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Toddler Tips

A Toddler

It’s been awhile (years) since I’ve written about parenting here, but after a conversation with a friend last night, I decided to post a couple things that I’ve come across that seem to work.

Generally when raising a toddler, there are two times when wills collide, the first is when you want your toddler to do something that he doesn’t want to do and the second is when you want him to stop doing something that he wants to do. I’ve found a couple “tricks” that seem to work most of the time, plus a bonus tip to stop tantrums.

Give and take. If you want your toddler to do something such as get in the car, eat dinner, take a bath, stand next to you in the line at the post office, etc., there are two things you can do, the first is to repeat what you want them to do in an increasingly loud voice while inserting various threats such as “or else I’m going to…” and “I’m counting to three.” This does not work. What does work is giving them the choice: “If you don’t get in the car we’re going to put your <<insert toy name here>> away for the rest of the day.” Or, “If you don’t stand next to me in the post office there will be no fries with the happy meal.” The trick here is you have to really mean it and be ready to actually do it. It takes a few times but they learn quickly that you’re serious and this technique works a lot better than the aforementioned voice raising.

Distraction. If your toddler is doing something that’s driving you nuts such as talking loudly when he’s supposed to be quiet or squirming incessantly or slamming doors or unplugging the lamp or … whatever, there is only one way to peacefully resolve the issue. Distractions. Your job is to think of something they’d rather be doing as quickly as possible and present them with that alternative. Good distractions include drawing, play-doh, learning to whistle, jumping or doing other “cool tricks,” reading a book or anything else he enjoys doing.

Stopping a tantrum. I’m referring the less violent form of a tantrum. This is when you’re in a public place (an art museum, church, the library etc.) and your toddler decides to start crying really loudly because they’re bored and know the whining and crying will frustrate you and cause you to move onto more fun things (anything but the museum) quicker. I’ve found that the best way to stop this is to immediately carry the toddler off to a secluded spot, stand them up and bend down to look them in the face and tell them in no uncertain terms that the whining and crying needs to stop, explaining why and what will happen if it doesn’t. This gives the toddler some respect–you’re not yelling at them, and in my experience usually ends with something of a fragile truce between the two of you which will give you a few more minutes to finish what you’re doing and move on to a more toddler friendly place.

The nice thing about these techniques is that you hardly ever have to raise your voice (or blood pressure) and you and your toddler are still friends once the incident is over. While they don’t always work, in my experience, they have made being a dad even more fun and rewarding.

DISCLAIMER: I’ve only had experience with these on one toddler–mine, your mileage may vary.

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7 Comments

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  1. Bill
    April 3, 2006 at 9:04 am #

    I definitely agree with these, and have definitely used similar tactics before. I think the most important thing you said is this: “The trick here is you have to really mean it and be ready to actually do it.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen friends or acquaintances have spelled out consequences for their toddler, only to never follow through; then it surprises them when their kid turns around later and does the same thing.

  2. Jenny
    April 3, 2006 at 12:18 pm #

    ahhh, the brilliant dad and his tricks! you deserve an army, a league, a legion of children.

    hopefully our mileage will continue, ‘cuz you got the skillz daddy-o.

    :)

  3. John
    April 15, 2006 at 11:08 pm #

    The way to go

  4. Chipmonkey
    April 25, 2006 at 2:02 pm #

    I find talking to toddlers like “adults� seems to be very effective in getting their attention (like mentioned, get on their level, look them in the eye, explain to them). Asking them why they are acting out and what it is they want helps too. If you know what they want and how they are feeling and they know what you want, it is easier to come to an agreement about what is going to happen after your little talk is over. Some good advise here, thank you!

  5. rmp
    April 25, 2006 at 7:43 pm #

    yeah take away the fries from their happy meals… that always works. Here’s a bonus – take the coke too and you can avoid the onset of early childhood diabetes…

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