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 she is learning independence, it is our goal to teach her self-control. This is when that process begins.
Skills Your Toddler is Learning
During her first year, you established a secure bond between you and your baby. From that secure base, she will begin to explore her world and strike out on her own. Don’t be afraid that she will become so independent of you that she will no longer need you. She still craves your attention and reassurance.
She is making the transformation from helplessness to independence. She believes she rules her world. When she begins to learn the limits of her power, she will be frustrated and frightened. That’s when she needs your love and comfort as much as ever.
She is realizing she is her own person with thoughts and opinions of her own. This is a good time to start giving her a choice between two outfits to wear, what snack she wants, or which book she wants you to read.
Once your baby began walking, you began in almost imperceptible change in your attitude and behavior towards her. She no longer gets your immediate and undivided attention, because she is no longer helpless. You want her to know that she must learn to respect when you are busy and cannot immediately attend to her. This is normal and the first big step to independence.
This process of shifting responsibility to her and allowing her 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 her the correct amount of independence and responsibility.
This process comes with two major pitfalls. You may overprotect your child and do for her what she should be doing for herself. Or, you may expect too much of her and push her beyond what she 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 Herself:
There are two major tasks for this second year, learning to feed and dress herself. Both feeding herself and dressing herself 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, she should always do what she is able to do. Second, you and she work together on the part you are teaching her to do. Third, you finish by doing the parts she 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 she should be able to put her first arm into a sleeve held in front of her. You both work together to teach her to reach back and put her arm in the second sleeve. Coach her verbally and use only enough pressure to help her 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 she can go, that she 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 she says, “Up,” she means, “I want Mommy to pick me up.” She will pack a lot of meaning into any words she knows.
You help her when you expand any word she uses into a sentence. When she says, “More,” you say, “Here is some more apple.” You are giving her ways to express her needs, desires, and opinions. She is also absorbing the basis for proper grammar. She doesn’t understand all the words you use, but she 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 her feet and is not yet self-conscious, it is time to begin teaching her the art of being friendly. She does not know how to actually play with another child, but she can begin to play side-by-side. Friendliness is learned by experience, so provide many opportunities for her.
Take her where there are other children her age. Quietly encourage her to respond to the children around her. Don’t be over-protective. A little rough play and noise are not dangerous to her. Don’t “fight her battles.” Let her learn how to stick up for her rights, but also begin to teach her how to share and exchange toys. Her communication with other children is mostly wordless through gestures and expressions. If she talks, it is mostly to herself.
Your toddler may be quite shy, hiding her head in your pant leg and resisting new things. She may be anxious or cry when introduced to new people or situations. If you have seen this tendency consistently, this is probably part of her 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 her make friends. Try introducing her to one or two playmates at a time, not a whole roomful. Stay close by and let her use you as her home-base from which to venture out to play with others. Little by little she will come to know it is safe and fun to be with others. You won’t change her into a social butterfly, but you can help her 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. Her limited language skill, fierce desire for independence, and inability to control her impulses make her 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– She won’t remember what she did a minute later.
Consistent response— If you use a two minute time-out, use it each time.
Reward good behavior— Catch her doing it right and encourage her.
Ways You Can Help
Protecting Her Teeth
Baby teeth help shape her jaw and mouth and prepare room for her permanent teeth. Tooth decay can cause her to need fillings or lose baby teeth prematurely. You can help by making sure she 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 her. 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, she can swallow enough fluoride over time to cause white spots to show up on her adult teeth.
Some ways to teach her to brush her teeth:
- Be a good example. Brush your teeth and hers at the same time.
- Don’t push her to brush her own teeth, let it be a game with a goal in mind– beautiful, pearly white teeth.
- When she wants to start, let her begin to brush her own teeth while you brush yours. Then you check each other’s teeth and finish the job if she has “missed a spot.”
- Sitting on the bathroom floor facing each other is a way to get her to mimic what you are doing. Use a cup for rinsing and a bowl for spitting. When she brushes, she earns the right to spit. That will be a great treat for her.
What to Expect Next
- Plays with a ball
- Walks backwards
- Scribbles with a crayon
- Adopts “no” as her favorite word
By now, you and your husband have undoubtedly talked about discipline. As your toddler is able to get around faster and her curiosity seems limitless, you have begun to discipline her 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 her attention. You have tried to teach her her boundaries. But you have probably realized that you cannot protect her from every danger. The world can be a dangerous place.
Now it is time to teach her that “Stop!” means “Stop what you are doing—now!” When she knows that is what it means, you can stop her from dangerous situations even when you cannot physically reach her. When she stops, it gives you time to reach her and remove her from the danger.
Don’t over-use “Stop.” When your child hears it too much, she will not respond appropriately. But when you use it, make sure that your child stops whatever she was doing. If she does not stop herself, you must make her stop by removing her from the dangerous situation. You must do it every time. After you have used “Stop,” be sure to give her an acceptable alternative activity. Consistency is the key. By following the same pattern each time, you train her responses and make her 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.