Positive Parenting Strategies for the Toddler Years

positive parenting, toddlers
Image via Katie Hurley
 

I will never forget the moment when my oldest child transitioned from a very quiet crawler to a talkative, action-packed, always climbing, sometimes nay-saying toddler with tons of thoughts and opinions on just about everything. It was exciting in the beginning. Talking! Ideas! Constant singing! Then came the “no”s, the moments of frustration, and the general ups and downs of toddlerhood.

Toddlers learn and grow at a rapid pace. Incredible things happen in their brains and in their bodies as they grow, but they don’t always have the words to communicate their feelings. They begin to develop their own likes and dislikes, for example, but trying to explain those big thoughts with limited communication skills is a daunting task.

Sometimes dumping a plate of food on the floor seems like the best way to get the point across.

The other issue at hand is that as frustrated as toddlers can feel at times, parents can feel the exact same way. Though toddlers are not out to manipulate and upset their parents with “defiant” behavior, their choices can push buttons. It can be hard to remain calm when it feels like your toddler is saying “no” to everything and throwing tantrums for no good reason.

It’s important to remember that toddlers aren’t on a mission to cause problems. They are, in their own ways, trying to communicate a need or feeling. They are doing the best they can with the skills they have; it’s up to the parents to remain calm, guide them, and help them through the growing pains. Here are some positive parenting tips to help you through toddlerhood.

Keep calm

Keeping calm at the end of a very long day is, indeed, easier said than done. Yet it must be done. Self-care plays an integral role in developing coping skills to deal with difficult parenting moments (or days). But how often do parents really find the time to engage in self-care?

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All parents are different. All have different trigger points and different methods of coping with triggers. Find yours. Does a breath of fresh air calm you down? Head outside for a moment. Does music soothe your soul? Play your favorite tunes to change the vibe in the room. Yoga? Mindfulness? There’s an app for those. Take care of yourself so that you can remain calm and present when your toddler challenges you.

And when that moment arises? Take four deep breaths and repeat a calming phrase to remain centered.

Connect

More often than not, toddlers make questionable choices and become highly frustrated when they crave connection.

Get down to your child’s level. Make eye contact. Put your arms around her. Establish the connection first then state the problem your child is attempting to communicate. Empathize with your child as you review the problem and the feelings that occurred as a result.

Set loving limits

You can set clear limits without imposing harsh consequences. When parents reframe their own thoughts about the situation to recall that toddlers are learning as they grow, they are better able to set limits in a loving, positive way.

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Example: “You’re feeling very mad because you want to keep playing but now it is time for bed. It is not okay to throw toys but is okay to feel mad.”

Be clear in your expectations and repeat them in a calm voice.

Provide alternatives

Toddlers are beginning to experiment with a sense of power. They realize that they have voices and physical strength, and they will use them! They are also very determined, which can sometimes come across as stubborn. While all of this can be exhausting, it also provides the perfect opportunity to teach them how to cope with upset and use adaptive coping strategies.

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Toddlers throw stuff because it feels good to throw things when you’re mad. It’s a physical relief. Instead of saying “no” to every toddler action that doesn’t seem right, help your little ones find reasonable alternatives. You can’t throw toys when you’re mad, but you can throw a balloon. You can’t hit your sister when you’re frustrated, but you can stomp your feet. Toddlers need to find healthy ways to release their feelings, but often they hear “no” followed by “time out.” It’s far better to teach them what to do with those big feelings instead of sending them away to be alone when they’re feeling upset and disconnected.

Give positive parenting a try. Remain calm, connect with your child, and provide healthy alternatives. The toddler years can be a lot of fun, especially when parents learn to meet the toddler where she is and work through the frustration together.

Do you have any positive parenting tips?

What do you think?

Positive Parenting Strategies for the Toddler Years

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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