My mother’s guiding principle about childrearing was, “I want to raise children other people enjoy.” Other people do not enjoy a child who is out of control. While he is learning independence, it is our goal to teach him self-control. This is when that process begins.
Skills Your Toddler is Learning
During his first year, you established a secure bond between you and your baby. From that secure base, he will begin to explore his world and strike out on his own. Don’t be afraid that he will become so independent of you that he will no longer need you. He still craves your attention and reassurance.
He is making the transformation from helplessness to independence. He believes he rules his world. When he begins to learn the limits of his power, he will be frustrated and frightened. That’s when he needs your love and comfort as much as ever.
He is realizing he is his own person with thoughts and opinions of his own. This is a good time to start giving him a choice between two outfits to wear, what snack he wants, or which book he wants you to read.
Once your baby began walking, you began in almost imperceptible change in your attitude and behavior towards him. He no longer gets your immediate and undivided attention, because he is no longer helpless. You want him to know that he must learn to respect when you are busy and cannot immediately attend to him. This is normal and the first big step to independence.
This process of shifting responsibility to him and allowing him more freedom will continue through adolescence. There are two parts to this process. First, you must know what your child is capable of doing at any given time. Second, you must be willing to allow him the correct amount of independence and responsibility.
This process comes with two major pitfalls. You may overprotect your child and do for him what he should be doing for himself. Or, you may expect too much of him and push him beyond what he is able.
Confidence and self-sufficiency are the goals. This is not a clear-cut process, but we will try to help you along the way.
Dressing and Feeding Himself:
There are two major tasks for this second year, learning to feed and dress himself. Both feeding himself and dressing himself require many complicated steps. A good process to use is called the partnership method. To use this method you must break down the task into many small steps.
There are three parts to this method: First, he should always do what he is able to do. Second, you and he work together on the part you are teaching him to do. Third, you finish by doing the parts he is not yet ready to learn to do. Using these three simple steps, you gently guide your toddler toward independence and turn boring chores into exercises in communication and cooperation.
For example, putting on a shirt: At 14 months he should be able to put his first arm into a sleeve held in front of him. You both work together to teach him to reach back and put his arm in the second sleeve. Coach him verbally and use only enough pressure to help him complete this part of the task. You finish by buttoning or pulling the shirt down.
So much of your toddler’s energy is going toward mastering walking and exploring where he can go, that he may be in a plateau with speech. Don’t worry, development isn’t always steady, but usually spurts and plateaus. 14 month old’s sentences are single words. When he says, “Up,” he means, “I want Mommy to pick me up.” He will pack a lot of meaning into any words he knows.
You help him when you expand any word he uses into a sentence. When he says, “More,” you say, “Here is some more apple.” You are giving him ways to express his needs, desires, and opinions. He is also absorbing the basis for proper grammar. He doesn’t understand all the words you use, but he understands the meaning by key words, the rhythm of your speech, bodily posture, facial expressions and gestures.
Now that your toddler is more steady on his feet and is not yet self-conscious, it is time to begin teaching him the art of being friendly. He does not know how to actually play with another child, but he can begin to play side-by-side. Friendliness is learned by experience, so provide many opportunities for him.
Take him where there are other children his age. Quietly encourage him to respond to the children around him. Don’t be over-protective. A little rough play and noise are not dangerous to him. Don’t “fight his battles.” Let him learn how to stick up for his rights, but also begin to teach him how to share and exchange toys. His communication with other children is mostly wordless through gestures and expressions. If he talks, it is mostly to himself.
Your toddler may be quite shy, hiding his head in your pant leg and resisting new things. He may be anxious or cry when introduced to new people or situations. If you have seen this tendency consistently, this is probably part of his natural temperament. Temperament is mostly inborn and doesn’t change much throughout life. If your child has a quiet temperament, it will take more diligence and patience for you to help him make friends. Try introducing him to one or two playmates at a time, not a whole roomful. Stay close by and let him use you as his home-base from which to venture out to play with others. Little by little he will come to know it is safe and fun to be with others. You won’t change him into a social butterfly, but you can help him to gain the necessary self-confidence to meet new people and situations without fear.
You may have to deal with your toddler’s aggression when with other children. His limited language skill, fierce desire for independence, and inability to control his impulses make him vulnerable to outbursts of physical aggression. Although some aggression is normal, you must find ways to stop it.
Some responses that work:
Logical consequences— “You hit, you must sit down and cool off.”
Respond immediately– He won’t remember what he did a minute later.
Consistent response— If you use a two minute time-out, use it each time.
Reward good behavior— Catch him doing it right and encourage him.
Ways You Can Help
Protecting His Teeth
Baby teeth help shape his jaw and mouth and prepare room for his permanent teeth. Tooth decay can cause him to need fillings or lose baby teeth prematurely. You can help by making sure he has a balanced diet. Good general nutrition helps tooth growth and strength. Limit sweets because bacteria turns sweets into acid which decays teeth. And brush your toddler’s teeth regularly.
Buy a soft bristle child’s toothbrush for him. Use only water until at least 2 years of age. Most municipal water supply has fluoride added in an adequate amount to protect baby teeth. If you use fluoride toothpaste, he can swallow enough fluoride over time to cause white spots to show up on his adult teeth.
Some ways to teach him to brush his teeth:
- Be a good example. Brush your teeth and his at the same time.
- Don’t push him to brush his own teeth, let it be a game with a goal in mind– beautiful, pearly white teeth.
- When he wants to start, let him begin to brush his own teeth while you brush yours. Then you check each other’s teeth and finish the job if he has “missed a spot.”
- Sitting on the bathroom floor facing each other is a way to get him to mimic what you are doing. Use a cup for rinsing and a bowl for spitting. When he brushes, he earns the right to spit. That will be a great treat for him.
What to Expect Next
- Plays with a ball
- Walks backwards
- Scribbles with a crayon
- Adopts “no” as his favorite word
By now, you and your husband have undoubtedly talked about discipline. As your toddler is able to get around faster and his curiosity seems limitless, you have begun to discipline him whether you have made a plan or not.
Discipline is not the same as punishment. Discipline is training. It can involve stopping a wrong behavior or learning a new one. We discipline any time we create boundaries for our children. Punishment on the other hand is associated with penalties and/or pain to change behavior.
You and your husband came from different backgrounds with different experiences of discipline or punishment. Talking together gives you the opportunity to understand each other better and to respect and appreciate each other’s point of view. Parenting is best done as a team and discipline is a large part of the process of parenting.
It is very important that you and your husband agree about the way you plan to discipline your child. If you don’t agree, one of you will always have to discipline or one will tend to be too harsh and the other too soft. It doesn’t take children long to know that you are not together and to begin playing one against the other.
If you do not agree about a particular method or rule, talk about it. Don’t become critical or undermine the other’s position. Avoid being judgmental of your partner’s ideas. Come to a consensus. Then be consistent in your discipline. If you don’t, it is your child who will suffer.
Since your baby began crawling and pulling up on furniture, you have baby-proofed your home as much as possible. You have been saying, “No, no,” and redirecting his attention. You have tried to teach him his boundaries. But you have probably realized that you cannot protect him from every danger. The world can be a dangerous place.
Now it is time to teach him that “Stop!” means “Stop what you are doing—now!” When he knows that is what it means, you can stop him from dangerous situations even when you cannot physically reach him. When he stops, it gives you time to reach him and remove him from the danger.
Don’t over-use “Stop.” When your child hears it too much, he will not respond appropriately. But when you use it, make sure that your child stops whatever he was doing. If he does not stop himself, you must make him stop by removing him from the dangerous situation. You must do it every time. After you have used “Stop,” be sure to give him an acceptable alternative activity. Consistency is the key. By following the same pattern each time, you train his responses and make him easier to teach.
Heavenly Father, please give us the wisdom we need to raise this child you have entrusted to us. Thank you for teaching us day by day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.