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Toddler - Week #93

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Your 22-month-old toddler (week 93)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

Your 22-Month-Old Perfectionist
           Does it seem that everything has become a ritual with your toddler lately?  Does he need to use the same cup, sit in the same seat, read the same book, and walk the same route, day-in and day-out?  Does he put his heart and soul into everything he tries to do (for the two seconds he is able to remain focused!), then shriek in delight when he is successful or dramatically roll around on the floor in frustration when things don't go according to plan?

       Guess what?  It's absolutely normal, and something you're bound to see more and more of as your toddler approaches birthday number two.  This month your toddler has specific ideas about what he wants to do and how he wants to do it, and there is no such thing as a "change for the better," at least in his eyes.  Toddlers around the 22nd month need to surround themselves with predictable things and people, and sometimes even the slightest deviation from the norm can wreak havoc on your little one's mind.

       Ritualistic behavior like you are now witnessing, is your toddler's way of maintaining control while asserting his new found independence in a safe and worry-free manner.  When your little one is faced with some type of change in his routine, he feels vulnerable, anxious and frustrated, so having control of even the smallest areas of his life right now means more than you'll ever know.  Being denied the fulfillment experienced through rituals can do a number on your little one's self-esteem, so remember that what you may see as monotonous, your toddler sees as peace-of-mind, and who's to argue with a content toddler?  Certainly not me.

       Many children going through this stage become increasingly particular regarding eating, and how food is presented as well.  Specifically, don't be surprised if your toddler suddenly refuses food that is touching something else on his plate, or won't eat anything that appears "broken" like a cracker you have split in two.  This is the month when your toddler's expectations are sky-high, and he demands perfection in every aspect of his life.  Broken cookies just won't cut it anymore, and either will macaroni that could have possibly encountered a lone pea along the way.

       In order to help your toddler get through this "phase" of his development, try to go with the flow and let anyone involved with your toddler on a regular basis know about his new little "quirks."  Do your best to respect your little one's hesitancy to embrace change, and whenever possible wait a little while longer before introducing something that may ruffle his feathers too much.  Like every other stage you have already passed through, and like every other phase you will encounter, time, understanding and an enormous amount of patience are the keys to survival.  And believe it or not, one year from now, the flexible toddler that you thought would never appear will be waiting right around the corner.


Tempers And Tantrums
           It's certainly not easy to be 22 months old.  Staring at everyone's knees all day, being told "NO!" time and time again, constantly being taken down from tables after finally reaching the summit, being fed vegetables, and having hands, feet and a mouth that won't cooperate...it's no wonder that melt-downs are par for the course this month.  Tantrums are most likely to occur when frustration gets mixed with a little fear and a lot of anxiety, and once it's begun there's no stopping it, so hold on because you and your toddler are in for the ride of your lives.

       Emotions are so powerful at this age, and your little one has very little control over them.  To top it off, these feelings are still so new that sometimes they can be down right frightening.  Over time your toddler will learn how to cope more appropriately, especially once she has had time to grow her tough outer skin, but for now, it's not so simple.

       This month your toddler's mind continues to charge ahead while her "skills" sluggishly catch up.  Just imagine how frustrating it would be for you if you knew what you wanted to do and how to do it, but couldn't co-ordinate your actions with your mind time and time again.

       Tantrums may be part of your toddler's daily ritual, or for the fortunate few they may be few and far between.  Sometimes a tantrum can come on slowly, and sometimes it can strike in the blink of an eye.  All toddlers will vary regarding their "tantrum style," but once a style is chosen, you can expect them to follow it time and time again.  Some children go for the "flop around on the floor" option, some whirl around in circles to the point of toppling over, some throw anything in their path, some hold their breath, and some get their point across by just screaming their lungs out.  All are lovely options, and none are easy to cope with from any which way you look at it.

       Don't take it personally if your toddler chooses to share her tantrums with only you, or a few fortunate others.  Oddly enough, your little one will most likely choose trust-worthy individuals in her life to witness her outbursts, saving her best work for when you least expect it.  You have worked so hard to provide your toddler with a sense of security, and now that she knows she can always count on you to stand by her side, you have been hand-selected to have a front row seat during her not-so pleasant moments as well.

       Despite trying all the tricks in the book to avoid a tantrum, it's important that all obstacles are not eliminated from your toddler's life.  An essential part of growing and learning is when she tries new things and figures them out, even if she does become frustrated along the way.  So pick and choose when you rescue your toddler from herself these days, because solving problems on her own is a wonderful way to boost her ego and give her the confidence she'll need to face challenges in the future.

       Continue to offer your toddler guidance from across the room, and continuously praise her for any effort or progress she makes.  Provide your little one with the words to express how she is feeling, and when she appears ready to give up, encourage her to keep trying, but don't force the issue.  Try and allow your toddler to be in charge of deciding when she's had enough, because finding a happy medium between too much protection and too much space is the essence of your job this month.

       If it makes you feel any better, all of this "emotional turbulence" will settle down eventually.  Your toddler will learn how to manage her feelings more effectively, be confronted with less frustration throughout the day, understand that the world is not such a frightening place, and in general, need a little less reassurance from you.  Your little one will eventually learn to talk about her feelings, fears and frustrations, and put actual words in their correct places, instead of showing you what they feel like by throwing herself on the floor.  As for the time being, tune into your little one's needs by watching and listening to her closely, because right now you still have to "know" without truly being "told."


           Puzzle Time       

       Puzzles that are slightly challenging are ideal activities for your toddler this month.  Not only are they perfect for his developmental stage, but they also provide instant gratification, and are a sure fired way to boost his growing ego.

       This month, let your toddler try puzzles with smaller knobs that are just big enough to lift with a thumb and pointer finger.  Because of their smaller size, these puzzles are a great way to strengthen your toddler's hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

       Be careful to match the puzzle's level of difficulty with your toddler's frustration tolerance, and don't underestimate your little one's capabilities.  You may be surprised at how well she does with this activity.


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           A few months back, my 22-month-old twin boys, Andrew and Devin, were successful with very simple, large knob puzzles made up of no more than three pieces.  Because of their previous success, for this activity I decided to break-out the more difficult, multi-piece wooden puzzles that have the small little knobs just the right size for tiny little curious fingers.  I have found that these puzzles are a great "next step" as they are slightly more advanced, however still have the picture of the correct puzzle pieces underneath, making the matching process easier and increasing the chances of success.

       After selecting appropriate puzzles for each of my boys, I then placed one in front of each of them and hoped for the best.  As any parent of a 22-month-old toddler knows, patience is not a toddler's strong suit right now, and in fact, at least in my household it is non-existent.  For this reason I was well prepared for puzzle pieces to be flying across my living room (Devin's favorite way to express himself), and a lot of flailing around on the floor (Andrew's Modus Operandi) when pieces didn't fit perfectly together, and square pegs didn't fit in round holes.

       New toys that have previously been off-limits due to the "everything goes right in the mouth phase" are always a hit with Andrew and Devin, particularly when they have watched their big brother playing with them in the past.  So finally being allowed access to these recently "forbidden goods" brought a twinkle to my boys' eyes, and grins across their faces, but I was certain it would not last.

       Fortunately this time I was wrong, and both of my boys were thrilled trying out the new puzzles from start to (almost) finish.  They both looked to me for help on more than one occasion, but with a little hand-over-hand assistance they were able to complete each of their puzzles to the best of their abilities.

       Although Andrew and Devin did have some difficulty getting all of the pieces to fit, I am proud to say that no injuries were reported, and no tantrums took place that afternoon.  Devin did begin to bang puzzle pieces together towards the end of our activity, a warning to all, and we instantly knew his patience was rapidly coming to an end.  In order to head-off the inevitable flying puzzle pieces, Andrew quickly looked to me and said, "Puzzles all done," as he quickly stood up, placed his puzzle back on the shelf, and proceeded to run for cover.  Needless to say, he has learned from past experience and was not about to stay in the line of fire...Andrew's memory had once again served him well.


  Have you begun to wonder...
           How do I best handle my 22-month-old toddler's tantrums?       

       When your sweet little angel is in the midst of a full blown tantrum, keep in mind that she is even more overwhelmed than you are by what is occurring.  She is also completely terrified by her loss of control and the onslaught of emotions that she can't stop despite her most valiant efforts.

       Do your best to ensure that your toddler, as well as any innocent by-standers, do not get injured during one of her tantrums, and don't try to argue or reason with her because she won't be able to focus on what you're saying.  Also, don't raise your voice to match your toddler's increasing volume, because although her anger may be contagious, your own agitation may provide fuel for her fire, prolonging the outburst in the long run.

       Most importantly, don't allow tantrums to relax your role as a parent, and be sure to follow through with consequences no matter where the tantrum takes place or who may be in your presence.  Once your toddler realizes that her tantrums affect the way you behave in certain situations, she will learn to use them to her advantage, and possibly have tantrums intentionally to get her way.

       No matter how you slice it, tantrums go hand-in-hand with growing up and often there is no way around them.  How you handle these outbursts now are laying the groundwork for the future, so be careful how you react.  Sometimes the best thing to do is the simplest...sit down, take a deep breath and count to ten.


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