6 Topics and Tips for Parents with Toddlers (Part 2)
Here are the next 3 topics and tips for parents with toddlers. They are Potty Learning, Meal Time, and Needy Behavior/ Power Struggles. If you would like to read the first 3 topics and
tips, here's the link to that blog.
4. Potty Learning
Potty training/learning can start with a lot of interest and enthusiasm and then wane as your toddler decides it’s not as much fun as they thought it was going to be. This is a common dynamic and not one to worry about. Learning can happen in fits and starts and you don’t want to push potty learning. If your child is showing interest, great! Have a potty ready and encourage them to use it.
Keeping it low-key is important. You can’t make your toddler use the potty, so it’s best not to get into a power struggle around this task. Offer, but don’t ask too many times or your kiddo might start to tune you out.
Toddlers typically start to show signs of being ready around 2 years, but some are ready earlier, and some later. You want to watch for developmental readiness by noticing if your kiddo wakes up dry from a nap or is letting you know when they pee and poop in their diaper.
Get in the habit of talking about how you are going to go potty before you go out. You want to connect using the potty with an activity you already are going to do, like going outside, or before you eat, or before a nap, or before a bath. Let your toddler know that you are going potty as a way to model for them when to use the potty.
Try not to ask if your child wants to use the potty. Make it a statement instead. Say something like “Hey sweetie, we are going to go to the park soon. Let’s sit on the potty before we go.” If your toddler says no, don’t push. Say something like “Ok, let’s try again next time. I’m going to use the potty and then we can go.”
If possible, have your toddler spend time outside without a diaper or pants on so they can start to connect the dots to when they go pee. You want them to notice what sensations happen in their body before they pee.
Have some books by the potty so they can sit and either you can read to them or they can read to themselves.
If they have an accident, don’t make a big deal about it. Just say something like “Looks like you went pee. No worries. Let’s clean it up. Next time you can go to the potty when you have that feeling before the pee comes out.
Avoid using food or candy as a reward for using the potty. You can certainly let your child know how excited you are when they go pee or poop in the potty, but it’s best not to use candy as a reward.
5. Meal Time
Toddlers can sometimes become picky eaters as they get older. That big word NO can come into play about anything and everything, including food. It can be really hard not to worry about how much and what your child is eating and start to get into a negotiation struggle around mealtime.
The problem is the more you focus on it the worse it can become. If you get into a power struggle with your toddler about food, you won’t likely win. And battling about food is absolutely no fun.
Your job is to offer a variety of foods, both new and familiar, and their job is to choose what they are going to eat. If your kiddo goes through a jag where all they will eat is cheese and tortillas, so be it. If there are other foods on their plate they will eventually try something else.
You do not need to be a short-order cook. You let your toddler know what you are offering for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and try not to get offended if they say “Yuck!”
Offering a variety of food for snacks as well as meals gives your child a chance to eat throughout the day, but try not to get into them grazing all day long. You offer breakfast, and then 2 hours later you offer a snack, and then 2 hours later lunch, and 2 hours later a snack and 2 hours later dinner, and sometimes a before-bed snack. That can help a picky eater get the calories they need to not be hungry in the middle of the night.
Having regular meal and snack times gives your kiddo stability in their day and keeps them from becoming too hungry. A hungry toddler is usually a cranky one.
Offer water after a meal to clear their mouth and keep them hydrated. Have water available throughout the day.
6. Needy Behavior and Power Struggles
When my kids were toddlers I found whining to be one of the most challenging things to deal with. A whiny voice sent me over the edge, which in turn made my child cling even more, not less.
When you have a toddler who is clinging to your legs or fussing or whining at you about everything and anything it can be tough to keep your cool. But that’s exactly what your kiddo needs.
Try to step back and look at the bigger picture to see if you can find what lies beneath the clinging and whining. Hunger, fatigue, and feeling anxious can all trigger a toddler into displaying needy behavior.
If your child is whining, ask them to let you know what they need in a clear, strong voice. Let them know you will be able to hear them better if they can tell you more clearly.
Acknowledge the feelings that might be going on (“It sounds like you are feeling worried about going to bed. Let’s see what we can do to help you feel better.”).
If your child is whining and clinging to you it can be tempting to pull away, but try first to lean in. Get down on your toddler’s level and offer to hold them for a minute. Slowing down even for a minute can help to reset your child and give them a chance to connect before you redirect.
It can sometimes feel counterintuitive, but what can help needy behavior is clear limits. If you find yourself feeling guilty that you aren’t spending enough time with your kiddo and you then bend the rules on tv or routines, you might find your child more needy rather than less. Clear limits and a parent who holds steady on them will go a long way to helping your child feel safe and secure.
Power struggles can come at all different times of the day (and night), but they most often happen around transitions. Transitions are hard for toddlers as they don’t like to switch from one activity to the next. Your child might yell “No!” or “I won’t!” and you might find yourself pushing back with your own yelling of “Oh yes you will!”. If that happens then you are in a power struggle. It’s a tough place to be and feels awful for both of you.
Give a 3-5 minute warning before you shift to the next activity. Your child might ignore you, but know that the message has been received. Don’t push for an acknowledgment.
If your child yells “No!” at you after you have made a request, try not to get into a back and forth. If you have said “It’s bath time”, and they yell “No!” head to the bathroom anyway and get the bath started. Chances are they will follow. If not, then let them know again and say something like “I know you are having fun playing. What would you like to take to the bath with you?”
If they insist that they are not coming, say something like “I hear you, sweetie. You’d rather keep playing. I get it. Now it’s time for a bath. You can either walk there yourself, or I will help you.” If they continue to ignore you, say something like “It looks like you need help this time. Next time you can get there yourself.”
This is by no means a complete list of all you can do with these toddler issues, but it gives you a starting point. I hope you found some helpful suggestions to work with. If you find yourself struggling with your toddler and it’s just not getting better, please let me know. I would be happy to support you in finding what will work best for you and your little one. I happen to love this age and have worked with many toddlers. I would be happy to work with your kiddo too! You can reach me here.
Please note: Elizabeth Green's Early Parenting Sleep Consultations and written materials are for educational purposes only and are not meant as medical advice. All spoken and written information is to be used at each parents' discretion.