Share your tips and tricks for parenting toddlers

We’re going through a rocky stage right now, so I sure could use some of your top parenting tips. I also have a couple that I’m delighted to have discovered recently:

Little Cinnamon won’t eat much, and what she does eat doesn’t provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals. She also refuses all forms of vitamins, chewable, gummy, princess-shaped, gumballs, whatever. She can detect liquid vitamins in a drink at .05ppm. But I just got her to take the liquid vitamins by putting them in maple syrup for her pancakes. :cool:

The only way I can get her to comply with many things lately is making it an immediate choice for her. Like, “You can look out your window at the moon, and I’ll go downstairs, or you can get in bed and I’ll sing you a song.” Then I actually have to start leaving, before she yells, “NO!” and jumps in bed.

My husband is way better at this, but humor can defuse a showdown. He’ll “try” to put a diaper on her elbow or head, asking, “It goes here, right?” The other night I got her to put on PJs by trying to pull the pants on myself, then waddling around with them around my ankles, saying, “I’m not sure these fit.”

Share your tips and tricks - please!

The important thing is Follow Through. If you’re going to threaten something, make sure you are ready to follow through on it.

We once waited an hour in line to get on a Disney ride, and we were the next to go in, but my niece was acting up, and my SIL said “That’s it,” and pulled her out of line. This was a ride my SIL wanted to go on herself, so she was forgoing her own pleasure, but I think she did the right thing.

I think you and your husband are bright, imaginative parents, and the Little One will be fine.

The choice thing is great. Kids need to feel like they have some control over what happens to them. Occasionally my daughter will make a choice that surprises me but she usually sticks with it. When she doesn’t (i.e., if she tries to cajole me into doing both things), I stand firm.

To that end, I’ve been trying to have my daughter pick out her clothes for daycare or school the night before. (She’s 4). When I don’t, the decision-making process lasts forever, the choices I make are rejected, and if I try to put the clothes on her anyhow, she flops around and I end up getting angry and it’s just unpleasant for everyone. But she is nothing if not firm in her convictions, so is she decides that she is going to wear her overalls and her yellow shirt the next day, then that’s that and I know she won’t go back on it and start the battle all over again.

I’m also really trying to let go of the smaller struggles, to avoid losing ground on the bigger ones. hence letting her choose her own outfits. She has been known to put together some doozies when it comes to outfits…but what does it really matter? She’s clothed and shod, however blindingly. This way when I do put my foot down on something, she kows I mean it.

I also try to notice and comment when she does something “good”. The pleases and thank yous, sharing with her brother, cleaning up her toys. There are so, so many times when I am hounding her to do these things, so to notice them is to really notice that she is trying to do something that I deemed important.

I’m not really thinking of anything all that creative right now, but I’ll try. I’m interested to see what others come up with as well.

Duct tape.

OH! Sorry, not that kind of tip. :smiley:

Seriously, the thing I’ve been trying to do lately is to be very, very patient - to not jump to the conclusion that they’re being “bad” or trying to drive me crazy, although all evidence may be to the contrary. Often there’s a vital piece I’m missing, and once I get that, it all stops being an evil plot.

Example: I’m babysitting a 2 year old, as well as my own 19 month old. The two are terrors, and at that age where they really don’t like each other much. (Sam, the other kid, actually pushed Caileigh away from me the other day and grabbed my leg, saying, “MY Mama!” Heh.) So they’ve been on each other’s nerves and mine all day. Finally, we call a truce for a few minutes and they’re having some dry fruity-o cereal. Sam starts taking them out of the bowl, putting them on the ground and stomping them into little powdery bits. I correct him, sweep up the mess, give him a choice (“Fruity-o’s stay in the bowl or in your mouth! If you choose to stomp them and make a mess, then they’re going away.” or somesuch). Of course, 10 seconds later, there’s more powdery mess on the floor.

“Did you make that mess, Sam?”

He nods. “I make big mess!” he shouts triumphantly. Grr.

“Did I tell you not to do that?”

He nods again. And stomps another one.

So I pick up the bowl and take it into the kitchen. When I come back into the room, he’s sweeping up the crumbs. (Not well, but you know how that goes.) Suddenly a light bulb went on for me. “Sam, did you stomp the cereal so you could use the broom?”

“Yes! I make big mess!” He was so proud.

Deflated my anger immediately. He wasn’t trying to piss me off or be bad. He wanted to sweep, and needed something to sweep up. It was absolutely logical once I got into his head, and I was angry for no reason at all.

So we spent some time stoping cereal together and sweeping it up. The kids had a blast, and so did I, to be honest! :smiley:

I guess that goes under a larger tip: Say yes whenever you can. Would my grandmother have let me stomp cereal into bits on her dining room floor? Absolutely not. But what harm was it causing, really? It was fun, it was harmless, and two toddlers got a chance to practice their skills with a broom, not to mention balance, big steps, stomping and other exercise. And laughing. Laughing is very, very important when you’re two.

Plus, they learned that sometimes Mommys make mistakes, but give them more information and they may change their minds…which is a whole 'nother tip: don’t be afraid to say you were wrong or that you’ve changed your mind. It doesn’t make you weak, it makes you reasonable.

Seconed on Ivylass’ “following through” tip. Kids aren’t selfless angels, and will (even if it’s only unconsciously) exploit any inconsistencies in your disciplining. IMO they’re not being manipulative or cunning, they simply learn what patterns work best for success (“Mommy won’t ground me even though she says she will,” or “Grandpa always says ‘yes’”), so you have to not give them the leeway.

And remember, there are no handbooks for parenting; we really are making it up as we go along. It’s okay to screw up occassionally as long as you recognize that you’re screwing up and make an effort to do better next time…

There are a lot of kids who don’t eat much - unless her diet is really limited, don’t sweat it too much. I have a girlfriend with a kid who didn’t eat much to the point of nutritional problems - but talk it over with your peditrician. We never bothered with vitamins.

As toddlers, there were days at a time where I would swear they were running off air, because they wouldn’t eat anything. Then they’d sit down and eat more than I would.

Make a list of what she will eat. Keep those things as healthy as you can get by with. Don’t let her fill up on things with no-nutritional value - if you only keep healthy thing in the house, she will probably do fine.

(I use the pioneer woman on the prairie standard with kids - did kids survive on the prairie? Yep, without multivitimins and with limited diets - if the food didn’t run out over the winter. Since I don’t think the food is going to run out, I figure my kids will make it. I do make sure that they have all the food groups offered to them.)

Dangerosa, I do the same thing with thinking about prairie babies! And my husband will say, “what did the cave babies do?” I think that’s a universal way of dealing with toddlers & their eating habits! I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that we have so many options!

It is weird how they will eat nothing one day, and eat like crazy the next. Lately, my 2-year-old has been on a breakfast strike, but has been stuffing herself at lunchtime. Some days, she literally eats almost nothing, and then the next day will eat 3 hearty meals. I can’t figure her out, but I try to go with the flow.

I don’t have too much advice personally, since I am trying to figure this stuff out myself right now, but by mom (who raised 4 of us to be pretty good eaters), said that the only thing you can do is tell the kid what you have for them to eat, and if they don’t want to eat, tell them there won’t be anything else until the next mealtime. She thinks even a 2-year-old can start to understand that there are consequences to not eating when the food is there, and that it might cause them to go hungry for a while. Just be sure that if you do feel like they need a snack later, that it’s something healthful, so that they don’t learn to play you to get sweets. They are good at learning to play that kind of game!

My daughter is not big on eating her afternoon snack at daycare, I think because she prefers to keep playing. My DC provider told me today that she has started reminding her that if she doesn’t eat the snack now, she will have to wait until I come and drive all the way home (we have a pretty lengthy commute), before she gets to eat. She says this often works with her…makes her think about how hungry she might get.

I am definitely having the same problem as you where she won’t do the stuff she’s told to do (going to bed is a big one). I like your immediate-choice plan…I think I will try more of that, myself.

That’s what occurred to me…when you have a two year old, you’re a two year old parent. How I would love to take my 17 and 14 year old parent self and go back to use that knowledge to deal with my kids when they are younger.

Don’t be afraid to apologize when you are wrong. That’s something my mother never did, even when confronted with overwhelming evidence. She’d just sniff and walk away.

As for the food thing…as long as she’s not eating junk, give her a plate, what she doesn’t eat, don’t fret. She’ll eat when she’s hungry. She could be too tired/excited/distracted/happy to eat. Time enough for the “I’m not running a restaurant!” when she’s older. Stress the fruits and the veggies…my younger nieces and nephews love the vegetable platter, especially when they can dunk the food in the dip…although, keep an eye out for “double-dipping.”

Having 17 nieces and nephews, I was well prepared for what to expect with my own sons. Having worked in a mall for several years before having kids, I was well educated on what NOT to do. My best advice:

Make it very clear, right now, that YOU make the rules. Once a child thinks he or she is the maker of rules, you are fully screwed.

You are a parent. The entire rest of the world can be her friend. You are her only mother.

When (and it will happen) the child pulls the “I want that” nonsense in a store, and you did not intend to purchase it, DO NOT cave!!! I’ve only had to refuse my son a handful of times, and now, he doesn’t even pester. There were a few times he’d say things like “I wish I could get that…” and my answer would be “oh, that’s sad”. I allow my son to “earn” money, which he can then spend as he chooses. He recently spent $20 on books, because he wanted them, and I refused to buy more books (he doesn’t like to read). I’ve watched little girls manipulate their daddies with “if you won’t get me that I won’t love you”. Sick that anyone would allow a child to even believe that gifts are love.

And, simply, stick to your guns. Kids are manipulative because they KNOW they’re cute. You are stronger (even when it feels like you’re not).

Don’t fret too much about the eating thing. That will get better in time. As long as there are various reasonable healthy things the child will eat, she’ll be OK. Honest. The Great American White Foods Diet will pass.

Not having any kids of my own I am, of course, a complete expert on the subject :wink:
First of all, I surely do agree with the bright and imaginitive characterization of your parenting. That’s the tip of the night.

Also, I have noticed that some cultures outside of our western one are far more patient than ours. They can be clearly annoyed with a fussing demanding toddler. Even with face-pushes for extra effect … the parent just goes on about their business kind-of ignoring the currently-monsterous tyrant in their arms… maybe trying to hold junior away a little.

I guess the tip is, don’t feel like failures or bad parents when your little human decides it’s time for a fit and you don’t manage to head things off in time. Don’t forget you’re allowed to be annoyed too, fellow human.

I take issue with the “get and keep them in line” rule of thumb for kids (or anyone, for that matter) suggested by some. Ancient British claptrap. In addition to eventually calming down, I assume those other-culture kids I’m talking about eventually grow up to be the quiet, rational, docile, loving parent I see holding him.

Nice reading your tips. Sounds like one kiddo picked her parents well.

Peace. Good luck. Have fun.

Patients. More than I thought I had. Mines five now, and withdrawling againts that account…

giving a choice is great. Do you want blue socks or red socks? Either way they happily put on socks, otherwise it’s a screaming pitched battle an a phyrric victory at best.

Patience is good. Being able to take a break occaisionally to recharge even if it’s just going to the store alone.

I like your approaches - you sound like a protege of Harvey Karp. I agree with you about choices and humor.

Counting and using timers can really help with transitions, as in “You can play with that until I count to 10, and then it’s time to go.” I’ve used the timer on our microwave to help my twins take turns and for times when I can only play with them for 10 minutes b/c the dishwasher beckons.

I was really glad for that habit the other day at the Children’s museum; they weren’t sharing well anyway, and when some new kids showed up and (quite reasonably) wanted to play with the plastic food we’d accumulated, it was time to go. But just try getting two toddlers out of the playhouse w/out huge screaming fits! Luckily, my cell phone has a built-in timer; I set that sucker to go off in one minute & we were outta there.

We also encourage our kids to say “good-bye” to things as we’re leaving.

I’ve learned that sometimes when they’re really driving me batshit, doing things like running away as I try to change their diapers, it’s just that they need to play. So I’ll say “Let me change your diaper first, then I’ll chase you.”

Re: the “I wants” – mine are only in the early stages of that, so I may have to change tactics later, but so far what’s working is deliberate misunderstanding: “Elmo! Elmo! Elmo” “Yes, I see that Elmo. He’s very nice.”

WhyNot, you really should write a parenting book. I never would have clued in to the stomp-so-I-can-sweep mindset of the little guy. I may have taken him outside to stomp, though.

I think I’ll start saving your kid-related posts for when it’s my turn to raise some tykes.

I know everyone stresses consistency-consistency-consistency and sticking to your guns; but sometimes I DO give in. Perhaps they feel so strongly about a minor issue that it isn’t worth fighting, or maybe my initial knee-jerk “No” wasn’t such a good idea. Or maybe Mommy just needs a day off (as if). At any rate, when I’m going to give in, I do so immediately, after their initial protest. I don’t make them pitch a fit first - in fact, when they do have a cow, then I can’t give in, because I absolutely do not want to reinforce hysteria.

This approach means listening to their protests which, as WhyNot related, is usually fascinating. Mine do have a good sense of the rules (not that they always follow them) and I hope I’m fostering their interest by letting them have a (small) hand in Policies and Decision-Making.

I will second (or third) the food thing. Their tastes will mature as they grow older. My 17 year old son tried sushi recently and liked it, while my 14 year old daughter turned her nose up. On a trip to England my son discovered moussakka (sp?) and fell in love with it.

As they get a little older, learn The Look. I wish I’d gotten it a little earlier, but a stone-faced stare goes a loooooooong way.

As my dad told me once, “First you give them roots, then you give them wings.” You have an awesome job of raising another human being to be a functioning, contributing member of society, and you only have about 18 years to do it.

Regarding the whole food thing - remember she will not starve to death if she skips a meal.

When my boys were young, and they refused to eat something, I would say, “Well, it’s your choice, but this is what’s for dinner, and you’re not getting anything else tonight if you don’t eat. It’s your choice, so you don’t have to eat if you don’t want to - but there will be no more snacks tonight”.

Then let them choose, but be firm (in a loving way) . They WILL choose not to eat the first time , and will complain about being hungry after an hour, but just smile and remind them what you said earlier.

An experiment with an n=2 is not really an experiment, but my kids are 10 and 7 now and eat very well, vegatables, meat, salad, everything.

I made chicken pot pie once and my son didn’t want it. “Okay,” I said. “That’s what I made for dinner, so I guess you’re not getting dinner.” Ivygirl and I proceeded to chow down.

A little while later, he sees the remains in the pie pan and says, “I guess I’ll eat it,” sighing heavily at the sacrifice he was about to make. He ended up eating it all.

They’re testing you. As long as you remember that you have the power and not them, smile sweetly, make your decision, and let it go. That’s what floors me about all these parents who say, “But he won’t eat anything but McDonalds! What can I do?” :smack:

I’m loving the replies here - keep 'em coming.

I think I gave an overdramatic impression of my reaction to the eating issues. I am actually very laid back in my interactions with her over eating. I just scheme behind the scenes to get extra nutrition into her. Actually, that reminds me of two other tips I live by, which make everything much easier.

First, there are at least three things over which you really have no control: whether a child eats, sleeps, or uses the toilet. I firmly believe if you make your relationship a never-ending power struggle, and especially if you try to force these issues, they will seize them with the perseverance of a pit bull, and make you miserable with them.

Second, nursing is a fabulous tool from birth through toddlerhood. Sometimes people ask how I can “stand” still nursing her, but it is actually one of those great lazy mom secrets. Seriously though - it eases my mind a bit about nutrition, smooths the path to nap and bedtime, and helps bring her back from chaos when she has totally lost her shit.

As for the “eat what’s here or go hungry,” I’m looking for a middle path on that. I do try to keep healthy stuff she likes around, and for now don’t mind pouring a bowl of Cheerios for her for dinner. I think her pickiness is inherited from me, and it’s not merely a matter of not really being thrilled about tonight’s dinner choice. For me, it was extreme sensitivity to flavors and textures (I still hate green peppers for the former and pears for the latter), and equally extreme emotional reactions to being forced to eat offensive foods. I got over much of it gradually, and so will she. However, I think when she gets older, it’ll be a matter of her making herself a peanut butter sandwich if she doesn’t like what’s for dinner - no short-order cooking, and no junk food.

Oh, and as for admitting mistakes, and sometimes relenting (especially when their reaction is due to factors you didn’t originally consider), I completely agree. I think it’s funny that whenever I make a U-turn, Chloe pipes up, “Mommy, did you go the wrong way again?”