Earthway Parenting, Gentle Parenting, Toddlers

Tune into your Toddler

If you are a parent or if you have ever interacted with children between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, then you most likely have witnessed many of the milestone behaviour within autonomy versus shame and doubt stage from Erik Erikson’s stage of psychosocial development, such as wanting to dress themselves, feed themselves with their fingers, you may have even struggled to hold them amongst a pool of tears because they can’t and won’t find their drink bottle (even though you know that they haven’t even started looking for it and it’s on the kitchen bench!) It is at this point in development that young children will begin to express a greater need for independence and control over themselves as well as the world around them. According to Erikson, children at this stage are focused on developing a greater sense of self-control.

Your toddler at this age is gradually wanting and yearning for an increase in their independence they want greater control over what they are doing and how they are going to do it. Toddlers that are in the thick of this developmental stage will often feel the need to do EVERYTHING independently!

Things such as picking out their own clothes, deciding what they will and won’t eat, toys and games that they want to play.  This can create SO much frustration for many parents and understandably so, you want your toddler to look super CUTE but instead, they look like a red-hot MESS!!  The simple fact is, this is not only an important milestone in development for your little one but an essential one, for your toddler they are developing their personality further, their sense of style and all whilst creating personal autonomy.

For toddlers who thrive within this stage, it is mostly due to parental understanding and support, they will feel secure and confident as individuals, while those who don’t have a little sense of ‘freedom’ will feel a sense of inadequacy and self-doubt.  As parents, it is important to know that it is OK to let go and allow your little one to develop their own sense of ‘style’ or to eat with their fingers, after all, it is part of the fun of being little enough to ‘get away with it!’

Below are SIX ways to Gentle discipline and reconnection whilst being in the thick of this fascinating but also at times, frustrating developmental stage!

1. Choose your battles

For us, that could be choosing an outfit for the day but if they decide to change it up and wear mismatched clothing then they are establishing autonomy and we are helping them express their creativity.  Of course, there are non-negotiables such as wearing their seatbelt but that’s ok if they want to help click the seatbelt, again you’re dodging a bullet aka a tantrum BUT they’re strengthening their sense of autonomy.

2. Give two options but it has the same outcome

This is one of the simplest and easiest tips for parenting throughout difficult toddler behaviour. In giving your toddler two options with the same outcome it will help make your toddler feel more in control. Meanwhile,  you are also getting them to agree to what you would like done. For example, “would you like some help to put on your shoes or mama can put them on?” or “This outfit or this one?” you could even use this for dinner time, try presenting the same dinner but in two different ways!
The same result for you but it looks different to your little one!

3. Try to give warnings and use a timer

How would you feel if you were mid-conversation with a girlfriend and your partner suddenly started to usher you away or worse picked you up and carried you out the door all whilst saying “we are leaving NOW!”  I think it’s safe to say that the conversation that would ensue would be more like a huge argument and I don’t think you would feel respected.  Your toddler feels the same way when you drag them out of a park without forewarning.  I will tend to say something like, “ok honey one more swing then no more”, whilst holding up one finger, that way your toddler is also getting a visual of what you would like.  A timer on your phone works well for your older toddler too. Explain to your toddler that you’re setting the timer for 5 more minutes and when it rings it will be time to go.

Tunning into your Toddler eBookThe “Tuning into your Toddler eBook” is packed full of information all about YOUR toddlers! Including their brain development, emotional intelligence and ways to connect, gentle discipline and why it’s ‘not a dirty word!’ Positive speak, self compassion, mindfulness and SO much more.

4. Consequences for their actions

As parents, we can quickly react instead of respond. An example of this can be an instant timeout for drawing on the coffee table with a texta. When using consequences as a side effect for their behaviour or the choices that they are making research has shown that it can lead to a sense of better internalized moral reasoning ( Dr Laura Markham Aha Parenting).

An example of a logical consequence for your toddler’s behaviour may be to take away the use of all textas for the day.

5. Empathy

When we as adults feel heard and understood and our partner can paraphrase our feelings back to us such as “oh honey, it sounds like you’ve had a rough day, having sick kids is exhausting,” this alone is a valuable tool for connection within your relationship, this same sort of reconnection can also happen for your child and parent relationship too, especially whilst they are acting out.

6. Hug it out

We ALWAYS hug it out!!  As frustrating as it is mid-meltdown and it could very well be the last thing you feel like doing, the majority of the time a simple hug can soften both of your resolve and make for a very easy but beautiful first step in reconnection with your little one.