It’s easy to question your response to your toddler’s bad behavior: Are you too harsh or too lenient? If a tantrum happens and you and your toddler go head-to-head, should you reinforce your loving connection with your child, or stay resolute in your demands? To help parents navigate those difficult moments, parenting coach Faith Collins has written Joyful Toddlers & Preschoolers: Create a Life That You and Your Child Both Love (Hohm Press, Oct. 1, 2017). It’s sure to become an indispensable go-to reference.
Collins maintains that love and holding your ground can, and should, happen simultaneously. But the key is looking for the source of the child’s behavior — to understand and address what’s really at issue. Then, you can address their needs and help the child respond positively without threatening punishment or offering bribes. Whatever it is you’ve asked your child to do or not do, don’t back down.
With young children, you can’t use lengthy explanations or convincing arguments to get your point across, but you can teach them how to be responsive to your needs — by being responsive to theirs. And weaving in moments of connection throughout the day — through play, snuggling, humor, singing together, telling them you love them and appreciate them — is a powerful way to defuse their frustrations while meeting their immediate needs.
Helping toddlers control their impulses is especially important at this stage of their development, according to Collins. Research shows that the patterns we establish with our toddlers are likely to carry on into adulthood. So whatever work parents do now will reap years of benefits. Front-loading impulse control and consideration of others will go a long way in the future.
Collins clearly understands the parent-toddler dynamic. One of the many sections that sets her book apart from many other parenting guides books focuses on the “habit of yes.” To get young children to answer yes instead of no, parents can use three key strategies: change the way we speak, assume positive intent, and helping children get started.
Changing the way we speak could entail asking a child to use a spoon to take a bite instead of telling her to stop banging the spoon on the table. Assuming positive intent prompts parents to think from the child’s perspective rather than just reacting. This means getting curious instead of angry — which in itself can defuse a situation when a child acts out. And when a child refuses to do what’s been asked, getting him started could be as simple as asking, “Can you do it on your own, or should I help you?” There are several compelling examples of just how this works.
Being responsive is a skill, as Collins points out. As parents, we can teach our children how to do it. As we do, we’re also minimizing conflict, and laying solid groundwork for the child to become socially and emotionally secure in their own life. The payoff is a loving, enjoyable relationship between parent and child, and a sense that we’ve done right by our children.
Learn more at Collins’ website.