SILVER SPRING, Md, October 28, 2012 – Children constantly grow, develop and change, and at no point do they do all of that faster than the first two years of life. And while we, as parents, cannot wait for the next milestone, we can often become frustrated when routines go out the window and new skills complicate life.
Once your baby hits the one-year mark, they cross the line from infant to toddler, a developmental phase that is considered to last until he turns 3. While we spend their months as an infant doting on them and gently introducing the world to them, the toddler years are the time when children start testing the boundaries of what is possible, both in what they are capable of doing and what they are allowed to do.
As parents, it is incumbent upon us to change the way we think about our interaction with our children and our expectations upon them. During this phase children learn rapidly and can easily surprise the adults they interact with, and many of the routines and patterns that parents have used to get by begin to change. Many toddlers go from 2 naps to 1, many increase the amount they will eat and drink and how frequently they want to eat or drink. Self-feeding becomes established and moves from finger foods to the use of a spoon. Bottles become sippy cups. The number of diapers a day changes, and some early-birds even start showing the first signs of being ready to potty-train.
You may no longer be struggling with a baby that wakes up all night, but you may now have a baby who will not go to bed. Indistinct crying has given way to trying to decode the meaning in the jumble of sounds that routinely fall from your child’s mouth, and those first steps may have progressed to scaling furniture.
While some transitions baby will make on his own, some you may need to assist him with. Introducing a sippy cup instead of a bottle is better for the alignment of those cute little teeth that are coming in, but not all babies want to make the switch. Similarly, pacifiers can be a constant companion for some babies, but they can also cause dental issues.
If the old routine is not working any more, or is becoming a fight, assess what changes your baby has made and try to adapt to them. Maybe skip the first nap of the day in favor of one at mid-day. Allow your baby to snack (healthily) throughout the day if he refuses to eat larger portions at your designated meal times. If he pushes away a spoon when you try to feed him, let him hold the spoon and try to do it himself. If he fights diaper changes, try slip-on or pull-up varieties to see if he responds better to being treated more like a “big kid.”
This is also the time when you start having to practice being the parent, to set guidelines and boundaries. The toddler years is the time to introduce the concepts of discipline and good habits, as behavior patterns set early can be hard to change later. Teaching your little one to put away his toys now will save you many fights down the road. And the toddler years are known for tantrums; the name “terrible twos” did not come about for no reason.
Ultimately, parents need to recognize that each stage has its own sets of challenges. Some may come in the form of a change in daily life, others may come with tears and stomping feet. Remember that each child is different and progresses in his own way down the developmental paths of gross motor, fine motor, vision, hearing & speech, and social skills. Your child may be a chatter box before his playmates or maybe he develops his coordination sooner. If you have concerns that your toddler is still acting too baby-ish, ask your doctor.
The toddler years are often referred to as the “age of wonder” as your child greets every new experience with wide eyes. Try to enjoy these discoveries with him before time slips away and a rainbow is just another thing in the sky.
Follow Brighid on Twitter at @BrighidMoret and receive updates when new columns post on Facebook. Read more about first time parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times.
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