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It’s no secret that toddlers aren’t known for their cooperation.
They’ve got plans of their own and they’re not afraid to use them!
Unfortunately, these plans often come in direct opposition to your grown-up plans.
(Ever tried to get a toddler to wear something they don’t want to? I take my hat off to you!)
But even at this challenging age there are a few parenting tips that might just make your life a little easier.
We know that toddlers respond well to routine. When they have an understanding of the order of things; they are slightly more likely to follow without fuss. This is because rather than you being cast as the dictator. Routines provide the guidelines and it’s everyone’s job to follow along.
Keeping things consistent and starting to develop your toddler’s understanding of patterns can make things a little less stressful.
A great way to engage your toddler in a routine is to ask questions rather than provide direct instruction.
By asking, you empower your toddler to give you the answer. If they came up with it themselves they’re more likely to happily follow through with the activity.
Toddlers have a pretty vague concept of time. So while it’s important to help them feel prepared for what’s coming up in both the long and the short term; it can be tricky to get the balance just right.
Discussing exciting events like birthday parties too soon will mean endless questioning. Like when will the party start (and tantrums when it isn’t NOW!) However equally not letting your child know where they’re going until they’re in the car can be pretty disastrous.
As a general rule, big events like a baby sibling arriving in the family benefit from repeated short conversations over time. While smaller events, such as your plans for the next day are better just discussed the evening before.
In fact, it’s a great idea to get into the habit of recapping the day with your toddler. Then telling them what’s on the agenda for tomorrow as part of a bedtime routine. This helps them to develop better memory skills. In addition to working on their comprehension and communication.
This is because….
Whether via stories or just conversation. It helps your child to build up a mental picture of where they’re going and what they’re going to be doing.
Again, you can use questions to help them think about what an event will look like.
What do we eat at parties?
Do you think there will be lots of people there?
What kinds of things could we do while we’re on the train?
If your toddler is younger you might ask the question but then answer it yourself using simple language. This ‘thinking through’ strategy helps your toddler to feel ready and be more willing to go.
Essentially, you’re helping them to build up mental schemas in the brain of what happens and how you behave in different settings.
Repetition is key to learning at this age. So be prepared to repeat yourself a few times. If you’re pretty sure that your older toddler knows the answer to the question they’re asking and they’re in the endless ‘why’ phase, don’t be afraid to turn the question back to them by simply saying:
What do you think?
Often, you’ll find there is some concept there and this helps them to start thinking for themselves rather than being totally reliant on you.
The toddler years aren’t easy for anyone. Hopefully these tips might just help you feel less like a dictator and your toddler a little more cooperative.
Claire and Dr Nneka founded Mellownest with a simple purpose; to inspire and empower mums. Their backgrounds in Psychology and Wellbeing mean they know what it takes to stay happy, healthy and connected to your values. Recognised for their mindful, relationship-based approach to parenting, regular contributors to Mumbler and been featured on Motherly and Parent.com.