Give your toddler choices, not challenges

Photo: Picabay/ civilhetes

On a hot summer day, a delicious swirl of ice cream is a welcome treat. Or so thought 2-year-old Janie’s parents until she, not the ice cream, melted down on the floor.

The trip to the neighborhood ice cream parlor began with excitement but, once inside with an array of 36 flavors in front of her, Janie headed for the crayons and coloring books on the children’s table in the corner of the store. “Do you want ice cream?” Mom asked. “No,” stated Janie firmly. Mom asked again — and got the same response from Janie.

“Okay,” said Mom. “But we are getting ice cream. Are you sure you don’t want ice cream?”

Janie ignored her mother’s question and opened the coloring book. Then, when she saw mom and dad sitting with their ice cream at a nearby table, Janie went to them saying, “Me cream!”

“But you said you didn’t want any,” Dad responded.

It wasn’t not long before her parents were peeling a screaming Janie off the floor and out of the store.

Toddlers do best when presented with an “either/or” rather than a “yes/no” question. Of course, she wants ice cream. An easier to manage question is, “Do you want chocolate or vanilla?” She gets to make a choice and her parents get to enjoy the family outing.

Understanding a toddler’s perspective

As parents of toddlers know, the favorite word, “no,” can dominate conversations. Even to questions of delight like, “Do you want ice cream?” the response may be, “No!” What seems like an irrational response is actually an indicator of great neurological growth — the emergence of self. The toddler is now capable of making an independent decision.

Toddlers are in a remarkable period of development. They are beginning to realize that they are separate people — different from their parents, siblings, teachers, and the other children around them. “No” is code for “I choose.” It also can indicate, as with Janie, that there are too many choices. With too many flavors of ice cream, she chose to color.

Bio: Dr. Terrie Rose is a leader in the field of early childhood development and emotional readiness. She is an author, speaker, trainer and an Ashoka Fellow, who has developed a childcare model and curriculum for infants and toddlers to ensure emotional readiness.

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