Gone are the days of binge-watching Netflix while you feed your newborn all hours of the night. Your squishy newborn will quickly turn into a full-fledged toddler, and as all seasoned parents will tell you, parenting toddlers is not for the faint of heart!
A toddler is a child between 12 and 36 months. The skills that they develop in these two years are vast. Parenting toddlers means a lot of trial and error, wondering if you’ll survive, and joy (and often, frustration).
If you’re in the thick of the toddler years, you’re probably interested in any advice you can find. Here are 7 tips for parenting toddlers that actually work.
1. Set Limits
It can be tempting to give in to your toddler after a tantrum or constant whining. Resist this urge! When you set limits for your toddler, you are setting boundaries that make them feel safe. They know what they are allowed to do and what they aren’t.
Toddlers look to their parents for these boundaries and crave them, although it might not seem that way. Setting boundaries early in the toddler years will make parenting later on much easier.
2. Enforce Consequences
Part of setting limits is making sure your child follows them. It’s tempting to give in when you’re tired, they’re tired, or you’ve just had enough. If you can resist this temptation and enforce any consequences you set, you’ll be better off in the long run.
We’ve all heard parents threaten their kids with consequences we know they won’t follow through with (“if you don’t stop doing that, I’m going to tell Santa and you won’t get anything for Christmas!). Just as adults know most parents won’t follow through on many threats, kids figure it out pretty quickly too.
There’s no real incentive for a child to follow rules that you set if they know there’s no consequence attached to breaking them. Consequences should be age-appropriate (e.g., timeouts, taking away toys, etc.).
3. Allow Them to Make Choices
Part of child development is discovering autonomy and the ability to make choices. Instead of telling your child what they have to wear or what they are eating for lunch, give them a choice between two or three options. You can choose their options, but give them the ability to show some initiative and develop their decision-making skills.
This allows you to make sure that they are wearing appropriate clothing or eating appropriate things while also giving them the chance to have some control over their life.
4. Read Their Cues
Meltdowns and tantrums, whatever you want to call them, usually stem from some need your child has that isn’t being met. Maybe they are hungry, tired, or overstimulated. If you can read their cues and know when a meltdown or tantrum is on the horizon, you can address that need.
Just like adults get overwhelmed, kids do the same, yet they aren’t yet developed enough to know how to deal with it without losing their mind. Save yourself, and your child, the stress of a breakdown by recognizing situations that might result in these outbursts and try to alleviate them.
5. Prioritize Sleep
Kids need more sleep than most people realize. Toddlers aged 1-3 generally need 12-14 hours of sleep every day. As kids get older, the number of hours of sleep they need decreases. Your 1-year-old should generally be taking 1-2 naps a day (for 1-3 hours) and should get the rest of their sleep at night.
By age 3, they are likely only taking one shorter nap and are sleeping more at night. Most kids aren’t getting enough sleep, which contributes to poor behavior. Do you and your children a favor and ensure they are getting plenty of sleep.
6. Keep Them in the Crib as Long as Possible
If you’re expecting another baby, you might be reluctant to purchase a second crib if your toddler is still in theirs. If possible, though, try to keep them in the crib as long as possible. Waiting until closer to 3 makes the transition from crib to a toddler bed (or twin or double) much easier.
If your child is climbing out, though, you’ll want to make this transition earlier. The bottom line is to try to keep them in the crib safely as long as possible. Trust us: if you’ve finally gotten your toddler sleeping through the night, don’t screw it up unnecessarily by forcing them out of the crib!
7. Don’t Push Potty Training
It might be tempting to push potty training, especially if you are ready to be done with diapers, but it’s generally best to let your child take the lead on this. Most kids are potty trained between the ages of 2 and 4, but of course, there are some who are trained earlier and some who take a bit longer.
Your child will usually tell you when they are ready. Try to let them lead and be flexible about it. They may want to start, and do great for a few weeks, only to regress. Try to remain calm and let them figure it out.
This great potty training guide can help you figure it all out.
Parenting Toddlers: A Mixed Bag of Emotions
Parenting toddlers is a mixed bag. Toddlers have big personalities and it might seem like they’re trying to push you to the brink of insanity only to bring you quickly back with a hug or a sweet “you’re the best mom or dad ever.”
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