1. Run ‘em out
Spirited toddlers have more energy to burn and when they are able to release that extra fuel, they thrive! Inside or outside it’s easy to create opportunities to get your little one running. Movement breaks are really critical to help little minds regain focus. If you notice that your child is starting to have a difficult time –remove and move! Remove them from the situation that they are struggling in and get them into a movement break (e.g. jumping jacks, wall pushes, a race, etc.). I like to plan movement activities throughout the day in order to (hopefully) prevent the wiggles from getting stuck.
2. Space + Freedom = Happiness
Toddlers are handled by grown-ups a lot. We carry them, pick them up, put them in highchairs, boosters, cribs, and car seats; we pull them away from dangerous items, we hold their hand when we cross streets, and so much more! Their bodies need safe spaces and freedom in order to shake off all of the handling. If possible, try to create this opportunity once a day. Let them run as they wish in the backyard, let them fill and spill water in buckets outside, let them make a pillow fort and crash into it as much as they need –more than anything, let them do it their way.
3. Consistency –>Calm
The more consistent you remain, the quicker and easier it will be for your child to get on the same page. It’s their job to push and it’s your job to hold firm. Give an inch and they will ask for 10 miles –over and over again! Keep your language simple and repetitive. Say your child is begging to jump on the couch. They are going to get louder and more persistent before they stop. Your job is to pick a phrase and stick with it (e.g. “Mama said no. It’s not safe.” or “We don’t jump on the couch.”). When we keep our language simple and repetitive, our children are more likely to hear us in their heightened state. The more you explain or attempt to compromise, the longer and harder it’s going to be.
4. Practice patience
Patience is a practice for all of us! Every day, every hour, just check in with yourself and do your best to be patient with your child. They are supposed to test your boundaries, they are meant to push the limits, it is their sole job to learn the ropes of what’s okay and what’s not okay. We all are trying our best (little people included) –it is okay if you sometimes lose your cool. Just apologize specifically (e.g. “I was too loud; I’m so sorry”, “I will keep my voice softer now.”) and then move right on –they will too!
5. Say what you’ll do & do what you said
We have all been there, in the heat of the moment, when we are trying to get a behavior to stop and we threaten (e.g. “You’re going to go to time out”, “We are going to leave the park”, etc.). Unless you mean it, don’t say it. But if you are going to follow through, then by all means set the boundary. You are not being the bad guy; you are being the trustworthy guy. You want your child to learn early on that their grown-up says what they’ll do and does what they say.
Molly Dresner is a Speech Language Pathologist based in New York City.
She recently authored The Speech Teacher’s Handbook, an engaging parent guide that includes practical and easy-to-follow tips and activities to help you help your little one!