Parenting Toddlers

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Child Development

Parenting Toddlers Ages 2-4


Sometime between 18-24 months of age children begin to see themselves as individuals. The start to realize that they are independant from their mother's and that they have thoughts and feelings of their own. Although this is a huge milestone it is often not one that is celebrated by parent as enthusiastically as other milestones. For the last two years the child has been largely without a developed personality or a will of their own. It is at this stage of development however that the word "no" becomes a powerful way to communicate.

Your once complacent child now learns that they are able to make choices on their own and that they have opinions. However difficult it is for parents to transition to this new behavior it is very important to do so calmly and without power struggles. This is a perfect time for the parent to begin using reflective listening or mirroring techniques with the child. Doing so will help the child learn that you understand their feelings and validate their desires.

This doesn't mean that you give in to the child's desires. But when the child feels heard and understood they are far more likely to do what the parent requests of them.

Tracy go get your shoes.
You don't want to get your shoes?
I'll help you put your shoes on.
So go get your shoes so I can help you put them on.
This type of communication with a toddler needs to remain very simple. As the child grows in their ability to understand and participate the conversation may go differently.
Pally go get your shoes.
4 year old
Pally, are you ignoring me?
4 year old
Did you hear me ask you to get your shoes?
4 year old
Oh good, I'm glad you can hear me. Go get your shoes and I will help you put them on.

If the parent becomes impatient and yells at the child the situation will become a negative experience instead of a positive one. The parent will likely attribute the blame to the child when in fact it is the parent's communication style that determines whether or not the interaction remains calm. The child simply goes with the flow the parent provides.

How the toddler develops

  • They are able to group object together according to color size etc.
  • They learn to identify objects in pictures
  • They enjoy songs and simple games
  • They can identify body parts
  • They can repeat two numbers in a row when asked
  • They begin to understand how they are interacting with others
  • They begin to imitate adult behaviors such as driving, swearing, or engaging in bedtime rituals
  • They develop a love for books
  • They begin to understand consequences
  • They can make mechanical or tech toys work
  • Their imagination grown and they begin to role play and create stories
  • They can complete simple puzzles and build small towers
  • They can symbolize toys such as using a block as a car
  • They begin to understand gender-role stereotypes and identify boys from girls
  • They begin to count with numbers
  • They can imitate rhythms and animal movements
  • They can follow two or three directions
  • They understand the concept of "two"
  • They play make believe
  • They enjoy drawing pictures
  • They try to obtain more information by asking "why" and "what" questions
  • They can pay attention to an activity between 5 - 15 minutes at a time

Bedtime rituals become necessary to help the toddler relax and settle into sleep without drama. They become afraid for the day to end because they don't yet have the ability to see into the future and realize that they will wake up and begin another day.

This is a hard concept for parents to grasp. They often try bribing the child by promising a reward the next day if the toddler behaves and goes to bed easily. This is not a concept that the toddler understands. They live in the here and now. They understand what they can see, feel, taste and smell right now. Tomorrow is a concept that is alien and confusing.

One common fear the parent has is that their toddler isn't eating enough. It is important to understand that the child will eat exactly what their body needs and no less. During periods of growth their appetite will increase followed by periods of stability when they do not require as much food. The extremes seem enormous to parents which causes anxiety.

If you are feeding your toddler healthy foods at regular intervals there is nothing to worry about. However if you allow your child to eat sweets and processed foods throughout the day they will not get the required nutrition they need and they won't feel the need to eat the healthy foods offered at mealtime.

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