were not appropriate). If the child doesn’t stop, physically remove him from another person, be gentle but firm. The child needs to see that his behavior is not acceptable. If the child doesn't know how to speak, tell him in a firm voice, that he needs to stop immediately. By your tone, he will know that his actions are not OK.

2). Hitting
Hitting is also a common toddler behavior. Most of the time, the reasons for toddler’s hitting are the same as for biting. If they are unhappy, first reaction is to attack. Your toddler doesn’t yet have those social skills that we adults have. Explain to your child as often as needed that by hurting someone he makes that person very sad and that he needs to use his words and wait for his turn. If your child doesn’t stop, tell him you are going to take him to do another activity instead. Offer a quiet book or something else he likes to do. Make sure you explain to the child, why he can’t play with his friend. Ask, if he wants to comfort his friend by getting him an ice pack.  

3). Lying
When your child lies to you or the first time, we don’t know how to react. Some educators chose to ignore it, some laugh, others give long lectures. The fact is, your toddler until age 3-4 cannot differentiate the difference between reality and fantasy. They also like imagining things and in their mind they truly believe that chocolate is under that pillow. The most important thing is for adults to tell their child the truth. Do not lie in front of them to other people. They will model your behavior, not your words. Encourage your kids every time they tell you the real story. Say, “I'm so proud of you for telling me exactly what happened. Now we know the whole story.” Show your toddler that you trust him. You can say, “I trust you will be gentle with your younger friend.” Also, try not to ask questions, when you know the answer. If you saw your child’s face covered in chocolate, don’t ask him, “What did you just do?” Instead, tell him, “I see what you just did. It looks like we are not going to have chocolate after dinner. You already had your portion”.

4). Learning to share
When a few toddlers get together, conflicts and misunderstandings regularly arise. Adults should look at these situations as great opportunities for children to work through their feelings in positive and peaceful way so that it will eventually lead to social and emotional maturity. It’s important to not force your child to share or apologize, rather help them to take turns and respect each other’s feelings. For example, instead of commanding, “Give this toy to your friend!”, try something like this:”Your friend really wants to play with this toy too. How about you play with it for one more minute, and then it will be his turn.” Toddlers, like any other children or even adults, do not like to be forced to share or apologize. They need reasoning for our actions or recommendation. I have noticed, my son will most likely listen if he understands why I ask him to do certain things.

5). Running away
Toddlers run away not because they want to be misbehaved children. They do it because they enjoy their new sense of independence. They are very excited about this new opportunity to feel and act free. Encourage and provide as many opportunities as you can for them to freely run: gated parks are the best for this. Also, if there is any chance of danger, firmly hold your child’s hand and tell them they cannot run on the street and explain why and provide examples. If your boundaries will be always the same, your toddler will know what to expect differently on a parking lot and in a big gated park. Even if it seems like they will be always upset about holding your hand, the time will pass and they will actually want to do that.

6). Screaming
Screaming in toddler’s language means “Look at me! I'm here!” or “I'm not happy you took away that toy!” They think if they will be very loud, they might get what they need faster. Often, that is the case. That's why they have that strategy ready to be used any time. What doesn't work is to scream back at them. It sends the wrong message “You are telling me I can't scream, but you do it. So I can do it. Let’s see who can do it louder.” Acknowledge your child’s needs and provide many opportunities for him to get what he likes. Positive discipline teaches us to encourage all the right choices your child makes. Say, “Thank you for being so quiet at the table. I can see you enjoy your dinner.” Also, let them scream somewhere. My house rule is if you feel like screaming, please do so, but in the backyard. What’s interesting is my child never asked me to go outside and scream. He simply stops because my reminder distracts him. Sometimes, at the park he would ask, “Can I scream for a little bit?” Of course, he can. If we are too strict with our rules, and never let children express their emotions, such as screaming or running, we aren’t helping our toddlers develop.

7). Throwing tantrums
Toddlers tend to have temper tantrums because they have very strong emotions and simply do not know how to express themselves.The toddler is discovering that he is a separate being from his parent and is testing the boundaries in learning the way this world works. It’s important to use a calm and loving voice when dealing with temper tantrums. Ideally, you can change the environment or distract the child by offering water or a new activity. I personally try to be firm and consistent by not letting the child get what he is throwing tantrum for. If you are changing your methods all the time, the child gets confused and doesn't know why the boundaries change and how to react. Another reason for a tantrum can be that your toddler is just very tired or hungry. It’s difficult to control their emotions, when they haven’t slept or eaten well. Offer them food and rest.
Also, try to analyze when and why your toddler has most of his tantrums. After doing so, if possible avoid those scenarios. For example, if your child can’t live without your cell phone, do not text the whole day in front of him, and keep his frustration level to minimum.

8). Throwing objects
Usually your toddler wants to throw an object when he is frustrated. The toy can be too challenging and he just can’t handle it. Sometimes (in early years) the child is just curious how far that cylinder will roll or how noisy that sound will be. Developmentally it’s appropriate but needs to be addressed. Ask the child not to do this again and explain what happens if he will. Follow through with the consequences (usually removing the frustration causing object). If you do, very soon your child will know what to expect and will learn how to handle himself.

9). Whining
Whining like every other point on this list always has its cause. There are many reasons for the child to whine: hunger, tiredness, exhaustion, frustration, lack of attention etc. Ask the child, how you can make him feel better. Let him know you understand his feelings and try to help. You can say, “I can see you are very tired. Let’s get ready for bed.” After these words, there is a high chance your child would whine even more, then offer him to take his favorite toy to shower with him.  

10). Interrupting
Little toddlers can’t hold their thoughts for too long. If they have an idea or an exciting comment, they physically cannot wait until you finish your conversation. It doesn't mean you cannot help them to get that skill. For example, if you are in a middle of a conversation with your friend, and your child keeps on telling you something, it wouldn’t hurt if you pause for a minute and tell your friend, “My son is trying to tell me something. Can you wait for just a minute?” Your toddler would feel respected and important in his family. After he finishes, say,” Thank you for sharing. Now I need to get back to my friend. We will talk with you again very soon’. Hopefully, you can avoid an hour long conversations while you are with your child. The good news, by age 3-4 your child’s short term memory will be able to hold on to a thought for a little longer.

I hope this list will be helpful in your journey with your precious toddler! The good thing is they will grow out of this “new stage of emotional development” very fast!

“It is after this that the child, who can now walk and feels confident of his strength, begins to notice the actions of those about him, and tries to do the same things. In this period he imitates not because someone has told him to do so, but because of a deep inner need which he feels.” M.Montessori

Copyright © My Montessori Family