“Unpredictable, remarkable, surprising, clever, beautiful” is the perfect description of our three-year-old daughter Caroline. One minute she is saying the most amazing fact to us (my husband Jeff and me). We think, “ How does she know this? “ Then her mood suddenly changes and a tantrum lands right in our lap. These little acts of growth and change we’re blessed with are what I like to call Toddlerisms.
Toddlerhood is all about changing, discovering, and growing up. Challenges are part of that change and knowing how to deal with them effectively can be tough. Therefore, it’s essential to have a few survival tricks.
Misconceptions and discipline can be two of those challenges. First, deal with the misconceptions. I like to adapt them to fit my child and her needs, as they are generalizations and not accurate representations of your toddler’s development.
The three biggest misconceptions I find most often:
Misconception #1: Toddlers are potty-trained by age 3 years. Caroline let us know when she was ready to be potty-trained; anytime before that is too early. Age is pointless if your child isn’t ready.
Misconception #2: Toddlers are picky eaters and will only eat a limited number of foods. Of course toddlers are attached to certain foods and they seem to want those foods often. However, we found that Caroline will try something new if we give her the chance. We assume the opposite of toddlers, but give them the chance to make that choice. Not just through one exposure, but many – 15-20 times.
Misconception #3: Toddlers want to drink juice and eat sweets. Toddlers like sweet. Who doesn’t! But sugar doesn’t have to dominate your child’s diet. In fact, I’ve “experimented” with Caroline and found the opposite to be true. She has learned the value of fruit and veggies. She pushes away juice – water and milk are her top choices. In the end, it’s how you present the healthy and the unhealthy foods. One should not trump the other in the “yum” factor.
Then there’s discipline. In three short years with the tantrums, fussy spouts, pouting, and crying, I’ve learned a lot about what Caroline needs in order to make disciplining more effective. I’m not saying it’s perfect, as I am still a parent-in-training, but these tips often help the situation.
- Let the tantrum happen. Distractions don’t always work and sometimes tantrums need to happen for children to learn about their feelings.
- Afterwards, give your child space. They need time to process their feelings.
- When your child is ready, discuss their feelings. What was inappropriate? What could be done differently? And don’t forget the hugs.
Toddlerisms: Five Joys of Being a Toddler Parent
Although these are endless, here are my top five joys of being a toddler parent.
- Toddlers love their parents. Caroline requests “cuddle time” almost daily.
- Toddlers are sponges. Currently, her specialty is to count in Chinese and recite her ABCs in English.
- Toddlers develop friendships. Caroline likes to read in the library area at preschool with her friend Myra. They discuss the book with giggles and smiles.
- Toddlers love to pretend. Caroline loves to “multi-task pretend”. She’ll shop, call Gigi (grandma), and dress as a train conductor at the same time.
- Toddlers surprise you. Caroline gave up her seat to a classmate who was crying and went to find her own. Home influences really shine through unexpectedly, don’t they?
Make sure to enjoy your joyful moments too. Take pictures, make scrapbooks, and revisit these often with your child.
Kimberly Evans, Ed.D. is currently the Senior Manager, Professional Services, Amplify Education where she manages the PD for DCPS. She is mother to three-year-old Caroline and wife to husband Jeff.