positive parenting tips for toddlers

Positive parenting tips for toddlers

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Ever wonder how to maintain your ‘cool’ while your toddler is losing their mind for the 100th time in the same 24 hour period?! Today, we will be talking about positive parenting tips for toddlers by using real-life examples… because the toddler struggle is REAL!

*The photos in this post were provided by Courtney Wilde*

This is a guest post written by Courtney Wilde, a newborn photographer, and mama of 2! To read more about Courtney and her work, please check out her author profile at the bottom of this post!

Parenting tools for Positive Behaviour Change (positive parenting tips for toddlers)

How to get my toddler to stop hitting?

Hitting, biting, spitting, kicking — these are all normal behaviors in a toddler.

So before I get to my real-life examples of my son hitting, I want to let you know that while it is alarming that your once-angel-baby is now hitting other children and making it hard to have play dates, this does not mean that he/she is going to grow up to be a bully! *cue sigh of major relief*

Think about it, these little humans have only been alive for a couple of years, and they are just figuring out what boundaries are.

The more of a firm, loving, and gentle leader we can be as parents in their lives, the better we can help them navigate this challenging phase that they are going through. 

You got this mama.

Alright, now for my son’s hitting saga!

My son started hitting other kids when I was about 8 months pregnant with my second baby. I definitely think he was sensing a change in life as I had to slow my body down and rest.

And because toddlers thrive on consistency and routines, this change resulted in, well, hitting. *sigh*

My son had always played so nicely with the other kids prior to this!! We had playdates all the time and I loved catching up with my other mom friends.

Now all of a sudden he was the kid that started the fighting, screaming and ultimately ended play dates. I was embarrassed and confused as to why all of a sudden he turned into this monster!

I specifically remember one time at our local gymnasium’s ‘toddler hour’, every kid in his near vicinity would get a whacking. I was stressed the ENTIRE time!

I kept trying to figure out the best way to handle it, and finally went home when he saw a little 18-month-old playing and ran to push her down. I kept telling him, “We don’t push! We don’t hit! That is not kind! Show me nice, soft hands!” but NONE of those phrases that I had heard worked.

He was still, in my mind, a menace to toddler society. The solution?

Since then I took it upon myself to read several books and listen to positive parenting podcasts, and my absolute favorite one that has worked so well with my son is the Janet Lansbury approach. 

In her book No Bad Kids (which I highly suggest reading or listening to via audiobook), she explains that using phrases like “we don’t ____” is not direct enough for a toddler’s brain. 

Instead, she recommends to gently, physically stop them in the middle of the hit/kick/throw and tell them calmly but firmly, “I won’t let you do that.” 

Then after you do that, don’t make it a ‘thing’! Don’t lecture them about why (in that moment), because the more attention you draw to it, the more intrigued he or she will be that they were able to evoke that emotion and attention from you. 

For me, this meant that I had to be extra diligent in watching him while he played. I didn’t avoid playgroups (because every child needs practice socializing), but I also couldn’t lay back and chat with my friends. I had to be on my A-GAME!

While he was in his hitting phase, I had to be right next to him while he played so I could catch his arm before he threw a toy at his friend’s head for no reason. He would try, but I would catch his arm and say, 

“I won’t let you do that.” 

If he kept trying and it was hard to stop him, I would say, 

“It looks like you are having a hard time not throwing things at your friends. I’m going to help you by holding your hands until you are ready to continue playing gently.”

I also need to emphasize that when I stopped his arms or hands, I wouldn’t squeeze them tightly. It was very gentle, but firm. Sometimes I would find that while I tried to keep my voice calm and even, my frustration was put into my squeeze. Kids are so smart, and they can sense that, even if it just means squeezing their arm or hand a little harder than normal. 

In order for this to work, you need to really sell that you are unphased by his action.

Keep your voice and movements normal and don’t draw any extra attention than necessary towards the hitting. He/she will realize that there is no reaction from the violent outbursts, and eventually, they will fizzle out!

You’re probably thinking, “That sounds exhausting! I don’t want to spend the entire playdate by his side!” but it didn’t last forever.

Honestly, it was a lot better to pay all of my attention to his flying limbs for a short time (and prevent any injuries from happening) then to continue ending every play date in tears.

Trust me, I’ve been there in the rut of it! But by using this tactic, my once-tyrant son is now able to play nicely with his friends again while I sit back and chat with mine. 

Related Post –> Dealing with toddler tantrums when he/she has a speech delay

How to teach toddler to be gentle with new baby

As mentioned before, my son entered his terrorizing phase when I was 8 months pregnant.

This became very interesting when we introduced an infant into the house. The first week was great, but after that, there was a solid month where I never knew when there would be a flying object in the air directed at my baby girl’s head. 

I have to be honest, during week 2 I resented my toddler for this! I felt the mama bear instincts so intensely with my new little baby, that anything he did to get her to scream hurt my heart so much. 

Most young toddlers (especially boys) will probably go through a stage like this when there is a new baby in the family. But these 5 things really helped him adjust and feel loved during a time of change.

  • Talking to your older child about their new baby

Do it in a way that books them up! What I mean by this is that instead of saying, “aww isn’t she sooo cute?!” and gushing over the baby, gush over the older sibling! Say things like, “Wow! Your baby sister is looking at you, I think she thinks you are the coolest brother in the entire world!!” or “Look at her tiny arms! They make your arms look so big and strong! Are you big or are you tiny like your sister?”

My son LOVES when I say things like this to him, and I think it has really helped him adore his little sister.

  • Devoting time to him at the same time every day

I knew going into having my second baby that I would need to give him my baby-free, undivided attention at times to help him not feel jealous. However, when week 2 hit and I was in resentment mode, my friend who is a behavioral specialist for small children reached out to me and sent me this article.

Apparently there is positive research in not only devoting undivided time to your older child but doing it at the same time every day!

  • Don’t let your child be in a situation that you know he/she isn’t ready for

I had to realize that leaving my baby in her dockatot (which is AWESOME by the way) on the floor in a room that my son could easily get to was not an option.

I knew his tendencies, and instead of setting him up for failure, I took extra measures to make sure the baby was in a place that was safe and inaccessible to him before leaving her alone so I could do other things. 

  • If both my toddler and my infant were crying at the same time, I tended to my toddler first.

It is easy to get in the mindset of, “Oh my older child can handle it, he’s got two years on my baby! I need to tend to her first because she’s so tiny and helpless.” Okay, maybe I didn’t consciously think those thoughts, but that was my general feeling at first.

Any time my newborn cried, she became the focus of my attention. But when my son is upset over something and needs me and I choose the baby to help first, that can fuel a jealousy fire like no other.

Toddlers are aware and hurt by that choice, whereas it will have no emotional consequences on a newborn if they cry for a couple more minutes. 

  • If your toddler wants you to do something but you can’t because you are busy with the baby, don’t blame it on the baby.

Try really hard not to say, “I can’t play cars with you because I’m feeding the baby right now.” but instead say, “I am busy right now but I’ll set a timer for 10 minutes and once it goes off, I’ll play cars with you. Until then, do you want to bring your cars in here and I’ll watch you play with them?”

Ways that you can discipline your toddler without yelling

(yes.. these photos were taken within 30 seconds of each other)

First off, I understand how hard it is not to raise your voice at a toddler who is constantly pushing your buttons.

My especially spirited 2-year-old has a lot going on if that wasn’t already apparent in those pictures! Here are some specific scenarios that I come across on a daily basis and how I have learned to deal with them in a positive way.

My son has reached the stage where he has to do evvvverything himself.

I love the newfound independence in a lot of ways, but there are times that I am running late for something and he uses every excuse possible NOT to put his shoes on. The line that I now say for just about anything when I’m in a rush to get somewhere is:

“Would you like to put on your shoes yourself, or do you want me to do it for you?”  (allowing him an option to make the choice himself while still within the boundaries I need them to stay in)

Most of the time he says he wants to do it himself, so then I say, 

“alright let’s watch you do it!” 

which quite often leads to running around, being silly, hiding, etc., which I then reply, 

“It looks like you are having a hard time putting your shoes on by yourself. I am going to help you now.” 

Most of the time that results in him quickly putting his shoes on, because gosh that boy is so stubborn! During his constant shows of independence, I’m always saying, 

“do you want me to carry you to your room so you can go to sleep, or do you want to walk there yourself?” or “do you want me to put on your seatbelt, or do you want to do it yourself?” 

This has worked amazingly well for my 2-year-old and it really helps me not get worked up!

Another way I handle difficult behavior without yelling is by getting on his level.

He is a two-year-old with extremely strong impulses, and that frightens him! When he screams out of frustration, that loud noise he is creating is unsettling, and it is my job as his gentle, loving leader to help him navigate that. 

Getting down to his height, holding his hands, listening to him when he is upset, and repeating back what he is saying without trying to solve anything will really help his confidence in himself and me. 

For example, my son wanted to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse this morning. I replied that it wasn’t TV time, but we could play with legos instead. Boy did he get upset! He was really looking forward to watching the Daisy Doctor episode! 

So I got down at his level and listened. He said he really, really wanted to watch Mickey. I replied, 

“You are very sad because you really want to watch Mickey.” 

Usually that would result in more tears, but the emotion didn’t scare me like it did him. I was just there to be his calm, empathetic mom during this hard moment of the day. After some time of me simply being there for him, I asked him, 

“What do you really like about Mickey?” 

and he said that he likes the Daisy Doctor tools. I asked him more about it, and through some sniffles he started telling me about this episode. I said, 

“It looks like you might be feeling a little better, do you want to go find your doctor tools and we can pretend that you are Daisy Doctor?” 

He thought about it for a second and nodded, and off we went!

Related Post –> Easy ways to get your picky toddler to eat more veggies

Do you like the positive parenting tips for toddlers you’ve learned from this post?

I am not a professional, just a mom who loves to learn and wants the best for her kids. If you want to learn from the same sources I’ve learned from, check out these phenomenal books:

Being a parent to a toddler is NOT an easy job. 

The power struggles and defiance can really grind my gears sometimes (…all the time). But as I’ve learned more about positive parenting tactics, I’ve come to be more prepared for the meltdown moments.

I raise my voice much less, and I don’t lose my patience as much. I don’t do everything right all the time, because no human could, but I do feel like I am a better parent to my sweet boy after implementing the tools and mindset tricks I’ve learned from the awesome books listed above.

I hope this was helpful and that you can breath through the next tantrum a little more easily!


Courtney Wilde

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About Courtney

Courtney Wilde is a simple, modern newborn photographer who serves the greater Seattle area. She is also a mom of 2, wife to a handsome software developer, and is a life-long learner! Check out her blog for more mom tips and photoshoot inspiration.
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