by Julie Snyder
Dealing with an immature, demanding person who has a very short attention span and a poor vocabulary can be a challenge.
If you add sweet, cute and very short to the description, you could be describing my 2-year-old.
Are you the parent of an adorable, but adamant toddler? Has your two-year-old already figured out your "hot buttons" to push…frequently?
Your child's primary interests revolve around establishing a sense of independence and individual identity. You may be more concerned that the kid learns respect for parents, rules, family, cooperation and positive self-esteem.
These two divergent agendas might seem like a battlefield, but your home doesn't have to be a place of conflict. Here's how you both can have meet your goals.
Stepping, or stomping, through the toddlerhood takes longer for some children than others. These tips -- and your patience, sensitivity and compassion -- can help make the journey less bumpy for you both.
Create a can-do home. Set up your home so your toddler can participate in their own care. You might put a step stool by sinks or lower hooks to hang up coats.
Say "yes" whenever you can -- without compromising safety, health, or other peoples' rights. You don't have to prove you're right. Your tot's trying to prove that he's a real person, with some real power in the world. That's totally appropriate.
Offer opportunities to help and become competent. Toddlers can set out napkins for meals, carry small items from one room to another, get a diaper for you or hold a hose on a garden plot. And they’ll beam with pride while doing it!
Give chances to play with power. Let your child experiment with "parent power" through pretend play with puppets, dolls and dress up clothes.
Feeding is a toddler's job. You provide the healthy food. Your child chooses what to eat and how much. Don't obsess; kids don't starve themselves.
Let your child be in charge of potty training. All kids get out of diapers sooner or later. Fights about a child's body are fights you will never win. To encourage an interest in toilet training, hand out with other kids who are using the toilet. Your tiny mimic will want to emulate them.
Plan on every task taking twice the time. Young kids get distracted easily. Twos love to ponder, poke, prod, explore, and investigate. Everything -- from a walk to the mailbox to a trip to the store -- takes extra time with a toddler,
Provide a predictable routine. Kids develop self discipline partly by living in a safe, predictable structured routine where they know what to expect.
Remind and announce transitions. Some kids move easily from activity to activity. Others don't, and require a head-up that you'll soon be leaving for playgroup or heading to grandma's house. Do need I mention the benefit of warning when it's almost time for toy clean up or bedtime?
Plan activities around your child's schedule. Most tantrums happen when kids are hungry or tired, think ahead. Planned meals and naps, firm bedtimes, cozy snuggles and peaceful quiet time prevent most tantrums. The bottom line -- don't squeeze in that last errand with a hungry or tired kid.
Teach words for feelings. "Sara is so mad that her toy tipped over." "I see that the noise frightened you." When you first see your toddler's frustrations or fears coming on, get down eye-to-eye and name the feeling. Kids begin to develop empathy as they themselves feel understood.
Empathize with emotions. When your child crumples into tears over a button that won't hook, offer support by saying, "It's frustrating when the button doesn't go in the hole."
Give hugs and loves. Keep your little one's emotional bank charged with plenty of hugs, snuggles and kind words.
Fess up! What drives you bonkers as you parent your toddler?
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.