10 top tips for parenting toddlers (without losing it)

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A guest post by Devon Kuntzman

Just when it feels as though you’ve gotten the hang of parenting, your baby transforms into a toddler.

With a whole new set of developmental tasks to master, you may notice your toddler is increasingly focused on their own agenda and meeting those developmental needs.

As a result, your toddler challenges you and doesn’t always want to follow along with your agenda.

As a result, frustrations rise and power struggles happen.

This is the very reason toddlerhood gets labeled as terrible.

While these moments can be challenging and messy, I don’t believe they make toddlerhood “terrible.”

It takes a lot of courage and effort to face these challenging moments with patience and confidence. It takes practice and support to navigate how to honor your toddler’s needs and agenda as well as your own.

That’s why I created the Raising Toddlers Courageously Conference. It’s the only online conference solely dedicated to the needs, behavior and development of toddlers – as well as the needs of their parents.

During the conference, parenting and toddler experts speak about a wide variety of topics about toddlerhood including picky eating, sleep challenges, nurturing development, potty training, mindful parenting, disarming our triggers and so much more.

From them, I’ve learned many ideas that parents can turn to when toddlerhood feels terrible.

Here are 10 top tips for parenting toddlers inspired by the wisdom that experts shared.

10 Tips for Parenting Toddlers

  1. Tantrums are a normal part of development

When a toddler has a tantrum or meltdown they are communicating with us as well as releasing their feelings and emotions. This is how toddlers express overwhelm, fear, frustration and disappointment.

2. Influence, not control, is the key to cooperation

Toddler boy playing happily on swings

It’s natural to want to control something when it feels out of control or overwhelming. However, we truly can’t control another individual. When we try to control a toddler it usually results in power struggles. We can only control our own behavior and how we interpret the behavior of others. Partnering with your toddler and being on their team creates influence through connection. Influence creates cooperation.

Conversely, control creates a cycle of resistance.

3. Focus on the positive

Have you ever heard that saying “What you focus on grows?” Our perspective has a large influence on our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Practice this by telling your child what they are doing well. Also, take a moment to celebrate what’s working or going well in your parenting. Bringing attention to these strengths reinforces them and leaves everyone feeling more empowered.

4. Connection is key

Toddlers become physically independent at a rapid pace, yet they remain very emotionally dependent on us. That’s why attachment and connection play a vital role in toddlerhood. Connecting with your child in a challenging moment helps bring them back to their emotional equilibrium and increases their attachment. From a place of connection toddlers are better able to learn, grow and thrive.

5. Listen to be listened to

It’s a basic human need to feel seen and heard. Just because we are older and have more life experience doesn’t mean we should discount a toddler’s feelings, emotions and thoughts. The fastest way to get a child to stop listening to you is to stop listening to them. Meet your child where they are at by listening to them. They will feel seen, heard and connected to you and be in a place where they are more willing and able to listen to you.

6. All feelings and emotions are OK – not all behaviors

As human beings, we are programmed to experience a full spectrum of feelings and emotions. Letting your child know that all feelings and emotions are OK helps normalize their experience. But validating feelings doesn’t mean you have to condone their behavior. Instead of shutting down their feelings and emotions, help your toddler to work through them. From this place, you can help them learn to express their feelings and emotions with appropriate behavior.  

7. Get curious about behavior

Curiosity is one of the most powerful tools we have in parenting. Getting curious about your toddler’s behavior lets you to know them on a deeper level and prevents you from being the judge and jury. This curiosity creates connection and buys you time to respond instead of reacting when you feel frustrated.

8. Focus what’s driving the behavior not the behavior itself

Your toddler’s behavior is driven by feelings, emotions and needs. That’s why the most effective way to change behavior ISN’T by focusing on the behavior itself. It’s by focusing on the root of the behavior – the actual cause. Addressing their feelings, emotions and needs truly changes behavior.

9. Play is the most important work

The most important job a toddler has is to play. Making time for unstructured, creative play gives your toddler a healthy sense of autonomy and control as they learn and master new skills.

10. Help them meet expectations

Toddlers have spent a very short time on this earth and are still learning how to navigate their world. Sometimes they are developmentally unable to meet our expectations. They will let you know with their behavior. The best way you can help them learn isn’t through punishment but by teaching them the skills they need to know to meet the expectation in the future.

I invite you to take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Give yourself a big hug. You wake up everyday and do the best you can.

Transformation doesn’t happen overnight – it takes time, practice and support. Each and every day is a building block for what comes next. Eventually, those blocks add up and we find ourselves at the outcome we were aiming for.

If you fall down along the way, don’t worry. We all do. You can use that moment to learn what to do next time. Each and every moment is an invitation to begin again.

Devon Kuntzman raising todders

Devon Kuntzman is a Toddler Parenting Coach, the founder of Transforming Toddlerhood and the host of the Raising Toddlers Courageously Conference.

She teaches parents that it’s possible to embrace this sensitive developmental period and uncover the magic of toddlerhood while overcoming everyday challenges and keeping their sanity.

Get your free guide to Transforming Toddlerhood

Toddler girl laughing. Click image to get a guide on transforming toddlerhood.


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