There’s a lot of hype surrounding the toddler years. Friends and strangers warned us of “the terrible twos” and “threenagers” and I braced myself. For me, the hardest part of this phase was remembering that B is only two. He seems to understand so much, but sometimes I have unrealistic expectations for him based on his level of comprehension.
Six months ago I shared the perspective I had going into these times and I feel that it has served me well. We went through a few tough months with reports from daycare happening almost every day. They assured us it was just toddler behavior, but it seemed to be the first emotional part of parenting we would have to work through.
Finally, after working through our parenting style and staying consistent things seem to have clicked. Our trip to New Orleans last month gave us some time to work through things as a family and we’ve been a great groove since we got back.
Today I thought I would share what’s working for us for any of you who are in the same phase! I’m linking up with some of my favorite Mamas to share our varied perspectives on this topic today- check out Amanda, Heather and Sarah‘s blogs for more!
Taming Toddler Behavior: What’s Working for Us
1. Staying Calm
First and foremost, patience is everything. It’s easy to react when B gets upset, angry or frustrated with the same emotion. Instead, I try to remind myself that however I act is how he will learn to react. So for the most part I am able to stay calm and it helps things exponentially.
2. Communicate at Their Level
When it comes to communication, there are a few things that are working really well for us.
First, I try to talk to B like I would any other person. I avoid talking to him like a kid and instead try to be direct and consistent. This works both in positive and negative situations.
For example, if he’s misbehaving I am direct about warning him that if he does not stop the behavior he will have to go take a time out to calm down. I give him three times for me to tell him to stop, and then we go take a breather together. Also, in a positive way I’ll be direct on warning him of upcoming events- like giving him a warning 30 minutes or so that bedtime or dinner is coming up and again every 5-10 minutes after that to mentally prepare him.
Second, I try my best to be empathetic to situations. I get down to his level and look him in the eye. I remind him to use his words and ask what’s wrong or what he wants. He gets my full attention and usually he just wants to be heard.
3. Positive Reinforcement
After some work on staying calm and communicating directly with B, Rich and I had some honest conversations on setting expectations with B. We decided to try giving B some positive rewards for good behavior at daycare and it worked almost immediately. That’s not to say that every day is perfect, but the combination of communicating directly and reinforcing the good days helps so much.
How it works is that Rich and I agree on a reward for the day. On a weekday it’s usually watching a YouTube video, playing with trains or stopping by the park for 15 minutes after pick-up. We “make a deal” with B when he leaves and then reinforce at drop off in front of his teachers. They help reinforce throughout the day and give us a report at pick-up.
Since this is working so well, we decided to start using a sticker chart this week. It’s only been a few days, but it seems to be extremely motivating for B! (If it keeps working, I’ll write an entire post on it if there is interest!)
4. Teaching Emotions
It’s been interesting to see B learn to identify his emotions. We’ve noticed that the majority of his tantrums or negative behavior stem from either not being able to say what he wants or not knowing to say how he feels. So, we’ve been working to help him with both.
A few things that have helped us are to let him process his emotions. It’s really easy to want him to cheer up immediately, but some days are not the best and I’ve learned to accept that it is OK to let him be cranky. When he’s upset about something, I ask calmly to use his words or help him to identify how he’s feeling by offering options.
5. Uninterrupted Time
Last but certainly not least, spending uninterrupted time with B is something that pays off almost immediately. We’ve been extremely intentional with our time, making sure to use the little time we have in the morning and evening to be 100% focused on B. I try to keep my phone set aside when I’m with him and slow down to enjoy my time with him.
On the weekends, Rich and I typically spend a good 2-3 hour chunk of one on one time with B. This works well because it gives the other parent a break but also gives B a lot of undivided attention.
Sundays are for family day and it’s very rare that we miss our Sunday tradition of going to church and breakfast. In fact, usually the only time we miss this tradition is when we’re in need of a lazy day as a family. Regardless, we’re together in the morning and always make a nice dinner to end the weekend. It sets us up for a good week!
Here are a few resources that have been helpful:
- Books: Simplicity Parenting and No Drama Discipline
- Podcasts: The Simple Families Podcast and Sure Babe
- Positive Disciple for Kids article from PBS
- The Dos and Don’ts of Sticker Charts article from Psychology Today
As always, this is our experience and I am by no means an expert. I’m just a Mama on her journey hoping to help any of you out there going through the same thing!