Toddlers are impressive

Children of this age are emerging as real little people — you can talk together and have a true sense of companionship. Toddlers are fast and keep you on your toes. They are creative, getting into everything they can and some things they can’t. They look for trouble and, if they’re lucky, the worst thing they’ll meet is you. It’s the age of full-on learning. 1. How to handle discipline and get co-operation from these energetic and independent children. 2. How to teach toddlers to help themselves (and you) around the house. 3. How to look after yourself and your partnership during these robust years. 4. How to have fun with an age group that specialises in this quality.

DISCIPLINE

Why toddlers look for trouble — and how to give it to them! Imagine this. Little Donald is visiting your house with his mother. You serve cake with jam on it. Donald rubs the jam on to your couch. His mother tells him not to, so he drops the cake on the floor and treads it into the carpet. His mother shouts at him and he runs off. She says: ‘Come back’ and he doesn’t. He hides under the bed and won’t come out.

Everyone knows a Donald and no one is all that surprised — at this age, discipline is the big question in almost every parent’s mind. Babies are hard work, teenagers can be a worry. But parents, grandparents, childcarers, teachers, even truck drivers know — toddlers are tough.

Why is this so? What is it that changes them from sweet infants into machines of destruction? The answer is simple — it’s because they are now super mobile, super smart and entering a stage (known to most people as the terrible twos) where they actually need to experience lots of conflict in order to turn into emotionally healthy children in the long run. It’s like Vitamin S (for struggle) and every child needs it to grow.

This is the paradox of parenting — that while our job with infants has been geared to keeping them happy, our job with toddlers is often quite the opposite. We need to let them be uncomfortable, briefly but definitely, many times a day. Not because we want to, and never with cruelty, but so that they can learn to handle life.

A toddler is entering a different phase of life and needs a different kind of love. Newborn babies are at the centre of their own universe. They want only what they need and it’s our job to fill those needs. Babies’ needs are simple — food, comfort, stimulation and loving touch. But toddlers are different. They want the world! They want you to open the ice-cream store just for them. They want to play in the traffic. They want to post sliced bread into the front of your VCR (to see if a loaf appears on the TV). Even the most indulgent parent soon realises that toddlers can-not be allowed to do what they want… at least, not all the time.

This calls for a different kind of capacity in parents. On top of all the soft and generous love you have been giving, you now have to add some ‘tough’ loving — to set some limits and boundaries, and allow natural frustrations for your child. It’s through learning to live within these limits that they learn to be happy in the world.