Before you stop reading because of the title... this is not really about handing off all control to your toddler. This is simply about stopping the control battle between parent and child.
I am sure you may have heard the terms: terrible twos, three-nagers, and fournados. While these terms may be kind of funny, and accurately describe your toddler at times, the truth is that it is very hard to be a toddler. Think about it: they are just learning how to use their voice and may not be able to communicate their wants and needs.
When it comes to regulating their emotions, they need help! A natural first reaction to not being able to communicate is to throw, hit, yell, etc. It is up to us as parents and caregivers to teach our toddlers how to regulate their emotions and how to appropriately react to frustrating situations. This starts with a regulated parent. If we effectively teach this while they are young, they will grow up in support of acknowledging their emotions, processing them, moving past the frustrating situations in life, and translating this into adult social-emotional skills. What a great way to change the world! But it will only take 18 years per child you have.
So how do you do that? Here are my top tips for toddler behavior regulation for both parent and child.
Instead of fighting their independence, embrace it.
Give choices instead of demands. At this stage of life, toddlers are rapidly developing and learning autonomy and independence and with this stage comes the need for control. You can reframe this as the parent by thinking about it in terms of development and how to best support their growing needs.
For example, let them choose between two outfits, two snacks, what book to read, etc. By giving them two choices, it can help to give them control while you still achieve your goal.
Set boundaries and Stick to them
It is important to set boundaries and stick to them, but you can do this in a gentle way that will get you better results and keep everyone happier. Toddlers also need consistency which means sticking to the boundary every time at home, the park, or wherever you’re setting the boundary
I suggest giving 2-3 warnings before any transition, this helps to prepare the child and lessens the potential resistance. If they still do not want to move on to the next thing, it is important to hold the boundary but you can shift the control to them.
For example, let’s say you are trying to get your child to come to the dinner table. You have given them 2-3 warnings ahead of time and the minute it is time to come to the table, they push back and give resistance (or a full blown meltdown).
You can say something like:
“I can see you are upset, and don’t want to stop playing.
It is fun to play and I can see you are having a great time.
We can play some more after dinner time.
Would you like to walk to the dinner table or should I carry you? You choose.”
When you shift the control, they are more likely to respond positively.
I can’t guarantee they will eat their dinner but we’ll address that another day on the blog.
Use a visual schedule
A visual schedule can greatly help keep your toddler on track throughout the day and give them the confidence to get through their day with little intervention from you.
Post the schedule low where they can see it, and explain to them how it works. Then give them lots of praise when they use it. Keep the schedule simple and flexible. I intentionally include outside play that is interchangeable with inside activities, as well as independent play, potty times, and even tv time. If they know what is coming next, they will feel more content and be more able to wait for the appropriate time for that activity.
These techniques take practice and lots of patience, but if utilized consistently, you will see changes in the behavior!
Still feeling overwhelmed? Need some help implementing these things at home? I can help! Please reach out to me at Stephanie@integrativemediowa.com to schedule a home consultation.