We are not perfect parents. Soooo far from perfect most days. But, there are nine things I think we do alright on when it comes to parenting tactics for toddlers. The following tips and toddler discipline ideas seem to be working for us and our kids.
Parenting Tactics for Toddlers
1. Free range – Free play.
Josh and I figured early on that if we didn’t want to fight with our girls all day long to stop pulling the books off the bookshelf, play on the computer, grab the cords, remotes, or controllers, that the best solution is to place them where they can’t get to them. Our solution to much of this came in the form of a third bedroom – our office/art/storage room. We also generally still keep them out of the kitchen (darn cupboards don’t have knobs to baby-proof them), especially when Josh is cooking. We also keep them out of our bedroom, unless supervised, and try to keep them out of their bathroom too, mostly because they can climb up on the toilet, and then the sink, and then get into the medicine cabinet. We also keep their diaper pail in their bathroom and don’t want them pulling out diapers.
The reason we remove everything that we don’t want them playing with is so we can all get along better. If everything within their reach/exploration is fine to have, you have less battles to fight. Gives me peace, and them free range and freedom to play how and where and when they want. It’s a win, win.
Also, we generally let our children decide what they want to play with and how. We let them climb on our couch and chairs. We let them try new things. We sometimes give them warnings to be careful, but let them try for themselves and rescue them when they get stuck or hurt. They can do all sorts of things that surprise us. While sometimes we introduce new activities or songs or whatever, we let them choose what and how they play or use them. Sometimes, a brief explanation of an object, like a bag – you can put things in it and carry it on your shoulder – are in order, but then we let them put whatever in the bag and go from there.
2. A few simple, concrete rules.
Josh and I don’t have a ton of “NO’s” for the girls. Our big harpers are:
#1. No climbing or standing on the table.
#2. Sit in your chair.
#3. Do not run in the parking lot.
They must obey those three rules. It’s for safety reasons we harp on these so much!
Other rules we have and try hard to enforce, but are harder to, are:
#4. Don’t take off your diaper (we put duct tape over the adhesive parts of their diapers daily, but still get nakey babies sometimes).
#5. Don’t pull the wipes out of the wipes container.
#6. Don’t chew/suck/rip/destroy books and paper (Lisa).
#7. No using the computer.
#8. No smacking, hitting, or touching the computer printer.
#9. No hitting, yelling, screaming, food throwing, hair pulling, or any other annoying, messy, or hurtful act.
#10. Don’t touch or play with things that you shouldn’t be.
(Good luck with these last two Mom and Dad!)
3. Simple consequences.
Meal time has become increasingly difficult. We try hard to make sure their are consequences when our girls purposely throw or scatter their food onto the floor. We are trying to teach them that if they make a mess, they have to clean it up. We once waited 20 long minutes before Lisa picked up a single raisin off the floor, with a few one-minute time outs in there. Josh had to eventually put the raisin in his own hand and then ask her to pick it out of his hand and put it back on the tray. But, then she did it, and did a few more pieces too.
We don’t make our kids pick up every last piece of food they drop on the floor. We help them, or ask them to just put it into our hands and thank them for at least picking up a few pieces. We know they don’t have long attention spans and are becoming more stubborn, so we try not to push the amount, but push the idea – if you make a mess, then you need to clean it up.
4. “Please, Thank You, Sorry help everyone feel good.”
We have been trying to instill these three magic words with our kids for quite some time now and it seems to be working. They are getting better about asking please when they ask for things, and we encourage them to say “Thank you,” though sometimes when we tell them to “Say thank you” they say “You’re welcome” back instead.
When it comes to saying “Sorry” it is a must after hitting their twin, and there will be a brief time-out if they refuse to apologize. We also encourage them to give them a hug and/or a kiss as well as say “Sorry,” but sometimes the recipient will have none of that. I hope that some day they will understand that it is better to be sorry than to say sorry, but I’m not sure how to teach that to a one-year old…
5. If you can’t share, then you can’t play.
Our girls have definitely gotten to the point where they are possessive. We hear the word “mine” quite a bit, followed by screaming and crying as the other one rips it out of their hands. Our rule here is that if the girls cannot share or get along, then the toy/object gets taken away from both of them. This helps us since sometimes I don’t know who had it last, and instead of being wrong and rewarding the stealer accidentally, it just gets taken away. They can get the object back in a few minutes if they want it, but if they fight over it again, bye bye toy, yet again! And really, we seem to have multiples of just about everything, so it’s ridiculous for them to fight over things most of the time.
6. Transitioning to the next thing.
I have read many articles about this and every time I have implemented it, it has saved me from dealing with a fit/tantrum. Before you pack up and head out, change activities (from playing at the park to the car ride home), or whatever, tell your kids it’s coming before it’s time to change, or transition, to the next activity. I also have been trying to tell my girls what’s on the agenda for the day if we have a different day ahead of us (friends coming over, going to the zoo, grocery shopping, whatever) so they know what to expect. I find that actually explaining to them what is going on and why we are doing it helps them accept the change!
I sometimes tell them what we are going to do after their nap, hoping that they will obey me when I say “It’s time for a nap” and actually sleep like they should because they know afterwards something is happening. I used to be afraid of telling them when nap time was coming, but now I realize it’s actually a good thing to let them know. They are more willing to comply and obey when they know what to expect. They may not be perfect in their behavior, but better, I believe, than if no transitional warning was given.
7. The Replacement/Distraction Method
I have also read several articles about how to handle tantrums via distracting them with a new object or toy or food. This is such good advice! Tears sometimes stop instantly when I ask them if they would like to read a book, or find their shoes, or whatever. While I enjoy snuggling with my child, I don’t so much enjoy it when they are screaming and crying and yelling into my ear and sometimes wiggling out of my arms. Introducing a new toy or activity or singing a favorite song often helps dry their tears and help them get over whatever it was that made them upset. It helps me not lose my cool either, because let’s face it: there’s really only so much crying I can handle before I lose all my patience.
8. Wait, Wait, Wait.
There are often times when Josh and I are madly trying to get out of the house, like Sundays mornings for church. Or there’s just time when our patience is low and we want our children to do what we are asking of them now, pronto. We want to get going. But, I know that it is best just to wait and be patient. So while I could have asked them to get shoes or socks 10 seconds ago and they don’t seem to be moving in that direction, they often times will eventually make their way to get them, generally with a few more pleas from me or dad. But, having them learn to listen and obey what we ask them is more rewarding then getting frustrated because they didn’t listen or do what we asked and having to do it ourselves. The key though is keep the directions simple and clear.
Waiting also seems to be better when my child runs around outside or is exploring before, say, getting into the car so we can get on our way, than simply demanding their hands and dragging them along behind me. When we ask our child to come here, come to the van, they understand what we are asking of them, and eventually make it over to us. Most of the time they even stay out of the parking lot too. Kids dawdle, and that’s a good thing. They are exploring their world. I cannot believe how many times they point out a bird flying over head, see every last flower or dandelion on the ground, a small rock, a piece of trash, whatever. It’s all new and exciting to them and as their mother there is no way I want to take that time away from them (unless they start eating the rocks, dirt, flowers, or trash that is).
9. Explain. Identify. Involve. Teach.
I have been trying hard to remember that as a mother my job is not to simply nurture and support my children but to teach them. I have been trying to remember how important it is to explain new things to them and identify objects they see. My girls will never learn the proper name for things if I don’t identify them. They won’t learn their colors unless I tell them what colors things are. They won’t understand why we read scriptures at bedtime or say prayers at mealtime, unless I explain to them why. And just as important as it is to explain and identify, it also helps to ask them questions. Which block is yellow? Can you point to it? Can you grab it? Where is your elbow? Find Mommy’s ear. Fold your arms girls, it’s time to pray. Grab the scriptures.
Toddlers love helping. They love learning. They love being involved. And most importantly they love getting attention from Mommy and Daddy. It’s hard to give both of my girls all the attention they both crave from me, especially at the exact same time, but I know when I do take the time to really play and interact with them and teach them it is so rewarding.
There are many things we have yet to conquer when it comes to teaching our children, keeping our cool, calming and preventing tantrums, etc., but we wanted to share our parenting tactics for toddlers that we have implemented in our home.
We would love to hear what has worked with you and your children when it comes to parenting tactics for your toddlers, because we still have a long road of toddlerhood ahead of us!