Terrible twos
Credit: texas_mustang on flickr

It's not easy being three......

Or two, or really anywhere from the time they walk until the time they turn 4. 

Maybe you have one of those cherubic children who never makes a fuss, and always does what they are supposed to do.  Excuse me for a moment while I go get sick in the corner....

...there, better now.  Most of us, however, have children who, while they are going through this stage, make us desparate for even a moment alone, or without the constant "whine and scream" sountrack that is our child. 

Really, it isn't compeltely constant, but it sure feels that way when you are right in the middle of it.

I have 3 children, 2 of them grown out of this stage, and one of them smack dab in the middle of it.  So let me tell you that I am soooo there right now.  I had a pediatrician tell me one time to just throw them in a room with a loaf of bread until they are 4!  (it's a joke, people.)  Let me tell you, I think about that almost every time I go down the bread aisle. 

The key is to set some boundaries early on...

If you start them off knowing "who's boss", they are less likely to challenge you as they get older.  Now, this is not to say that they won't challenge you : they will.  But if you set the bar high, they usually follow suit.  Of course, each child is different.  My youngest and third child is actually the most strong willed out of all of them, and is challenging me very much.

A good way to start with boundaries if you are already in the trenches is t focus on changing one behavior at a time.  Toddlers, and even bigger kids (and adults, if the truth be told) can really only focus one one thing at a time. 

So pick one thing that would really make your life so much better if you could just get that behavior under control.  Right now with my 2 year old daughter, I am working on table behavior.  What she likes to do is eat everything as quickly as possible, and then scream and throw things as soon as she is done.  Well, this does not work very well at the family dinner table, as one can imagine. 

We place a high priority on the family dinner time, so here screaming is very distracting to our important family time.  Now, there are two real ways to handle this.  One, is that we could simply allow her to get down from the table as soon as she was done.  This would eliminate the distraction, and make her instantly happy. But what is that teaching her?  That she gets whatever she wants as soon as she starts behaving badly?  That is positively reinforcing her bad behavior.  Almost always as a rule of thumb, if it is the most convenient solution, it is the wrong one.  There are no shortcuts in parenting. 

I'm starting to sound preachy, I know.  Believe me, I have had days where I've been nominated for the "Worst Mom of the Year" award.  Plenty.  But I have found that parenting, unless you are peticularly gifted or patient, is on a constant learning curve. 

So find something, one thing, that you can focus on, and the improvement you see when you stick with it will help keep you going on the rough days.

Don't park them in front of the TV all day!

One of the things that is just notoriously bad for kids, and aspecially for toddlers, is allowing unlimited screen time, or even having a TV in their room.  If they watch TV, it should be in the same room as you, and only a limited amount of time each day.  If you let them watch all day, their behavior will have tons of problems.

Some people don't let theirkids watch TV at all, and that cerainly is one philosophy.  But I simply place limits and require that any TV watched be in the main room, where I am, so that I can monitor whatever they are watching. 

Some people, myself included, like to set a daily limit on what we call "screen time."  That is any time with anything with a screen, such as a TV, computer, leapster, etc.  I also have a minimum of outside time every day, weather permitting.  I do this because I have found in the past that if I don't schedule it in, sometimes I neglect taking them outside during the day. 

Potty training

Somewhere in this time period, chances are that you are going to need to potty train your child. 

There are lots of different great methods, and I think I have tried them all, but here is what works best for me.

Set a day where it can be just you and your toddler at home for most of the day.  Print out a potty chart (there are tons of free ones online with all sorts of characters), and get some great stickers to put on it when you have a success to chart.  If you think little treats like M&M's will motivate your child, then pick that up too.  Now, here is the critical part.  Pick up some big-boy or big-girl underwear or training pants.  No Pull Ups!  Yes, you will have some messes to clean up, but I find that the pull up will handicap them to no end!  They have no motivation not to go in that glorified diaper.  Whereas if they "go" in the underwear, they will get imediate feedback, and you will see as well.

So, give your kid all that they could ever want to drink, and take them to the potty every 20 minutes.  Do this all. day. long.  Yea, it's tiring, but it is the best way to really get a jumpstart on the potty training.  Most likely, at the end of the day, you will have some successes (and some failures), but if you keep it consistent, you will eventually see fewer and fewer accidents. 


But most of all...

...try and enjoy those toddler years!  I know that they can seem quite...well....hellish, for lack of a better word. But before you know it, they will be gone.

Best of luck in your parenting endeavors.