Two to three years
Your two-year-old is learning so much, so fast, that chances of her doing everything right is highly improbable. Try to keep your criticism low and your encouragement high. Learn how to use “time out” for inappropriate behavior; at the same time, tell and show her that you’re proud of what she’s learning. Incidentally, keep in mind that the use of “time out” should not be thought of as punishment, it is a method used to alter behavior. It is also a time that your little one can improve on the use of her imagination and creativity.
The library is one of your greatest sources of fun, entertainment, and association. If you have not already done it, this is the time to invest in a set of encyclopedias for your home. The primary reason is that when a “teaching moment” presents itself, you want to be able to take advantage of that moment immediately.
This is a critical transition period for you and your Little One because if you have kept pace with the guide of this site, she will tend to be ahead of her peers and that’s good. However, that increases the challenge to keep her grounded while maintaining the “humilipride” of which we spoke. The goal during this period is twofold: first, you want to continue to teach so that she continues to progress; at the same time, you want to integrate her behavior consistent with her age group. You do that by introducing yourself to parents of children in her age group, parents that you deem to have beliefs and tastes similar to yours. When appropriate, make a date with those parents and their children to share the joy of parenthood: visit parks, playgrounds, museums, movies, etc. alone as well as with other parents and their children.
Meanwhile, in the privacy of your one-on-one, give names to the things she looks at and plays with. For example, “Look how well you’re stacking your blocks! Girl, that’s great!” “Come ride on the choo-choo train.” “That doll house sure is tiny; it’s great how you keep it so clean and organized: I’m impressed!”
Talk about the colors she sees; for example, “Do you want to put on your red dress?” “Do you want to wear your black shoes or your white shoes?”
Talk about numbers: count out loud. Describe how you’re putting on “one shoe, two shoes.” Count the stairs as you climb them together.
Help your little one use words to express her feelings. Incidentally, if your Little One tries to get her way by “throwing a temper tantrum,” it is because you have lost control. The first time she/he attempts to manipulate you with that method is one of the times you need to respond with extreme kindness, disappointment, and total control. I know it is easier said than done; yet, you must immediately establish in her mind that inappropriate behavior is the best way not to get what she wants. How that translates into action does not depend on whether you are out-and-about or at home.
Let’s be clear here: the most effective way to correct that errant behavior is to deny the option of doing what she wants to do. The situation is really a matter of control, therefore the most effective way to handle the potential problem is to adjust to the situation so that you are in control, not your child.
For example, “You’re angry because you want to play with your doll, aren’t you (identify the source of the errant behavior)? “No problem, you can do that later (let her know that she can do what she wants to do); however, your behavior makes that something you are not allowed to do at this time, right now what else would you like to do?” (project the fact that, because of her inappropriate behavior, doing what she wants to do is not an option at that time). The point is, you must stay calm, and totally in control. That’s the most effective way to help adapt and regulate her behavior. Remember, a temper tantrum is not an optional behavior.
Make story time as much a part of the day as lunchtime. Get some toddler-level picture books from the library and include some rip-proof books with her playthings. Invite her to sit on your lap while you read a story or magazine and comment on the articles or pictures.
Help her learn about time by talking about the daily schedule: “Grandma is coming over tonight for dinner, but first, its naptime.”
When you are out-and-about together, talk about the things you see – a dandelion, a sea gull, a branch shaped like a “Y.” Turn a walk into a chance to explore. Point out a tiny ant or a dark rain cloud.
Sit down together, close your eyes, and listen. Take turns describing what you hear. Hide a softly playing radio or musical toy in the room and have your little one try to find it.
Help her learn about sizes. Gather big and small shoes, bowls, spoons, or boxes. Ask her to give you the small bowl or the big spoon, or to place the small shoe in the big box.
When your child can say her first name, teach her her full name — first, middle, and last. Help her understand that she is a girl, that her brother (or cousin) is a boy, and explain the difference. By all means explain that bodies come in all sizes, shapes, and colors and that some are more appealing than others. Also, be sure to explain that a person does not choose her body, that it is simply a gift of nature, a wonderful container to store the real self. Be sure that you impress upon her that not all bodies are perfect, but that she should be thankful for hers, take care of it, and be proud of how it looks and performs.
If your Little One likes to group things together, cut out magazine pictures, and, together, put all the pictures of food in one stack, dolls in another, flowers in another. Ask her which doll or flower is her favorite, and why. Point out your favorite too, and tell her why.
Finally, remember, the key to successful parenting is a blending of love and discipline; together they teach children how to deal with the world. The best way to discipline your Little One is with consistency and thoughtfulness, never with physical punishment or hurtful words. And always, when talking with her about misbehavior, address the behavior not who she is.
RAM Time is an excellent booster and support for everything related to behavior and communication with your Little One and the entire family. Use it wisely.