Your Child's Development
"I can do it myself!"
Toddlers are active, curious, bundles of energy. During the years between their first and third birthdays, they are learning to master skills such as walking, talking, and potty training. However, the biggest challenge for toddlers is becoming their own person. With independence comes the child's message "I can do it myself, and my way!" For most parents those words, and the attitude that goes with them, are difficult to tolerate.
Although all children are unique, there are predictable behaviors associated with this developmental stage.
- All typically developing toddlers push for independence.
- Curiosity, testing of limits, imitation and exploration are hallmarks of this stage.
- Toddlers experience frustration as they try to find a balance between dependence and their need for independence.
- A common toddler reaction to frustration is a temper tantrum.
- A negative attitude. A toddler's favorite word is, "NO!" Your toddler is not purposefully trying to be disrespectful. He is merely trying to assert himself and develop an individual identity.
- Self-control is VERY limited before 24-36 months.
How can parents best deal with these challenging times?
- Don't ask questions that require a "yes" or "no" answer because the answer will invariably be "NO!" Try giving choices instead. (i.e. "Would you like cereal or scrambled eggs for breakfast?")
- Allow extra time during the day for your toddler to practice new tasks such as dressing, grooming, and eating. Even if the attempt is unsuccessful, praise him for his efforts.
- Make it easier for your toddler to succeed. Buy shoes that are easy to get on and off, buy pants with elastic waistbands, and use eating utensils and cups made especially for toddler's small hands, etc.
- Look for and pay attention to the positive behaviors your toddler exhibits.
- Rephrase commands into positive statements. Instead of saying, "Stop running!" try "I really like it when you walk next to me in the store!"
- Learn to recognize a potential power struggle. Flexibility is key! Try to switch gears when a situation isn't going well and your toddler is getting frustrated.
- Humor is invaluable. Oftentimes conflict can be avoided by using a tickle, a funny voice or engaging in silly behavior.
- Set developmentally appropriate limits for your toddler's security and safety.
- Have patience! Remember toddlerhood will only last about two years. After this stage you can expect more cooperation from your child. Children need this stage of independence so that they can develop into people who know what they want and can think for themselves.