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Toddler - Week #87

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Your 20-month-old toddler (week 87)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

The Importance Of Routine
           This month your 20-month-old needs to feel that there is a certain predictable rhythm to her life.  Although it is difficult at times, it is definitely in your best interest to stick to the same schedule every day and make your days as routine as possible.  By following a familiar schedule, your toddler will be able to prepare herself ahead of time for the day's events, and this will allow her to feel more in control of her life and the world around her.  It is a great idea to establish a specific routine for every day tasks like getting dressed, making her bed, and brushing her teeth as well, because these skills will eventually be done independently, and what better way to ensure their completion than to do it out of habit.  The pros of adhering to a firm game-plan definitely outweigh the cons, because when your toddler feels more relaxed you will too.

       Routines are eagerly anticipated by your toddler, despite her regularly scheduled resistance to them.  Predictability helps accept transitions, reduce resistance, and if you're lucky, makes the day run smoothly.  Toddlers this age are easily thrown for a loop by a change in plans especially when it's last minute, so why make life more difficult for the two of you than it is has to be?

       Now, things will come up that you can not prepare for and life will catch you off guard sometimes, so if you have to make a few scheduling sacrifices try and do so sparingly.  No matter what has to be tossed to the side along the way, always try to keep mealtime, nap-time and bed-time as "regular" as possible, and then finagle the rest as needed.


Testing Boundaries
           How far can boundaries and limits possibly be stretched?  Ask your toddler and he'll tell you (although you may not have a clue what he is jabbering about!). Toddlers no matter what age, crave and despise boundaries simultaneously, and this month limit setting will prove to be one of the most challenging components of being a parent.  It's time to reinforce the rules, stick with the consequences that have been decided upon, and try not to laugh at the predicaments that your toddler finds himself in.

       Consistency is the key to effective disciplining techniques now and forever more, and he needs to know that you mean business.  Oddly, at 20 months, your child now finds solace in knowing that when he misbehaves, he can predict what the outcome will be.  Watch in disbelief as your toddler "chooses" to test you over and over again, making the decision to face the inevitable consequences that lie ahead, more committed than ever to engage in a lot of trial and error.

       Also remember that when your little trouble-maker does push you to the limits (and he will), it is his behavior that is bad...not poor, little innocent him.


How To Set Limits and Boundaries
           Be sure to have realistic expectations when you begin to lay down the law, particularly at this age.  When you have decided upon the rules which will be reinforced in your household, keep them simple and reasonable, be consistent and firm, and try your best to avoid having an angry tone or blaming your child.  Keep in mind that limits are not meant to punish, but to make life more pleasant for everyone involved.

       When your little one does get into some trouble and the choices he has made are less than stellar, help him to come up with appropriate options to be used in the future.  Be sure that you don't offer too many options though, because deciding between two things at this age is plenty.  The fewer the choices, the greater the chance of success and the more likely he will feel back in control again.  Teaching problem solving skills early on can do wonders for your toddler's self-esteem and can only prepare him for things he will have to tackle in the future.

       To sum it all up, the keys to successful limit setting are providing your toddler with the little bit of control that he so desperately needs, redirecting unacceptable behavior, providing alternative options for the future and continuously praising the good whenever you see it.  Now if it was only as simple as it sounds...


           Let's Have A Parade!       

       During this time of rules and regulations, limits and boundaries, and trying to maintain some sense of structure in your household, it is the perfect time to let loose and show your toddler that you can still be silly.  Take out the goofy hats, dress-up clothes and a few noisy instruments (yes, the one's that you hid in the closet) and have a parade.

       Toddlers this age love to march, as well as mimic every action that you do.  Try to get your little one to follow you throughout the house, marching to the beat that you bang on her drum, then give her a horn and let her join in.

       Remember that no matter what, your toddler thinks you are the coolest parent in the world, so put your ego on the side, laugh at yourself and just have fun.


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           My 20-month-old twin boys already think I'm a goof-ball, so this activity was right up my alley.  It was a rainy day out, and after being cooped up in the house all morning, we were all itching for something fun and spontaneous to do.

       Lately, we have been "practicing" walking as a group (as opposed to running in opposite directions), and teaching my boys to march has helped greatly with keeping them together.  I think that having them focus and say "march", "march", with each step helps them to concentrate just a little more on what they're doing, and doesn't allow them opportunity to get together and come up with a scheme to make me run in circles.

       Before our parade, the boys and I each chose a silly hat, and made instruments out of "tubes" (plastic tubes that fit together at various angles...they also come with parts to make various horns).  I then found our favorite Laurie Berkner CD and put on We Are The Dinosaurs, a great upbeat song about marching dinosaurs, and began our noisy adventure.

       Initially Andrew and Devin just got a kick out of watching me march around the living room in my hat and tooting on my horn, but soon the novelty wore off and they joined in.  It was hysterical watching my boys (who have been blessed with my un-coordination) trying to manage blowing on their "trumpets" and marching simultaneously.  However, despite a few trips over one another, and one incident of crashing into the wall, we had a blast.

       As a parent, I try my best to throw a little laughter and silliness into the daily routine.  Needless to say, more often than not it's at myself, but nonetheless, it's still laughter.


  Have you begun to wonder...
           Why does my 20-month-old seem so sensitive lately?       

       This month your toddler may appear to cry at the blink of an eye, and the quivering lips begin as soon as your voice is raised more than a whisper.  Although this period of sensitivity may result in having the urge to lighten up regarding establishing rules and sticking to consequences...don't do it.  Instead, think about "speaking softly and carrying a soft stick".

       If your little one appears to be increasingly sensitive, try to keep her wrong-doings in perspective, and your reactions in check.  Remember that a parent's love is unconditional and be sure that she knows this too.  When she becomes over-emotional it may frighten her, and now is the time that she needs your help more than ever to "get it back together" again.

       Toddlers this age cry a lot, and some children are just more sensitive than others.  Participating in new experiences every day can be overwhelming, and they may also make your toddler feel disorganized.  Furthermore, the periods of tearfulness that you are now witnessing may be the signal of a developmental spurt, so heed the tears as a warning for a new discovery right around the bend.

       When the waterfall starts, remember that she is trying to communicate something to you, whether it be a particularly uncomfortable feeling, frustration, or just being surrounded by too many new things and experiences at once.

       Tearfulness doesn't mean unhappiness, and it's actually physically and emotionally healthy to cry so let her get it out.  The best thing that you can do right now to get through this phase, is to be as empathic as possible, validate your toddlers feelings, stock up on tissues, and most importantly give her a few (okay, a lot) more hugs.


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