Raising a Toddler

To preface this article, I want to be sure that everyone knows that I’m not an “expert in early childhood development or toddlers. I’m just an old dad – with a 2-year-old son. Eighty person of the time, he’s great. Well behaved, fun and cute…. and then there’s other twenty percent.

The meltdowns, the tantrums, the screams – they’re just part of the scene.

The following are bits of self-advise that I try to keep in mind as I go about raising my two-year old.


If you read any book about early child development you’ll read all about growth stages, developmental signs and various other milestones.

One thing I learned early on was that there are also “mini-stages” or “micro-stages.” This became quite evident during bath-time. I had finally gotten our son to lean his head back on the side of his inflatable bathtub and close his eyes so that I could rinse the shampoo out of his hair.

After about two weeks of this advancement, one night he just stopped. Yup! Refused to close his eyes, didn’t want to lean back, and that was that. Regression? Stubbornness? Nope, just a two-year old being a two-year old. A few months later, he was back to closing his eyes, leaning his head back and relaxing. Since then, there have been no problems.

As I started to think more about this, I recalled more of these regressions, such as with eating, playing, disciplining, etc.


We all like to think that if we plan how are days will go, then that’s how they should go. And then you add in the “toddler-factor.” The addition of several extra “buffer” minutes become a requirement, plans can be tossed out with a quick break-down and plans are sometimes put off all together

So, what do you do? Welcome to bartering.

Although bartering may not be the best bet in ‘psycho-rearing,’ it sometimes works.

Lately my son’s ploys focus on delaying his bedtime. He tries to negotiate. I say, “one book and one puzzle,” he counters with “two books.” After the “two books,” he then goes for “one more, “or the old stand-by, “I want water” tactic. Lately, it’s been “I’m hungry.”

Unfortunately, each encounter is unique. Sometimes a diversion works, sometimes it doesn’t. One time, I actually took him downstairs to eat and he ate a lot.


Never underestimate the will power of a toddler.

I’ve learned a lot about this as of late, as my son is now two he can actually provide arguments and contradictions to accompany his crying and screaming. At times, it seems we have daily ‘struggles’ about something or other — whether it be putting shoes on, getting into his car seat on his own or taking a bath.

My new tactic: the distraction. Instead of trying to reason or rationalize, or push my will on his (I’d lose anyways), I’ve now resorted to focusing his attention elsewhere. If he ‘refuses’ to put on his shoes, we might go to the window to look for a bird. If he doesn’t want to head to bed, we ‘march’ with music and everything.

Tickling, funny sounds and silly impersonations remain solid standbys as well.


Growing up in a one-hour-of-TV-a-night-household in the 70s, my impression of television was that TV was a privileged source of entertainment only.

Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder and other educational shows have changed my impressions on that. Sure, plopping the tot in-front of the boob tube should never replace quality playtime, but sitting together and ‘learning’ through these shows isn’t as bad as one might think. For one, his vocabulary has exploded.

We learn about fire safety from Fireman Sam, sharing from Thomas the Train and Spanish language from Dora the Explorer.

Playtime around here runs the gambit from building with homemade blocks to playing with play-dough.


In the hectic environment that is DC, I want to ensure that our daddy-son time is meaningful and something we can do together. Although he’s only two and his early impression memories won’t carry forth, we make it a habit of scheduling at least one Saturday a month where it’s just the two of us.

So far, Home Depot and Lowe’s have been most helpful in starting of our morning with their monthly workshops. We get to paint, hammer (yes, watch the thumbs) and build something together. After that, we run a few errands, a trip to the park or to the local horse barn with a bag of apples, and then eat lunch — just the two of us.

In the summer, my little guy helps me in the garden. In the fall, he uses his mini-rake to gather leaves, and in the winter, we trudge through the snow to fill our various bird feeders.

Mark is professional communicator with more than 20 years of experience in the U.S. Marine Corps, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Booz | Allen | Hamilton and currently the Klett Consulting Group, Inc.

He earned his degree from Colorado State U. and deployed around the world with the Marines. In his off-time, he runs the DC Lacrosse Club, officiates lacrosse at all levels and supports numerous community organizations.

Online Resources:

Advice On Raising Toddlers.


What To Expect: Toddlers



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