This is a question about toddler etiquette and not about parenting. Some parents are out of control about letting their small child act out their feelings and rights as a free spirit, but then what? The toddler gets out of control.
–AJ, Foster, RI
- Nor is it about setting boundaries that compromise their unalienable rights.
- Do prep work. Let the child know what to expect.
- Sit down on the floor with your toddler, make eye contact, and talk to him or her about the adventure they are about to undertake on a playdate with another toddler, at a birthday party, or on a visit to the grandparents at Thanksgiving.
- Hitting: Be nice. No grabbing, hitting, spitting, kicking or biting. If you’ve ever spent time with a toddler you know that they don’t hit only once, they’ll repetitively hit that stick at least ten to twelve times until they’re calmed. Most often, physically taking the hitter out of the room gives you both a chance to change the channel in her/his brain.
- Annoying: When a child is being obnoxious there’s not much you can do but let it play out until he decides it is boring to be annoying.
- Snacking: Snacks should be divided into separate containers (cups, plates, bowls) to avoid a possible tantrum from a grabbing fellow hoarder.
- Sharing: Toys should be shared, but if a toddler isn’t ready to give up their favorite truck or doll, it may mean that he isn’t ready to understand the concept. Distract with other toys.
- Dancing and singing always change the tone, so turn on and turn up music.
- Eating: When they’re ready to experiment with flatware and new foods, they’ll become curious if they see utensils and different foods often. The worst things you can say are, “Look at how nicely Jack uses his fork,” or “Wow, watch Serena lovingly eating her broccoli trees.”
At Thanksgiving and other holiday get-togethers with adults, your toddler will vie for your attention. If you’re not keeping a watchful eye and she or he does something wrong — like hurting someone or her/himself or breaking something — it is all YOUR fault.
- Disruptive: Again, extract and distract your toddler. When you’re alone with her/him, sit down together and while making eye contact, gently explain to her/him the consequences of exactly what s/he did that you didn’t like.
- Snobbery: Don’t allow your toddler to be a snob. A child who snubs by ignoring and refusing to talk to someone who is trying to make contact and connect is rude. Selective hearing is not a social skill and shouldn’t be tolerated. It is disrespectful and unfriendly. If s/he doesn’t like Uncle Tom’s pipe tobacco breath, then s/he can stand back and talk to him nicely by answering a question before moving away.
- Potty training: Don’t use food to bribe a toddler to sit on the potty. Keep a surprise small toy — a poop prize — on hand for after s/he’s used the potty. Make it a reward for not having had an accident. While potty training in someone else’s home, keep her/him close by, even if you have to put her/him on your lap.
- Bedtime: Stay on her/his sleep schedule to avoid a melt down.
Ultimately, you want your toddler around people who exude Good Vibes Only. Keep your toddler away from bitter, grouchy relatives.
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