Toddlers: Eating, sleeping and Dealing with the NOs
By nature toddlers are inquisitive, active and designed to push back. They are exploring their world and this can be exciting and frightening to them. We need to support and guide them through this time with effective methods of setting boundaries and discipline while allowing them to develop a sense of themselves.
Toddlers can become tricky at bedtime as they can have some increased separation anxiety. They may ask for you to stay with them when falling asleep and then when they wake overnight. Things you can do to change this (if you want to!):
- Ensure you have a ritual around bedtime
- Toddlers need lots of good deep sleep so they need to be asleep by 7/7.30pm at the latest.
- Rather than sit with them till they are asleep go in and out reassuring them that you will be back.
- Use a night light.
- Give your toddler a comforter and include that in the bedtime ritual.
- Use a clock for those toddlers who rise early.
- Use a reward chart (for 3 year olds and above) to change behaviour but you must be consistent with it.
Meal times can become a battle ground with toddlers as they start to decide what they do and don’t like. Try not to fight or turn it into a huge production. Remember toddlers are on the go, go, go all the time and so they can eat on the run. They also can eat non-stop one day and then nothing the next. That is normal. Trust that they will know what they need.
- Keep mealtimes to 30 minutes
- Don’t offer too much choice as your child will be confused.
- Ensure they know that this is all there is once the meal is served.
- Don’t make dessert a reward; it should just be part of the meal.
- Vegetables should be on the plate every day.
- Ask that they taste new foods, just once.
- Try and make mealtimes before your child gets too tired.
Managing Toddler Behaviour
Toddlers can be tricky. It can be the age of tantrums and telling you, “NO!” Try not to take this behaviour personally – you child is discovering themselves as little individuals and testing out ways of being independent from you.
A few little tips can help you navigate through this phase but remember it is okay to say NO to them and it is okay for them to not like you, for that moment!
- Always use positive language when you’re asking them not to do something this puts the focus on what you DO want them to do and takes the focus off the thing that you don’t want them to do.
- ‘No’ is an overused word that doesn’t give the child much information. It’s better to tell them what you do want to do, or if there is immediate danger, a better word is “stop” because it gives them information about what you want them to do.
- Always speak calmly to your child when correcting them or asking them to do something. This shows them you are in-charge and confidant.
- Try not to lecture – you child will switch-off after the first minute. Be matter-of-fact: “I won’t let you do that. If you throw that again I will take it away”
- Natural consequences: A toddler learns discipline best when he experiences natural consequences for his behaviour, rather than a disconnected punishment like time-out. If a child throws food, mealtime is over. If a child refuses to get dressed, we don’t go to the park today. These parental responses appeal to your child’s sense of fairness.
- Personally, I think that smacking is counterproductive because it teaches children that hitting is ok, particularly if you’re angry, and that if you’re bigger and stronger, then you can use force to solve a problem. At the end of the day, we want our kids to use alternative strategies when they have a problem and so we need to model this for them.
Your children will become who you are, so be who you want them to be.
And to listen to Jo’s chat with Penny from ABC’s Babytalk, click here.