Many of you know the story of our youngest Cassandra. She was born addicted to eight different substances and spent weeks in the neonatal ICU for detox. That was followed by months of medication to alleviate the symptoms. She is currently over a year completely drug-free.
She’s a strong little girl, with a great personality. She’s bright and helpful. She has a vocabulary of well over 50 words. She loves animals, especially dogs, and enjoys having her hair styled.
But, most importantly, she has hit that stage that most parents dread. She’s hit the Terrible Twos.
For Cassandra, this means that she kicks and squeals when we try to take away something that she is not supposed to have. She can’t stand for the important people in her world to leave the house. We have to sneak out and hope she doesn’t notice. She wants to do things by herself. Everything is “mine.” She is a big girl and wants to show her independence to the world. In other words, she’s Two – or, in her case, almost two.
Two-year-olds can be a challenge if you approach them the wrong way. If you insist on getting your way, they will fight back. They want to assert their independence, proving that babyhood is far behind them.
But, if we take a different approach, managing toddlers can be easy and even entertaining. Toddlers are easily distracted. They enjoy seeing new things and trying new skills. They want to help with routine tasks that make their parents happy.
Like children at all stages of development, toddlers just want to feel that they have some control over their lives. We adults know that they aren’t able to fend for themselves. We know that they still rely on us for food and safety. We know that they can’t make good decisions in most situations. But, they still want control on an appropriate developmental level.
So, give it to them. Offer them a selection of two outfits and have them pick the one they want to wear. Ask them if they’re ready to have a diaper change. Request their help when doing laundry or picking up. Let them pick what they want for lunch.
And, instead of picking up your toddler and dragging him away, distract him with something else. Our dogs are always a good option for distraction. Cassandra will run to pet one of them at any opportunity. Figure out what works best for your toddler and you will have a much easier time navigating the stormy waters of toddlerhood.
Working with your toddler, instead of fighting against her, will give you a parenting advantage for years to come, too. The need for control surfaces a number of times during a child’s development. We see it in the toddler years, again around age six, the early teens, and often at the time of leaving home for college or independence. If you learn to negotiate with your child at this early stage, then the later years won’t be such a fight.
After all, don’t we all want to feel like we have control over our own lives? And, what’s better than raising a strong, independent child who is able to make decisions and feel confident in them?
That doesn’t mean we should let our toddlers have their way all the time. That will result in a spoiled, entitled child who doesn’t exercise any self-control. Instead, help your toddler learn to make good choices. This will let your toddler exert some power over his life. You’ll be glad you did.
Rev. Kelly Crenshaw is the mom of 16 adopted kids, two biological kids, guardian of one baby girl and foster mom of dozens. Some are lesbian, some gay, some straight, and some bisexual. Kelly founded a K-12 day school where kids could have a safe, bully-free environment for learning. She is co-owner of a counseling agency that works with children and their families. Send your parenting questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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