Toddlers and preschoolers are a challenge. They are learning what they like and what they don’t like. They are becoming people, with
sometimes often irrational opinions.
Every child passes through the ‘terrible twos’ and ‘tremulous threes’ in their own way. My fourth son is just entering this phase as he is now 22 months. I see glimmers of it appearing every day. This has caused me to contemplate ways that I have made the twos and threes turn terrific with my older boys.
Prepare to love the stage. There is something about ages 18m-4 years that I find magical. They learn to talk and say things so adorably! DatDat means blanket and uck means milk. It is so precious that I almost don’t want to teach him the right way of saying it! They learn to run and climb, but still love their mommy. Believe me, the good outweighs the bad. Make a conscious effort to enjoy it.
Baby them. This is a trick I have learned that works very well with older toddlers and preschoolers. When a little one is refusing to cooperate, whether it be putting on his shoes or washing his hands, step down your expectations exaggeratively and help him ALOT. If normally putting on his own shoes is a breeze for him, act like it is something he is too little to do. This often brings out the independence of 2-3 year olds and helps with cooperation. Am I manipulating? Absolutely.
Forget time outs.I’m not saying time outs are terrible, or don’t work, as I use them quite effectively with my first two kids. I have learned that with my third son time-ins improve his behaviour far easier and faster than time-outs. Each child has their way of asking for attention. Carson (DS #3) does this effectively by getting into everything and causing chaos wherever he goes. Although not always possible, I do my best to take the chance to grab him for a big snuggle and some one on one time when I see these behaviours spike. If I’m busy trying to ‘get stuff done’, I have learned I save far more time by taking just a couple moments to be with him.
Let them win. This tip takes some finesse. When you are trying to get cooperation, be ready to compromise, without giving up control. I’m certainly not a pushover parent. I am not known for letting my kids run wild. But I do know how to negotiate. One battle we have often is getting dressed. At 2, Carson was happily dressing himself and now at 3.5, he refuses almost entirely. I still start by trying to get him to dress himself (he has two younger siblings and I need to encourage independence). If he is clearly not going to get all his clothes on by himself, I often step back and ‘make a deal’. If he gets undressed, I will help him get dressed. This does involve more effort on my part, but saves the time of a total meltdown. I still was the boss, but we both compromised.
Give him a choice. You’ve probably heard this one before. When you are asking your child to do something, like pick up their toys, always give them a choice. Remember a lot about the challenging behaviours we see at this stage is establishing control. It can be as simple as ‘do you want to pick up 5 toys or 10?’ Either way, you get some toys cleaned up and you have given your child some control, which is often what they are begging for.
I would love to hear your best tip for dealing with 2-3 year olds