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Toddler - Week #80

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Your 18-month-old toddler (week 80)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

I Can Do It By Myself!  (But, I Need Your Help.)
           Now that you're in the midst of your toddler's 18th month, you have become quite familiar with her trying to desperately to succeed at everything, and you have undoubtedly witnessed her becoming quite upset when she is met with failure.  At this age, she is unable to comprehend that some things are too advanced, dangerous or difficult to accomplish right now, and that she too must be patient with herself.  The constant reminders of her own limitations have become increasingly intolerable for her, and there is little room for compromise right now.  To make matters even more complicated, your little one is constantly struggling between wanting to depend on you completely, yet not wanting to depend upon you at all.

       In order to best handle this difficult month, praise your toddler when she is able to do anything by herself no matter how simple it may seem to you.  Ask for your little one's assistance while you complete simple daily tasks, and let her know that even a big grown-up like you needs help sometimes.  Don't forget, in her tiny little mind your approval means the world to her, and positive reinforcement does wonders for her growing ego.


Emotional Development
           At one-and-a-half, your toddler is now developing a clearer sense of who she is, and her emotional dependency is beginning to shift.  You may begin to notice your little one becoming more emotionally "sensitive" lately, especially regarding anything that may interfere with how things are "supposed" to be, so expect your little one to become upset if toys unexpectedly break, become dirty, or just don't appear "right."  Your 18-month-old is beginning to understand that things have a certain predictability, and will not be happy when thing go awry.

       When you hear your little one's frustrations escalating (which will most likely be every day now), evaluate her tears before you rush in to fix whatever is bothering her.  At this age, crying can be purely attention seeking, and you should understand, it is not something that you want to reinforce.  If you run to her rescue every time she peeps, and before she has a chance to work things out independently, you may actually interfere with her succeeding alone.  Any parent can tell you that it is very difficult to balance between being available and sitting on the sidelines, but it's a lesson that every parent must tackle eventually.  Your little one is never too young to begin learning about success, the struggles that often coincide with it, and the importance of time, patience and practice.  So this month, try your best to let your toddler try things alone again and again, and do your best to recognize the difference between cries that require immediate attention, and those that don't.

       Although frustration is the primary reason for meltdowns this month, tearfulness may also indicate the occurrence of a developmental "spurt" or an approaching milestone.  Sound odd?  But, it is true.  When these "spurts" occur, she is not only learning new behaviors, but she is also experiencing new emotions, or reaching an intellectual milestone that may cause her to feel disorganized and emotionally uncomfortable.  When you sense that this may be the case, it's the time to kick up your level of patience, pour on a little extra love, and wait it out.

       Around one-and-a-half, your toddler's emotions are becoming more and more complex, and she may feel overwhelmed at times.  Feeling anxious, fearful, or frustrated may even cause your toddler to revert to more "babylike" behavior, so if you sense this may be occurring...hang in there.  Keep in mind that the ability to regulate one's emotions is something that takes years to accomplish, so this is just the tip of the iceberg.  As your toddler gains greater control over her new feelings and begins to understand what is making her uncomfortable, she will eventually learn to better cope (and so will you).


Tantrum Triggers and How To Tame Them
           Tantrums will occur this month, no matter how hard you work to avoid them.  When your 18-month-old is angry, sleepy, frustrated or doesn't get what he wants when he wants it...get ready to rumble.  Although these "outbursts" can be pretty predictable at this age, you will now begin to notice that on some days, the littlest thing will trigger him.  Frustration plays an enormous role in their presence this month, particularly when he is unable to do something he wants to do, but sometimes he may just feel overloaded by emotions that he doesn't quite understand.

       Your toddler cannot prevent tantrums, no matter how uncomfortable they make him or how hard he tries, so it falls onto you to diffuse the situation beforehand (if you can).  Keep in mind that he is afraid of his strong negative feelings and does not want to experience them if he could avoid it, so if you know what sets your little one off ahead of time, everybody wins.

       When you do find yourself in the midst of a "challenging moment," there are many things that you can do to help your toddler (and yourself).  Sometimes, it's alright to let your instincts take over, and gently pick your toddler up, cradle him in your arms and reassure him that despite what's upsetting him, it's going to be alright.  At times, something so simple can make your little one feel more in control, and put an end to his erratic behavior before it truly begins.  However, if this tactic doesn't work for you, or if it is not physically possible, do your best to remove anything that he could hurt himself on and just wait it out.  If you know that your child is safe, some parents also find it best to "walk away" at this point, because without an audience sometimes your toddler will end the antics on his own and forget about what upset him in the first place.

       There are a few things to keep in mind regarding tantrums, and these "tricks" will definitely help to avoid a meltdown, particularly outside of your home.  First and foremost, make sure that your little one is not sleepy or hungry before you try and venture out.  Always pack a few snacks and drinks that are easily accessible, because whether or not your toddler is hungry or thirsty, Cheerios and juice will always remain great distracters.  When you do go places, allow yourself a little extra time so you and your toddler do not feel rushed.  Although your toddler doesn't comprehend time or timeliness right now, he is tuned into your mood and if you become stressed, he will too.  One last tidbit of advice, but nevertheless, just as important as the rest, don't ever forget to bring your child's "lovey" places where a meltdown is expected (which is ALWAYS).  Please learn from the mistake that I made today at the Doctor's office, and never leave home without the all important "blankie" (or keep an extra stashed in your truck for emergencies).



       Every child loves to play with empty paper towel and toilet paper tubes (especially when they empty the paper themselves while hiding in the bathroom).  This activity will allow you to combine the entertainment factor of these empty rolls with a bit of education too, while focusing on improving listening skills, encouraging language development, and improving overall speech.

       In order to begin, gather a few empty paper towel, or toilet paper tubes.  Feel free to decorate them as you wish, and allow your little one to practice coloring and playing with a few colorful stickers himself.  After decorating your "instruments," show your toddler how to hold the tube to his mouth and talk.  The tube will cause your voices to be amplified and make regular sounds appear funny.  Once your little one gets the idea, have him try and copy you, and make silly sounds, while encouraging him to do the same.  This simple activity is guaranteed to change a grumpy little toddler to a giddy one in seconds, and could absolutely ward off a tantrum if you sense one approaching.


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           My children are incapable of passing by a newly dispensed roll of toilet paper without completely unraveling it.  So, thanks to my 18-month-old twin boys we were not lacking in empty tube department for this activity.

       After gathering up 3 empty tubes, I proceeded to confine Andrew and Devin to their high chair for the decorating portion of this activity.  Lately, I have been all about "confinement," as it is becoming extremely difficult to wrangle them in as they are constantly off in different directions.  I then gave them each 1 tube, 2 crayons, and 4 stickers, and taught them what to do with the different items by modeling on my own roll.  It was funny to watch them trying to color as the tube rolled around their trays, and removing the stickers from their stubby fingers provided quality entertainment as well, but after a short struggle they seemed pleased with their end results.

       After our masterpieces were complete, I released the monkeys from captivity and lured them into the living room.  I started out making recognizable animal sounds through my tube and quickly the boys caught on.  Next I began making raspberry noises and other ridiculous sounds for them to copy.  They were absolutely fascinated with the sounds coming out of their "instruments," and were getting pretty creative with their voices as well.

       As usual, Andrew let me know when he had enough of my antics, and he proceeded to steal Devin's tube and try and scale the safety gate for a clean get away.  Fortunately for Devin, Big Brother Ryan was in the vicinity and was quick to rescue the stolen goods from our resident thief.


  Have you begun to wonder...
           To Time Out Or Not To Time Out       

       As a parent of a one-and-a-half year old, you will now be privy to numerous behavioral management strategies from all different schools of thought.  Some will work for you and your child, and some will not, however it is up to you to decide which route you will take when it comes to discipline.

       Despite the vast amount of literature recommending one technique over the other, there are three basic rules of effective discipline that are found across the board.  The first is to "ignore" the negative attention seeking behavior and "isolate" your toddler, rather than "shout" at him or "spank."  The second is to keep any rules which you plan on invoking simple and basic, and the third, and most important rule of all, is to be CONSISTENT.

       A "Time-Out," when used in conjunction with the three basic rules listed above, can be an incredibly useful addition to your "disciplining tool box," although it may be difficult to reign your toddler in initially.  If you should choose to incorporate this into your regimen, be sure that it is used for no longer than 2 minutes at this age because the attention span of an 18-month-old is so limited that a time frame of greater than 2 minutes would not only be intolerable, but, ineffective as well.  As your child grows older, you can add onto his "Time-Out" as needed, but keep in mind that the general rule of thumb is 1 minute for each year of your child's age.

       In order for a "Time-out" to be most effective over the next few years, be sure to explain to your little one that it is not a "punishment," but a time to calm down.  It is a wonderful technique to teach your child at this young age, and if its purpose is understood and reinforced by you, can work wonders for an agitated child.  This technique appears to work best by having a consistent spot where your toddler can go when his emotions have become out of control, and the chosen location should not be stimulating or "fun," but a calm place where he can re-group.  It is recommended that you do not use his crib for the location, because there is a possibility that over time he may develop a negative connection to it and have problems going to sleep at night.  Generally speaking, it's a good idea to keep the crib for sleep, and sleep alone.  So, if you do initially have trouble keeping your little one in the "Time-Out" seat, use his high chair (buckle him in) and move it to another place that differs from where he eats meals.

       Once your little one is safely contained, briefly explain why he is there, and be sure to make a verbal separation between your toddler and his negative behavior by reinforcing that he is not bad, his behavior is.  At this point, leave the immediate area, but keep him in your sights.  If he gets up, put him back, and repeat this as many times as necessary.  Most importantly, don't expect 100% compliance from your toddler for quite a while, especially at this young age, but over time it can really help.  When his "Time-Out" is over, go ahead and get him, praise him for staying in his seat and listening, and move on.  Don't re-hash the negative behavior that got him into this predicament to begin with as it will do more harm than good.

       Now, the focus of your attention should be catching your toddler behaving well, and rewarding good behavior with lots and lots of praise.  Once he realizes that bad behavior results in a "Time-Out," and not with hugs, kisses and your approval (which he craves), he'll figure it all out...eventually.


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