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Loving your terrible, terrific toddler

8Forget about stimulating your child’s brain by teaching her the alphabet.

The intellectual work of toddlers is about talking and being listened to, observing the world, being accepted and validated. Emotional self-management lays the foundation for intellectual development. It’s never too early to develop a love of books, if you want your child to love reading, then read to her and tell her stories.

9Pre-empt whining.

Whining is an expression of powerlessness. It can become a habit. Try to avoid making whining necessary, and if it does happen, try to avoid rewarding it.

10Use routines.

Kids develop self discipline partly by living in a safe, predictable structured routine where they know what to expect. When you disrupt routines with Grandma’s visit or simply exceptions for your own convenience, you can expect tantrums, difficulty falling asleep, and other challenges. Grandma, of course, is worth it, but choosing disruptions wisely is part of protective parenting.


Help your toddler feel more powerful by listening to her, letting her make decisions whenever possible, and giving her the opportunity to experience competence by helping you with simple household tasks.

12Minimize or eliminate visual electronic media.

Sesame Street creates a watcher, not a doer, shortens attention spans, and starts an addiction in kids who are prone to it. When they’re a little older, they’ll flip on the TV instead of reading a book. Not to mention that you’ll have stopped being able to monitor what they watch by the time they’re eight. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of two not watch TV or videos at all because it impacts brain development. The AAP recommends that children over two watch AT MOST an hour daily of nonviolent, educational TV.

13Pre-empt tantrums.

Since most tantrums happen when kids are hungry or tired, think ahead. Preemptive feeding and napping, firm bedtimes, cozy time with you, peaceful quiet time without media stimulation — whatever it takes to stay grounded — prevent most tantrums. Learn to just say no — to yourself! Don’t squeeze in that last errand with a hungry or tired kid.

14Try to handle tantrums so they don’t escalate.

If your kid does launch into a tantrum despite your best preventive efforts, stay calm. He needs to know you’re there and still love him, even if he won’t let you touch him. Don’t try to reason with him. Think about what you feel like when you’re swept with exhaustion, rage and hopelessness. He needs to know that you’re in control, and as soon as he’s ready, you’ll help him recollect himself. Afterwards, take some reassuring “cozy time” together, but don’t give in to the original demand that prompted the tantrum.

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