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If you have a toddler or are about to have one then you are no doubt in the trenches of at least one of these milestones.
- Potty Training
- The “I Can Do It Myself” Phase
- Sleep Regression
- Picky Eating
- Tantrums/Big Emotions
Being a parent of a toddler (well, just being a parent) is hard.
Everyday is something new and trying to navigate each new phase can be exhausting.
Toddlers go through quite a few milestones that may make you want to call in sick (if only you could, right!). Known to most as the Terrible Twos!
With a little planning, a few tricks, and a new perspective, you can master the “terrible twos” without even breaking a sweat! I hate to use the term “terrible twos” because this can be such an amazing age. However, there are many frustrations that come with toddler milestones so let’s make them easier to handle!
Potty training may be one of the most dreaded milestones for a parent to take on. I’d say it’s right up there with getting your child to sleep through the night or getting rid of the pacifier.
Why is this?
Because there are so many horrors stories floating around about potty training. All you hear is warnings about starting too young, waiting too long, basically messing your child up emotionally if you don’t do it just right.
Or how it can easily take months or even as much as a year to get the job done!
How often do you run into someone who tells you how joyful potty Training was for them?
This is either because easy potty training just isn’t possible or because parents don’t want to boast about their easy experience if all of their friends are telling of their potty training difficulties.
Well, I’m here to tell you, potty training doesn’t have to be so hard.
If you have the right mindset and strategy to get started, you will sail right through the process. And the best part is, it can be done in 3 days! No kidding! I have three kids who were all potty trained before they turned 2 and it only took 3 days for each kid.
I am far from being super mom and my kids aren’t potty training rockstars.
I just found a process that worked well and it can work for you too!
The “I can do it myself” Phase
Are you in the phase where your toddler refuses your help on everything? This is an important step for your child, but can be unbelievably frustrating and even dangerous.
When my first born entered this stage he would say, “I do it by my own!” Charming, but equally as irritating when I needed to help him or was in a hurry. My second child said (and still does…I’m not sure she will outgrow this stage), “I do it myself!” And now, our littlest one has just started saying “me” whenever he doesn’t want help, so we know he is close to telling us to let him do it all.
The truth is, once they enter this phase, I’m not sure they ever really outgrow it, (it’s not just part of the “terrible twos) but as they learn to do things on their own, it gets easier.
So, the trick to getting through the early stages of this, “I can do it myself,” phase without losing your cool, is to foster it.
Acknowledge that everything you do is going to take at least twice as long. Allow that extra time so you don’t get frustrated trying to get somewhere as your child refuses your help.
Allow your child to do age appropriate tasks even if they are not done perfectly.
This practice will only help you later. If your toddler insists on making his bed, allow it. Resist the urge to remake it every time.
Instead, demonstrate how it is done eriodically and praise your child’s efforts. Sooner than you think, your toddler will catch on and be completing the task easily.
If it is a task that is not yet age appropriate try sharing the task.
Say something like, “first I do it, then you do it.” You can do this with tasks like brushing teeth. Brush until the teeth are clean, demonstrating how to brush correctly, and then give your child a couple minutes to practice.
If it is a dangerous task, simply say, “ No, this is not something you can do on your own.”
Be consistent. Setting good boundaries is important. Explain the dangers of your toddler completing this task independently.
Your toddler has most likely been sleeping through the night at this point which has hopefully given you a little extra rest as well.
If not, don’t worry, just keep working with your toddler on this. The baby sleep site is an awesome resource for any kind of sleeping trouble.
Around two years old, many kids, even those who have been amazing sleepers, will all of a sudden begin waking up once again. (Another reason to love the “terrible twos”!)
There are lots of different theories as to why your toddler may have disrupted sleep at this point, including, beginning to dream, massive amounts of learning going on, night terrors, and more. Most likely it is a combination of all of the above that is causing the issue.
Many parents will assume that their toddler has outgrown their nap.
This is hardly ever the case. If anything, disrupted sleep might mean your toddler is not getting enough sleep. Here are a few tricks you can try to see if you can get your child back to their normal sleep pattern. If you are concerned, always consult your pediatrician and see what the best next steps might be.
- Look for patterns- if your toddler is waking at the same time each night, you can disrupt their sleep pattern just slightly to get them back on track. To do this, wake your child just slightly (enough for them to shift around a bit, but not actually wake up) just before the normal waking time that you are trying to get rid of. For example, if your toddler wakes every night at 11:00, go in around 10:30 and try jostling your child just a bit. The reason this works is because your child may be waking during a normal sleep cycle and just not knowing how to fall back to sleep. By disrupting that pattern you are helping your child fall back asleep into their deeper sleep cycle.
- Be consistent with sleep and wake times– the more consistent you are with bedtime, nap time, and wake time, the more consistent your toddler’s sleep patterns will be. Our bodies thrive on routine. If you can keep your child’s sleep consistent (for the most part), you will notice you have a much better sleeper, which in turns means a more rested, delightful little being.
- Don’t allow your toddler to come out and stay with you- now for some, this is completely okay, but if you want your child to sleep in his own bed and stop waking at night, it is important to keep that expectation. If you make it more fun to get up and be with you than it is to be in bed, then this problem will just continue. If your toddler knows that the only option is to sleep then they will sleep.
- If you must console your child, do so without turning on lights, talking, or picking your child up– once again, the best way to encourage sleep is to make sleep the only thing that is happening. Lights and voices will only wake your child up further and defeat the purpose of consoling them back to sleep. Keep things as calm and uneventful as possible and your child will soon figure out that it is time to sleep.
- Be consistent with routines- just like being consistent with sleep and wake times, being consistent with routines will also help your toddler’s body know when it is time to sleep. Develop an easy bedtime and nap time routine that will be a signal to your child that it is time to sleep. This does not have to be an elaborate expedition. It be simple, brush teeth, put jammies on, read a book, and off to bed. A routine serves as a gentle cue to the body that it is time to settle down and prepare to sleep.
- Your child may need more sleep- it could be possible that your child is just too tired. Sleep is often disrupted because of a lack of sleep. Seems counterintuitive doesn’t it? If you have recently gone from two naps to one, changed bedtimes, or otherwise changed the schedule around, you may need to evaluate whether or not your child is getting enough sleep.
If the tips above don’t do the trick, talk with your pediatrician and see if there is anything else going on.
When my daughter started waking around this age, we discovered it was because she was having chronic ear infections with no other symptoms. There are other medical conditions that could cause night waking such as swollen tonsils or sleep apnea which your doctor would be able to discuss with you.
Sleep is important for both you and your child so make a point to ensure your child gets enough rest.
More often than not, this little waking stage is short lived and easy to break by using one of the methods above.
About 1 ½ to 2 years old, your toddler may become more picky about the food he eats.
This can be stressful as a parent as you try to maintain a healthy diet for your child.
There are several reasons a child may decide he doesn’t like certain foods.
- The taste
- The texture
- The temperature
- The smell
- The consistency hearing a sibling protest it
- It being a new food
All of these can contribute to your child’s new distaste for certain foods.
Here are a few things you can do to get through this phase:
- Don’t offer something else. Children learn quickly that they can get you to make anything they want simply by refusing what you have given. Don’t start this early or it will continue long into the later years. Your child will eat if they are hungry.
- Put a small amount of each thing you have cooked on your toddler’s plate. Insist that they at least give everything a try, it don’t force them to eat it. Forcing your child to eat something will just create negative feelings towards you, the food, and mealtimes.
- Provide ample opportunities for you child to try the same food. It may take 5-10 times of seeing a food and seeing you eat it before your child is willing to eat that food.
- Be a good example. If you are eating healthy and eating a variety of foods, your child will follow suit.
- Don’t assume your child won’t like a particular food. Kids will surprise you. If you are serving something, let your kids give it a try. A good example is yogurt. Most people assume their toddler will only like flavored yogurt because that is what most adults have become accustomed to. However, plain yogurt has much less sugar and is a much healthier choice. Most toddlers will gladly eat plain yogurt if you start them on it.
Toddlers often have a hard time controlling or understanding their emotions. Tantrums are often the first way they learn to deal with anger, frustration, or upset of any kind.
It is important not to give into the tantrums or this will become your child’s main way of getting what he wants.
Here are a few tips that will help you and your child get through tantrums without wanting to throw one yourself.
- Provide a cool down area– create an area in your house where your child can go when a tantrum is does two things. It gives your child a place to get himself together and it also shows your child that the tantrum is not acceptable where all the fun, family action is happening.
- Listen– take the time to listen to your child so you can understand what is causing the tantrums and help your child talk through the emotion. You may have to wait until your child has calmed down to actually listen.
- Teach the how to manage/talk about emotions– this is similar to the idea above, but go one step further. Throughout your day, demonstrate times when you feel overwhelmed, angry, frustrated and talk about what it feels like and what you do to calm down. When you notice your child start to get upset, try to catch it early and talk about what they feel and how they can deescalate the emotion before it gets worse. Think preventative here. The more your child becomes aware and the more you talk about emotions together, the more capable your child will be to handle difficult feelings.
- Read books about emotions– it has been shown that people learn best through stories, especially children. Find books that show how characters resolve issues without having tantrums. Here are a few of my favorites.
- My Mouth is a Volcano by National Center for Youth Issues
- When I Feel Angry by Albert Whitman and Company
- Hurty Feelings by HMH books for young readers
- Happy, Sad, Feeling Glad: Draw and Discover by Laurence King Publishing
- Be consistent– having regular routines give children stability. If a child knows what to expect, meltdowns are much less likely.
Don’t distract- this is usually my go to response. I think, well if I can just get their attention to something else, they will forget about being upset. This usually does work, but the problem is, your child never learns that the behavior is not ok and that there are ways to manage their emotions more effectively. Distracting is very simiilar to giving in so unless you are in dire need of ending the tantrum quickly try not to distract and rather let your child embrace the consequences. This is one of those quick wins that doesn’t have lasting results.
- Allow for mistakes– remember that kids make mistakes and they need A LOT of training. As frustrating as this is, it is important to remind ourselves often that they have only been on this earth for a couple years and will likely make a lot of blunders and have a lot to learn.
- Provide consequences (consistently)- don’t fall into the mindset that tantrums are just part of the age so it is okay. While tantrums do come with the age, it doesn’t make the behavior acceptable. If you do not wish to deal with tantrums long term, come up with a consequence that works for your family and e consistent about using the consequence when a tantrum occurs. Natural consequences often work great. If your child throws a tantrum when you ask to pick up, pick the toys up for them and keep them out of reach for a few days. If your child throws a tantrum at the dinner table, say all done and remove them from the table. You get the idea. Sometimes the most effective consequence is one that makes your child realize the behavior is a bummer for them.
Want to learn more and take on potty training without the stress? Enroll in Potty Training Boot Camp and be diaper free before you know it!
Thanks for this! My ‘baby’ is almost two so I need this advice! Definitely entered the tantrum-mode, haha.
Tantrums are the worst, right! Makes me want to throw one myself sometimes. ?