How to Be a Great Parent to a Toddler

Three Methods:Developing Your RelationshipEncouraging Your Toddler's Growing IndependenceEmploying Proper Discipline

Your child's toddler years can be a time of both great joy and occasional frustration. Your little person is becoming just that -- a little person, with his or her own needs, wants, and opinions. Building a strong relationship during this important stage in your child's life will provide you both with a firm foundation for the next exciting steps in his or her development.

Method 1
Developing Your Relationship

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    Show your love. You simply cannot be too loving toward your child. Children aren't "spoiled" by an overabundance of affection. "Spoiling" is the result of substituting things for affection. Toddlers, in particular, need time when they can just "be," snuggling on your lap or enjoying a long hug.[1][2]
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    Accept your child as an individual. Your toddler is starting to develop his or her own personality. Some of these behaviors are learned, while others are genetic. You will find that he or she is becoming an individual, with a unique combination of traits shared with you and traits that may be distinctly different.
    • Find ways of nurturing your child's growing personality through positive reinforcement. A strong-willed toddler, for example, has the gift of perseverance. Encourage this strong will in a positive direction -- by providing a challenging toy, for example.[3]
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    Play with your child. Set aside a special time each day to play with your toddler. Play provides you with an opportunity to encourage your child's good behavior and build a positive relationship.
    • Prioritize creative activities. Encourage your child's growing imagination with dress-up play, kitchen fun, or arts and crafts (the more open-ended, the better), or invent your own worlds.
    • Provide age-appropriate toys to keep playtime safe and fun.[4]
    • Show enthusiasm for your child's interests. Toddlers often develop obsessions as they seek to understand the big, complicated world around them. Obsessing over fire trucks, car washes, fancy rocks, or sliding doors helps them focus in and understand one slice of their world. You may find your toddler's obsessive focus upon every piece of construction equipment you pass tedious, but feigning interest will help her learn her interests have worth.[5]
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    Communicate well. Pay attention to your child when he or she is speaking to you. While you may set ground rules about when and how your toddler should interrupt your conversations with other people, be sure you do follow through and give them your full attention in turn.
    • Bear in mind that "interpreter" is part of a toddler parent's job description. Your child's language skills are growing by leaps and bounds, but as you're well aware, they are still a work in progress. Exercise patience in discerning what your toddler is telling you. Keep phrases short, repeat yourself, and be aware of the context your toddler is communicating to you through gestures and tone of voice.[6]
    • Set aside time each day to talk with your child. You'll develop his communication skills and your relationship as you practice speaking with each other.
    • Praise your child. Positive reinforcement is key to encouraging good behavior and develops your toddler's sense of self-worth.[7]
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    Remember you are a role model. Your child looks to you for guidance. Ensure you're teaching good skills by taking care of your own body and treating others well. Toddlers will parrot your actions; think twice before behaving or speaking in a way you wouldn't like to see mirrored by your 2-year-old.

Method 2
Encouraging Your Toddler's Growing Independence

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    Give structure to your child's world. Ritual and predictability help toddlers feel safe as their sense of their world expands. You may need to recite the day's events to your child each morning. Establishing mealtime and bedtime routines will provide important benchmarks for your child's day. A sense of security in everyday life will give your child a strong foundation for developing his own sense of independence.
    • Needing a special blanket or stuffed animal at nap and bedtime isn't just fussiness -- these tools provide an important sense of security. Respect your child's need for this structure.[8]
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    Practice independence skills. Toddlers sometimes experience separation anxiety. Even a child who was happy to be held by others as a baby may become clingy during her toddler years. Encourage your child's independence using incremental steps:
    • Keep your toddler posted. If you're heading into the next room, tell her. If Daddy is going to work, Daddy should be sure to say good-bye and mention where he's going.
    • Substitute voice contact. When a little voice starts demanding your attention through the shower door, respond -- but keep showering.
    • Provide "long-distance" help. If your child is struggling with a toy, for example, provide verbal encouragement from across the room, but don't immediately intervene. Give her the opportunity to solve her problem on her own.[9]
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    Encourage relationships with other loving adults. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and family friends may all provide wonderful influences and help your child grow in independence. Invite others into your child's life so he learns that other people provide help and care, too. A child who understands "safe" relationships will feel loved and secure, and will be able to discern when a person or situation feels "unsafe."[10]
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    Focus on achieving interdependence. A baby is, of course, dependent. A toddler who demands to do something "by my-SELF!" is asserting independence. Aim to help your child gain a third step toward maturity: interdependence. An interdependent child has the drive to accomplish tasks by herself, but the wisdom to ask for help to do it better. Interdependence means you and your child rely upon each other to bring out the best in each other. After all, you won't be able to parent your child well if he isn't capable of challenging you to help him as he grows.
    • Monitor your child's play. Give him the opportunity to play alone, but be willing to join in when he asks.
    • Remain alert for signs your child is trying to make space between you. This is a normal and healthy part of child development as her imagination grows and develops.[11]

Method 3
Employing Proper Discipline

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    Establish consistent rules and expectations. Again, toddlers thrive on predictability. Respond to your child's behavior in the same way every time. Family rules should focus upon clearly defined behaviors that are never okay.[12]
    • Minimize your list of rules. Prioritize safety, then focus on modifying a few behaviors at a time rather than overwhelming your child with too much detail. [13]
    • You may reward your child for good behavior, but emphasize social rewards such as affection, praise, and activities.[14]
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    Explain your rules and decisions. Even toddlers need to understand why you want them to follow the rules.[15]
    • Explain, for example, that we don't run in the house because the hardwood floors are really slick.
    • If you institute a practice like touching Mom's knee and then waiting to talk when she's in a conversation, explain that it's important to give people your full attention. Mom's friend deserves her full attention when she's speaking; once she's finished, she'll turn to you and give you her full attention, too.
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    Cope well with tantrums. Toddlers are easily overwhelmed, and as they lack the coping skills of older children or adults, their feelings tend to erupt into the outbursts we call "tantrums." Minimize the impact of tantrums by following a few wise practices:
    • Know your child's limits. Your child might not understand what you're asking her to do. Alternatively, if she is already tired, hungry, or otherwise stressed, her capacity to understand may be compromised.
    • Give your child guidance in how to follow the rules. Offer suggestions -- rather than simply telling him to "stop hitting," suggest that he takes turns.
    • Respond to "no" calmly by simply repeating your request.
    • Pick your battles.
    • When possible, offer choices. Limit choices to two or three options to avoid overwhelming your toddler.
    • Avoid situations that could trigger outbursts. A toy that's too difficult is sure to cause frustration, and long outings can exhaust your child. Remember that your child is more likely to throw a tantrum when she's hungry, tired, sick, or in an unfamiliar situation.
    • Keep to your daily routine.
    • Encourage your child to use his words to express his feelings.[16]
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    Bring other caregivers on board. Keep your child's world calm and predictable by working with caregivers and relatives to ensure you're all following the same rules and expectations. Sometimes grandparents and other relatives will seek to follow the practices they used when raising children and resist your requests. If all else fails, blame the pediatrician -- "I'm sorry, but our doctor has told us Robert shouldn't have juice."[17]
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    Treat your child with respect. Treat your child how you'd like her to treat others. Speak politely, respect her opinion, pay attention when she's speaking, and treat her kindly. She'll mirror this behavior.[18]

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Categories: Parenting