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Into the Mind of your Toddler

Into the Mind of your Toddler

By Amy McCready, Postive Parenting Solutions founder and TODAY Moms contributor

As difficult as the terrible twos are for you, they’re even more frustrating for your child. Not only is your little one encountering the world around him in a whole new way—and becoming increasingly involved in it—he’s also learning a brand new language. Every day brings new sights, skills and emotions, and it’d be a lot for even the most confident adult to manage. He needs your help to navigate the prides and pitfalls of his life as he becomes more independent – yet he doesn’t know he needs your help, let alone how to communicate it. If your toddler could articulate what he really needs, he might say something like this:

“Mom, Dad, I know you guys are really frustrated and overwhelmed right now with my terrible twos. I’m trying let you know that although I’m just a toddler, I need to be understood, and I need to be allowed to have a say in my life.

Since you don’t ‘get it’ and I don’t have the words to say it, all I can do is whine, refuse to cooperate, act helpless and throw tantrums. I’m obviously not getting through to you so I’ll keep it up – louder and more often. But I sure wish you would figure me out so I can stop acting like this.”

There’s a lot going on in your toddler’s mind right now. You can help him feel loved and empowered if you heed the following tips:

5 things your toddler wants you to know:

1) “Pay attention to me! And not just when I’m doing something wrong! I have my ways of getting attention from you (remember that ill-fated display in the grocery store, or the time I got into your potting soil?). But what I really want is for you to give me the happy kind of attention—the kind we both enjoy—once or twice a day. And by the way, I can tell when you’re only ‘half-there’ so can you leave your Blackberry in your briefcase?”

It may sound like a little thing, but taking time once or twice every single day to play with your child and give her your undivided attention, means she won’t have to whine or act helpless for it. Ten to 15 minutes, twice a day, is really all it takes. Consider it an investment—you’ll get that time back tenfold in good behavior, since your child can count on getting the positive attention she needs.

2) “Let me have some control over my life. You’ve been calling all the shots up until now: when I get up, what I wear, what I eat, when I go to bed. But now it’s time for me make more decisions during the day. Would it really hurt anything if I got to choose whether to wear sandals or tennis shoes, eat toast or eggs, or whether to use the Batman or the Buzz Lightyear toothbrush?”

Hanna Andersson

Here’s a little secret from the treasure trove of toddler wisdom: there’s a very good chance you can end the tooth-brushing battle simply by offering a choice. And this applies to other power struggles as well. Every time you let your child make a decision, he feels like he has more control over his life. When he is given this kind of positive power, he won’t feel the need to throw tantrums or refuse to cooperate to get the control he’s constantly looking for.

3) “I can be capable and contribute, but you’ll have to teach me how. I’m growing up and I want to do “grown up” things. And you do way more things for me that you need to! If you take the time to teach me, I can probably pretty much dress myself and get my own snack as long as it’s not out of my reach. And that Swiffer thing you push around? I sure would love to get my hands on that to help out!”

Believe it or not, there are many tasks your toddler can take on to not only help you around the house, but also feel important and valuable through the positive power she gains through these contributions. She simply needs you to teach her how to do them. With a little instruction, she can probably help set the table, match socks, feed the pets, and even wipe off counters with a step stool. Training your child to help out in these ways and others will save you time in the long run, and move your child toward empowering, age-appropriate independence.

4) “It’s better if you don’t give in to my tantrums. Really. When I lose it because you dragged me all over creation and I missed my nap, then I need some serious comforting. But when I’m throwing a fit because I didn’t get my way, I’m just trying to make you give in. I tried it once and it really works, so that’s why I keep doing it!”

When you start implementing tips 1-3 above, there’s a good chance you’ll see a sizeable reduction in tantrums, as your toddler will have the positive attention and power he needs. But if he does still throw the occasional tantrum, you can feel free to just ignore it and walk away (as long as he’s in a safe place). Once he knows he’s not going to get attention and power from his tantrums, he’ll stop. It’s no fun having a tantrum if there’s no audience!

5) “When I’m trying to tell you something, please be patient and work with me! Remember, I don’t actually have a good way to tell you all of this stuff—nor can I always make it clear that my shoes are pinching my feet, or that I’ve developed a new fear of heights or that I saw a really cool truck back there and I’d like to know what kind it is. I’m just trying to be understood!”

Each of the tips in this article is a clue into your toddler’s mind—but every day she’s trying to communicate and learn many more specific things. When you can’t understand your toddler, remember to stay calm, be patient, get down to her level and try different strategies to uncover her message (pointing, for instance). The more you can work to understand her verbal and nonverbal cues (and help her understand her environment), the more confident and even-keeled your child will be, and the less she’ll need to whine and tantrum in an attempt to get your help or attention.

Believe it or not, it is possible for you and your toddler to get along even during this tricky time. By giving him the positive attention and positive power he needs, you can not only avoid a lot of the misbehaviors that drive both of you crazy, but also help him prepare for even greater independence throughout his childhood.

Amy McCready is the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and mom to two boys, ages 12 and 14. Positive Parenting Solutions teaches parents of toddlers to teens how to correct misbehaviors permanently without nagging, reminding or yelling. For free discipline training resources, visit:

Mon Sep 13, 2010 11:56 AM EDT

Source: TODAYMoms

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