- 06 Nov 2017
The wonderful world of parenting toddlers aged 2 and 3
Parenting a toddler can be a joyful time, filled with laughs, cuddles and proud moments of huge milestones accomplished. In 2- and 3-year-olds enormous progress is made in language, physical, cognitive, social as well as emotional development. Toddlers start to move out of the attachment system (parent and child) that has provided security in infancy, towards individuation and a sense of autonomous thought and action (Davies, 2011). Therefore, parents play an important role in supporting and assisting toddlers during this time of learning and growth. Toddlers need opportunities in which they can feel a sense of control and individuality and which provide them with responsibility, as long as there is a parent nearby to assist when frustration creeps in. Apart from the fast development and the wonderful times that can be had, this stage is often referred to as the terrible twos or ‘threenager’ years and can pose problems for parents. Some valuable information and practical tips for some common challenging behaviour related to this age group are provided below.
What you need to know: Stay calm! This is just a stage and (most importantly) your toddler is not ‘throwing a tantrum’ or acting out merely to spite you. These young children are too egocentric and self-involved to even consider how you are feeling in a given situation. It is all about them and wanting to fulfil their needs. It is important to note that children aged two have not yet developed the cognitive skills to make sense of their feelings and to separate feelings from the self. The result is that they are unable to manage these feelings by themselves and need your help.
Practical tips: Toddlers are often more prone to throw tantrums when they are tired, hungry or over stimulated. Listen to your child and what he or she is communicating. Allow them to experience the feeling, acknowledge their feeling by then naming the feeling for them (thus teaching emotional vocabulary) rather than indicating that what they are feeling is inappropriate and should be suppressed. Say “You feel really angry at….” when your child is determined to do something that you do not agree with. For instance, if the child wants to play in the dog’s water bowl, instead of grabbing the bowl and declaring that he or she is making a mess, ask yourself “How can I fulfil my child’s need to play in water that will be acceptable to both of us?” One way of dealing with the issue could be to say: “This is Bolts drinking water, but what if we take a plastic bowl from the kitchen and you can play outside with some water.”
Not wanting to share
What you need to know: It is normal for toddlers not to want to share their toys; this should not be expected of them. They are the centre of their universe, the toy, or other object is seen as a part of who they are. They are busy developing their own identity and ideas of ownership and cannot consider or understand that others have different needs and wishes that might conflict with theirs. They will not remain at this stage for ever. From about age three they begin to get a sense of others around them.
Practical tips: Acknowledge and accept your child’s feelings not to share. When your child is older and starts to share, respect that there might be some toys that he or she might not want to share. When you have visitors prepare your child ahead of the time by saying: “Remember Jimmy and Alice will be coming over tonight and they will want to play with your toys? How do you feel about this? Are there any toys that are special to you that you rather want to put away for now?”
Not wanting to take a bath
What you need to know: Children at this age are still very young and have a lot to learn about the world and those around them. Don’t expect them to understand your responsibility to keep them clean. They live in a wonderful fantasy world, and not preparing them for what could happen next could break down the wonderful sandcastles that they have created in their minds. Your child might be planning what she wants to do with her doll when you suddenly tell her that she needs to get dressed or have a bath. It is understandable that this will cause resistance.
Practical tips: Always prepare a child in advance for what will happen next. You can say “I see you really enjoy playing with your doll now, but in a few minutes we will be taking a bath, so you will have to put your doll away, or she can sit with us in the bathroom”. Go back and remind your child that it’s almost time; for instance you can tell her “the bath is almost full”. Entering your child’s fantasy world could also be very helpful. There are wonderful cloth animal puppets on the market that can be used to grab your child’s attention. Use the puppet to have a conversation about how much he (Freddy the frog) enjoys the time that they spend in the bath. Have a conversation and let the frog ask about the child’s day. It is amazing how much toddlers are willing to share with a toy!
Always prepare your child for what will happen next. When the weekend is over on Sunday night remind your child that the next day will be a work and school day. When you go to the shop say “We are going to the shop just now, and today we will be buying only bread and milk,” and keep to what you have said. Take the time to listen to what your child is saying, rather than complaining about how they make it difficult for you to get your things done. Always explain and give information, never say only “Yes” or “No”. I believe that this creates understanding and respect and develops reasoning and curiosity.
It is also important for parents to be aware of themselves. If they are tired or have a head ache they should communicate to their children that they are acting differently because they are not feeling well. This is a great teaching moment for a child as she or he will start to consider the feelings and needs of others. Communicate as much as you can with your child in order for her or him to make sense of the world. Embrace every developmental stage and support your child to master every skill. Provide positive feedback and a lot of encouragement, but remember to take a break and to look after yourself!