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Toddler - Week #97

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Your 23-month-old toddler (week 97)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

Misbehaving and Limit-testing
           Have you heard about the terrible twos?  If not, this month I would like to introduce you to the abridged version.  If you haven't already been provided with a glimpse into what life with a two-year-old can be like, you will be privy to a few sneak peeks this month.  Over the course of the next few months, you can expect an increase in "misbehavior," so prepare for your toddler to push everything to the limit (especially your patience).  This "difficult" stage is a very normal transition period that most toddlers will go through and come out unscathed, so think of it like a "hazing" period that everyone must go through, and at the end you will be able to reap the benefits of a well-adjusted and happy child.

       Poor impulse control can wreak havoc on your little one's mind this month, as he feels frustrated by his inability to stop himself from doing things before it's too late.  Right now, your little one continues to struggle between dependence and independence, and he has become increasingly aware of his limitations, insight which frustrates him to no end.

       This month, expect your toddler to become increasingly expressive regarding his likes and dislikes, specifically regarding food, clothing, toys and especially people.  As your toddler becomes more aware of his individuality, expect resistance, defiance and the word "no," to be shouted in your direction on more than one occasion.  Right now your toddler wants to test his power in order to be certain that everyone knows just how important he is, and for the most part you'll be right in the line of fire.

       On a more positive note, this is also the month when you can expect to laugh more than you ever have, and love the little person that your baby is becoming more and more every day.


Re-direction And Discipline
           When you do witness your toddler acting in an inappropriate manner, direct her to act in a more acceptable way.  When you see her becoming pushy, encourage her to be "gentle," and state how you would like her behavior to change in a calm and quiet voice, instead of matching her raucous behavior with a loud tone.  Always remember to praise your toddler when she is acting appropriately on her own, and keep in mind that it is important to catch her being good so you can reinforce the positive.  Sometimes your toddler is completely unaware that her behavior has crossed the line, and all she needs is a little nudge from you to get her back on the right track.

       Although this can be a difficult time for parents, be patient, then establish and stick to the rules that have been decided upon in your household.  Be sure that your toddler understands what the rules are, and explain them in a simple manner as many times as necessary in order to get your point across.  Lastly, emphasize to your toddler that the rules in your house are not arbitrary but have a purpose, because children this age tend to follow rules more carefully when they are given an explanation as to why they have been put there to begin with.

       When disciplining your toddler, be sure to use her mistakes as lessons to learn from, not as a means to make her feel badly about herself.  In essence, discipline your child because of her behavior, and be sure it is clear that it is her behavior you are unhappy with, not her.

       Also, be sure that you make your expectations, boundaries and limits clear, and be as consistent as possible with your actions.  A toddler who is receiving mixed messages regarding what she can and cannot do, in combination with unpredictable consequences for her behavior is a guaranteed combination for disaster.


           Your toddler's self-esteem determines whether or not he "likes, accepts, and respects" himself, and the biggest challenge every parent must face right now is helping your child to excel in this area.  Over the past few months, your toddler has begun to form a clearer picture of himself including his likes and dislikes, however he is actually still quite unsure of who he is.  It is your job to reinforce the amount of love that you have for your toddler, and equally important to let him know that you accept him entirely, for better and for worse.

       Studies show that a child who learns and believes that he is a "good person" at an early age, is actually more likely to believe in himself as an adolescent and adult.  A child who believes in himself also finds it unnecessary to impress others, or receive "approval" from peers.  He can also better handle peer-pressure, and has an easier time staying away from destructive behavior, like drug and alcohol use, later in life.

       Although building up your toddler's self-esteem is actually a job that he must do himself, it will go much more smoothly with a little guidance from you.  In order to begin paving the way for a bright future, let your toddler know when he is doing a good job, reinforce his successes and not his failures, and thank him for helping others.  Tell your little one how to do things, instead of teaching him how not to do things, and listen to what he has to say.  Also, be sure that your toddler knows that he is important, and that he has a very special place in this world.

       This unconditional positive regard, or "no-strings-attached" type of love, is an essential message that your toddler must hear often, and believe fully at a very early age.  No matter what he does, from one extreme to the next, he needs to know that you are right there with him for the ride, and that he is loved without question.  It is a basic human need to feel accepted and liked, regardless of any behavior that may be less than perfect...and at 23 months you can be certain that you will see a lot of behaviors that are "less than."



       Have you ever put your toddler in front of a full-length mirror?  Now is the time to give it a try.  Sit in front of a large mirror with your toddler, and begin to move different body parts.  Help your toddler to move her arms and have her copy your actions.  Then let your toddler take charge, and it is your turn to follow her lead.  Once she gets the basic idea of this "mirroring" activity, go ahead and turn it up a notch by adding some music and trying a few dance steps together.  This activity will guarantee a few good laughs, and it a wonderful way for your toddler to see how much she is now able to control the movement of her body.  This is also a great activity for teaching about different parts of the body, and to experiment with funny ways to move them.


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           Mirrors have been an integral part of my 23-month-old twin boys play experience for quite a while.  Because my boys are identical twins, I have always been concerned about establishing their own identity separate from one another, and I found mirrors to be the perfect way to reinforce this.  From a very young age I would place Andrew and Devin in front of a large mirror, both together and separate, in order for them to recognize from an early age that they were different, despite everyone else's opinions.  Interestingly enough, despite my heartfelt efforts to provide them with a sense of individuality, my boys did call one another "Andoo (A.K.A. Andrew)" for the first 18 months of life, and it wasn't until quite recently that Devin took on a name of his own.

       Because mirrors have often been incorporated into our play up to this point, Andrew and Devin were excited to see them out again for this activity.  In order to get them started and to reinforce the point of this activity, I started to sing and move with the words of "head, shoulders, knees and toes."  Andrew and Devin quickly caught on, and after a few moments of taking the lead, I switched things up and began to copy Devin's motions instead.  Although it did take a little while before he actually realized that I was mimicking him, once aware that he was in control of the game, he quickly adopted the role and became quite creative with his motions.  Andrew did appear to have difficulty, or shall I say, was unwilling to take the back seat to his "younger" brother (by 2 minutes) and was marching to his own drummer, but did have fun looking at himself wiggling around in the mirror nonetheless.

       All was fun and games until Devin decided to stick both fingers up his nose, and was disappointed that I did not follow suit.  Andrew however, took it upon himself to join in at this point, and got a good laugh out of staring at both himself and his brother in the full-length mirror, fingers up their noses and all.  Ah, yes, boys will be boys.


  Have you begun to wonder...
           Why does my toddler test limits constantly?       

       Testing the limits is how children learn, and throughout history, humans have pushed their limits to see how far they can go.  Testing the world around us, and figuring out how it works is a basic human instinct and a wonderful way to learn, particularly for a toddler whose impulse control is non-existent.

       Often your toddler tests you time and time again because her memory, which is still developing, fails to remind her that she has done something before which has been met with poor results or with an unhappy parent.  She may also test you because she still cannot generalize, and must go through the lengthy process of learning what she can and cannot do in each case she is presented with throughout the day.  Lastly, this is the prime age when your toddler is finally beginning to understand and be intrigued by the concept of cause-and-effect, and she enjoys experimenting to see whether she gets the same reaction from you time and time again.

       Congratulations!  You are now the official lab rat in your toddler's little experimental world.  Hold on tight because she'll only get more creative as the months go on, and you'll be amazed at what she is able to coerce you to do.


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