Expert Parent Advice

What Your Toddler Wants You to Know

Having a toddler can be a memorable occasion in your household if you understand how a toddler thinks.

I’m Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, and I’m proud to partner with Kids ‘R’ Kids for the Expert Parenting Advice series.

Today, we’re talking about toddlers and what they want YOU to know about parenting.

As difficult as the terrible twos and threes are for you, they’re even more frustrating for your child. Not only is your little one encountering the world around her in a whole new way—and becoming increasingly involved in it—she’s also learning a brand new language. Every day brings new sights, skills and emotions, and it’d be a lot for even the most confident adult to manage. She needs your help to navigate the prides and pitfalls of her life as she becomes more independent – yet she doesn’t know she needs your help, let alone how to communicate it. If your toddler could articulate what she really needs, she might say something like this:

“Mom, Dad, I know you guys are really frustrated and overwhelmed right now with my terrible twos. I’m trying to let you know that although I’m just a toddler, I need to be understood, and I need to be allowed to have a say in my life.

Since you don’t “get it” and I don’t have the words to say it, all I can do is whine, refuse to cooperate, act helpless and throw tantrums. I’m obviously not getting through to you so I’ll keep it up – louder and more often. But I sure wish you would figure me out so I can stop acting like this.”

There’s a lot going on in your toddler’s mind right now. You can help her feel loved and empowered if you heed the following tips:

3 Things Your Toddler Wants You to Know:

1) Pay attention to me! And not just when I’m doing something wrong!

“I have my ways of getting attention from you (remember that ill-fated display in the grocery store, or the time I got into your potting soil?). But what I really want is for you to give me the happy kind of attention—the kind we both enjoy—once or twice a day. And by the way, I can tell when you’re only “half-there” so can you leave your Blackberry® in your briefcase.”

It may sound like a little thing, but taking time once or twice every single day to play with your child and give her your undivided attention means she won’t have to whine or act helpless for it. Ten to fifteen minutes, twice a day, is really all it takes. Consider it an investment—you’ll get that time back tenfold in good behavior since your child can count on getting the positive attention she needs.

2) Let me have some control over my life.

“Mom and Dad, you’ve been calling all the shots up until now: when I get up, what I wear, what I eat, when I go to bed. But now it’s time for me make more decisions during the day. Would it really hurt anything if I got to choose whether to wear sandals or tennis shoes, eat toast or eggs, or whether to use the Barbie or the Dora the Explorer toothbrush?”

Here’s a little secret from the treasure trove of toddler wisdom: there’s a very good chance you can end the tooth-brushing battle simply by offering a choice. And this applies to other power struggles as well. Every time you let your child make a decision, she feels like she has more control over her life. When she is given this kind of positive power, she won’t feel the need to throw tantrums or refuse to cooperate to get the control she’s constantly looking for.

3) I can be capable and contribute, but you’ll have to teach me how.

“I’m growing up and I want to do “grown-up” things. And you do way more things for me than you need to! If you take the time to teach me, I can probably pretty much dress myself and get my own snack as long as it’s not out of my reach. And that Swiffer® thing you push around? I sure would love to get my hands on that to help out!”

Believe it or not, there are many tasks your toddler can take on to not only help you around the house but also feel important and valuable through the positive power she gains through these contributions. She simply needs you to teach her how to do them. With a little instruction, she can probably help set the table, match socks, feed the pet, and even wipe off counters with the help of a step stool. Training your child to help out in these ways and others will save you time in the long run and move your child toward empowering, age-appropriate independence.

Don’t forget to check out Bonus Tip #4:  What your toddler wants you to know about tantrums!  You can find that in the interactive that goes along with this video.

Believe it or not, it is possible for you and your toddler to get along even during this tricky time. By giving her the positive attention and positive power she needs, you can not only avoid a lot of the misbehaviors that drive both of you crazy but also help her prepare for even greater independence throughout her childhood.

For more information on ways to understand your toddler, check out the interactive that goes along with this video.

And visit us often for more helpful solutions from the Kids ‘R’ Kids Expert Parenting Advice series.