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How to build a better parent-child connection during the “terrible twos” stage and beyond

little girls and mom painting

Key points:

  1. Professor Matthew Sanders researches positive parenting’s impact on parent-child relationships and emotional development.
  2. Tips: Daily conversations, genuine interest, realistic expectations, and praising effort and improvement foster emotional development.
  3. Consistency in words and actions is crucial, along with incidental teaching.
  4. Logical consequences, recognizing emotions, and helping children express them are effective strategies.

For about a decade, professor in psychology at the University of Queensland, Matthew Sanders, has been researching positive parenting. He has also focused on the effects it has in the relationship between child and parents, how it enhances the caregivers’ skills and confidence, and how it aids children develop good emotional skills from toddlerhood and well into adult life.

We drew some ideas from his 2008 paper “The Triple P: Positive Parenting Program as a public health approach to strengthening parenting” published in the Journal of Family Psychology. Here are some tips on how to foster your child’s emotional development, survive the terrible-twos, and actually enjoy this age:

  • Make time every day for talking with your child. Give them your undivided attention.
  • Be interested in your child’s likes, interests, quirks, and development. This might seem intuitive, but plenty of research has shown that being interested and attuned with your child is far more beneficial for their socio-emotional development than trying to be a perfect parent.
  • Have reasonable expectations according to their development and age.
  • Recognize effort and praise improvements.
  • Be aware that children are very attuned to their parent’s non-verbal communication. Try to model coherence between what you say and what you do.
  • Use incidental teaching. For example, if your child is having pieces of string cheese and crackers for lunch, ask about shapes and colors to prompt learning.
  • Hold logical consequences for bad behavior. For example, remove troublesome objects from your child’s view and try to talk with them about what happened.
  • Recognize emotions and help them translate them into words.

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