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Three Ways to Help Your Toddler use their Power for Good

Toddlers have a growing sense of autonomy while still needing reassurance from a familiar caregiver.  They discover the world through their eyes, at their own pace and rarely within your time schedule. Between the ages of birth until three years of age, a child’s brain develops more than any other time span in life so you can imagine how hard it might be to focus with so much going on up there!

Photo Credit: Ellena Photo

Social-emotional development between ages of two and three years typically includes behaviors such as resisting change, showing pride in accomplishments, developing fears and lots of pretend play.  Try these five strategies to empower your toddler as they grow into confident individuals ready for anything!

  • Give children choices.  Not 10, not 100, but 2 or 3. “Do you want to brush your teeth now or in 2 minutes?” “Will you eat green beans first or apples?” “Should we sit on the potty now or when the timer rings?” “Here are three books. Which should we read first?” Set yourself and your child up for success by providing meaningful choices whenever possible.  Avoiding power struggles not only saves your sanity, but encourages healthy self-esteem at any age. Children will learn, “I can make good choices.”
  • Listen when your child says, “No.” Yes, you read that right.  Allowing children to say no helps them be in control of their body, actions, and feelings. If there is something that is not up for negotiation, don’t ask.  For example, “It’s time to turn off the TV and go to bed, OK?” is a question you may not want answered with no.  Refer to bullet one and drop the “OK.” When is it “OK” for your child to say “no?” You decide. Children will learn, “I’m in charge of my choices.”
  • Let them cry. And smile. And scream. And laugh.  And dance. And breathe. Better yet, do these things with them!  Acknowledge children’s emotions by saying, “You sound like you’re really upset” when they’re screaming or “That smile shows me you are happy.” Think of being told to “just calm down” when your cup of coffee has spilled, your last contact from the box just escaped blissfully down the kitchen sink and your debit card is missing again.  When children are told to “just stop crying” when they are upset, they are hearing that expressing emotions is wrong and hiding them is right: a perfect recipe for disastrous middle school years! Yes,  crying over getting the blue plate they asked for in the first place is, in fact, ridiculous, BUT for a child in that moment it’s important to them and so, we help them work through it.  We smell the roses and and blow out the candles (deep breathing using your hands as a visual aid).  We let them scream and kick, all the while saying “I see you’re upset. Let me know if you need a hug or if I can help. I’m here for you,” while silently counting down the hours until nap time. Children will learn, “I can handle my emotions.”
Most toddlers have a lot of emotions.  In years past, the glares in the grocery store and from our mother in laws have taught us to “shhh” a crying baby.  However, research now tells us that we can give our children the power they seek and it’s actually healthy!  I didn’t make this up, although I could have because it makes sense.  Be a part of changing the culture of power in our schools by starting at home. Read more about empowering children to grow into innovative, confident and emotionally healthy beings ready to live life to the fullest within the following resources:
Carissa Orr
Author: Carissa Orr

Early Childhood Professional, “Music with Ms. Carissa,” Mama, and now blogger thanks to MDM! Carissa works as an Early Childhood Consultant for Michigan’s state-funded Preschool Program, the Great Start Readiness Program.  In her spare time, she entertains children and families with live music as part of her Music with Ms. Carissa.  Most importantly, she is “Jack’s Mom” and loves adventuring with her young toddler all around Metro Detroit!