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If You’re Going to Get Along with a Toddler…You Just Gotta Follow the Rules!

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So, infancy is sliding out of the way and now there’s this new little person who is suddenly both mobile and opinionated. We know there are two ways to get through life…the easy way and the hard way. There may not truly be an easy way to navigate through toddlerhood, but being mindful of the unnegotiable rules can help move the needle in that direction.

1. Make sure there’s a routine set up and stick to that throughout the day. Predictability is important to toddlers. It brings a sense of security and stability that make for more happy and more calm.


2. Anticipate…no, EXPECT them to be irrational. You can’t really expect to reason with a child who has his own rules of reason and will change them at will. He may ask you to cut up his fruit and then scream when you do, wanting it put back together again. See? Don’t even try.


3. Never, ever underestimate the importance of naptime. In fact, it’s a good idea to plan the day around it. A tired toddler is ticking and a meltdown can be imminent. Plan errands and other activities when he is well rested and has had something to eat.

4. Be prepared for picky eating. Up until now, a toddler may have been an eating machine and then he hit the brakes on everything… except raisins. Normal? Yes. This temporary skew will not affect his growth and development. Because of #2, don’t try to cajole, convince, or become a short-order cook. Fixing something a toddler wanted 5 minutes ago will probably not be what he wants when you put it in front of him.


5. Have a good supply of healthy snacks available at all times. They serve multiple purposes. A little snack can be a good distraction when their bodies or behavior are headed in the wrong direction. Or, they can save the day (or some serious stink-eye from passersby). Something to munch can also bridge the gap when a toddler is on thin ice before the next meal. Yet another plus? When his little mouth is busy, you can often make some meaningful eye contact and he’ll be listening to you, if only briefly!


As you have surmised, all of this requires anticipation, proactivity, and paying attention. If you miss the cues or are inconsistent, it’s all a house of cards and you’ll wonder how the toddler took over the controls.

Our best shot comes with pre-planning. This can free up more time for a toddler to be happy, engaged, interactive, and for us to enjoy these incredibly fun and amazing toddler years.


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Debra Pierce is professor of Early Childhood Education at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. Ivy Tech is the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college systems, serving nearly 200,000 students annually.

Her professional background has always involved children, over the past 40 years, having been a primary grades teacher in the Chicago Public School system, a teacher of 3 and 4 year-olds in a NAEYC accredited preschool for 15 years, and a certified Parent Educator for the National Parents as Teachers Program.

Debra is a certified Professional Development Specialist for the Council for Professional Recognition. She has taught CDA courses to high school career/tech dual credit juniors and seniors in preparation for earning their CDA credentials. She also conducts CDA train-the-trainer events across the country and develops and teaches online CDA courses for several states, is a frequent presenter at national and state early childhood conferences, and is a Master Trainer for the states of Minnesota and Arizona. She was also awarded the NISOD Teaching Excellence Award by the University of Texas.

Debra is active in her community, supporting children's literacy and is on the board of directors of First Book in Indianapolis. Debra is a contributing author for Hamilton County Family Magazine and Indy's Child in Indianapolis.
She loves spending time with her two grandsons, Indy, who is 7 and Radley, 3.

Debra has spent the last 16 years dedicated to the success of those pursuing the CDA credential and is the author of The CDA Prep Guide: The Complete Review Manual for the Child Development Associate Credential, now in its third edition (Redleaf Press), the only publication of its kind. She hosts a website providing help and support to CDA candidates and those who train them at http://www.easycda.com
The comments and views expressed are not in collaboration or affiliation with The Council for Professional Recognition or Ivy Tech Community College.
Follow me on Twitter at /easycda

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Guest Saturday, 20 July 2019