Toddler Tips for Parents
The toddler years are often described as the ‘terrible twos’ and normal toddler behaviour is labelled ‘naughty’ from day one.
The NSPCC wants to change the way we look at toddlerhood – it may be a challenge, but it’s not terrible. Much toddler behaviour is normal not naughty.
And the NSPCC wants to change the way we treat children. With positive discipline, shouting and smacking are not necessary and often make things worse.
The key to better and safer parenting is understanding toddlers and learning how way for parent and child.
Parents preparing for toddlerhood often welcome greater help and support, and the best people to advise them are probably parents who have been through it themselves. This guide is by parents for parents, with commentary by NSPCC Parenting Adviser Eileen Hayes, herself a mother of four. It does not cover every situation, but it should give anyone interested in toddler development some new insights and helpful hints.
““Be lavish with praise for positive behaviour you want to encourage: ‘Good girl, you came for dinner as soon as I called.’ This makes your toddler want to repeat the behaviour that pleases you.””
In January 2003, the NSPCC asked ordinary mums and dads to submit their toddler tips, many of which are included in this guide. This was made possible with generous support from the Early Learning Centre.
Toddler expert Eileen Hayes is the NSPCC’s Parenting Adviser.
Parents' five point plan
1. Listen and explain “Whenever your child is naughty, don't just shout at them and expect them to respond,” says Michael from Stevenage. “The best thing is to rationalise with them, bend down to their level, look into their eyes and explain to them what they are doing is wrong and why you don’t like it.”
2. Set a good example “Toddlers watch every move you make,” says Gerry from London. “So if you don’t want your child to act aggressively, it’s important that you don’t either.”
Eileen’s advice: “Toddlers mainly learn by copying what you do. The more you yell, or say no, or lose your cool, the more likely it is that they will do the same. Hard as it is, it really pays off in the end if you can try to be calm and positive.”
3. Ignore mild misbehaviour “Don’t be always nagging and whining at your child,” says Mrs Garside from Halifax. “Ignore mild bad behaviour. If you nag all the time, it’s water off a duck’s back and they will switch off. Save your loud voice for when you really need it.”
Eileen’s advice: “Try to turn a blind eye to minor annoying behaviour, and save the word ‘no’ and other battles for the times when you have no choice or when the child’s safety is involved.”
4. Encourage them You can do this not only with material rewards like a new toy or video but with lots of praise and tender loving care.
“When my toddlers have had tantrums,” says Kate from Kidderminster, “I try to ignore them when it is safe to do so. I then really congratulate them and give them lots of cuddles to reward good behaviour.”
“Nourish your child with positive attention and quality time,” suggests Mrs Garside from Halifax, “and they will turn into a confident, secure happy child.”
Eileen’s advice: “Be lavish with praise for positive behaviour you want to encourage: ‘Good girl, you came for dinner as soon as I called.’ This makes your toddler want to repeat the behaviour that pleases you.”
5. Give them a say Parents agree that, instead of just saying, “Because I said so”, toddlers should be given choices.
Eileen's advice:, “Try to create a win-win situation in order to avoid an argument. For example, you want your toddler who hates wearing socks to wear some because it’s cold outside. Instead of saying, ‘I want you to wear socks now’, say, ‘Do you want to wear the black ones or the blue ones today?’ That way your toddler feels in control about deciding which socks to wear, while not allowing them the option of saying, ‘No socks!’”
“Instead of asking him if he was ready to go to bed, I gave him a different option. I would say ‘Do you want to read a book when you get into bed, or shall we listen to some nursery rhymes?’ That way, the option was not bed or staying up, it was giving him an option once he was there.”