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Loving your terrible, terrific toddler

Toddlerhood can be a maddening time for parents. But you’ll be glad to know you can reduce your child’s rebellion by giving him freedom to do his developmental work.


How much is he allowed to explore? To set his own pace? To feel in control of his world? To discover that he’s a competent person? Can you appreciate his bids for independence without taking them as personal insults? Can you give up some control so he can develop some sense of mastery over his world?

Your baby is growing into her own person. Your challenge is to keep your sanity and keep her safe. Your best strategy is to cultivate a great relationship with her and enjoy her emerging independence. How?

1Cultivate empathy for your child.

Kids begin to develop empathy (and therefore, the ability to play well with others) as they themselves feel understood. And it’ll make you a better parent.

2Don’t force her to share.

Instead, encourage taking turns. Let her put her favorite toys away before another child visits.

3Allow time in your schedule for your toddler’s need to explore the world.

Rushing toddlers is one of the common triggers of avoidable tantrums.

4Use age-appropriate discipline: distraction, reasonable limits, redirection.

Don’t unwittingly teach your toddler that might makes right by spanking her. And if you yell at her, you’re teaching her by example that tantrums are ok.

5Let your child be in charge of toilet training.

They all get out of diapers sooner or later. Fights with your child about his body are fights you will never win. If your child shows zero interest in toilet training, find opportunities for him to be around other kids who are using the toilet, and he’ll quickly want to emulate them.

6Sidestep power struggles. You don’t have to prove you’re right.

Your child is trying to assert that he’s a real person, with some real power in the world. That’s totally appropriate. Let him say no whenever you can do so without compromise to safety, health, or other peoples’ rights.

7Feeding is the toddler’s job.

You provide the healthy food. She feeds it to herself. Don’t obsess about how much she eats; kids don’t starve themselves. Many toddlers are too busy during the day to eat enough and ask for food at bedtime. Build a bedtime snack into the routine to help him sleep better.

Up next: 7 More toddler tips >>

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