The terrible twos. Temper tantrums. Spitting and hitting. Tears. Lots of tears. Some of them ours. Parents of the toddler fear that the few years ahead will be so insane, irrational, and intense that they’ll barely survive.
Take heart, friend. The wisdom of attachment parenting applies to all stages of child development, not just the baby years. A well-attached toddler will sail through toddlerhood without turning your hair gray. At least not completely gray. You just have to know what’s going on in their noggins and hearts so that you can help them make the transition from babyhood to bigger kidhood.
CAPC’s 2nd Building Block to a Family-Centered Catholic Home is Empathic Response. To respond to a toddler with respect, love, and understanding we have to do a little detective work sometimes. What are our child’s needs and motivations at this stage? Dr. Gregory Popcak, in his wonderful attachment parenting book “Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (Almost) Perfect Kids”, discusses very clearly the primary goals of toddlerhood (ages 18 months to 3 years):
- Continuing to lay the foundation of basic trust (started in infancy) by continuing to breastfeed if the toddler needs it and having a gentle approach to transitioning the child out of the family bed.
- Beginning to take independence. Notice the toddler takes independence; it can’t be pushed on her. Our job is to provide a safe, supportive emotional environment as she begins to stretch her emotional wings.
- Developing physical competence (mobility/toilet training).
- Exercising the will. Toddlers begin to assert themselves in a way parents never saw in their darling babies. “I do it”, “No!”, “I go too”, “NO!”. For Catholics, the will is not something to be suppressed or trained out of the toddler. The will is a gift. Her “no” to you when you ask her to put on her coat may be the “no” in her teens years that keeps her from making unwise and life-altering decisions with her peers. Our job is to help the toddler assert her will in a respectful, appropriate manner at the appropriate time within the boundaries that we set for her.
These are the toddler’s goals during this critical development phase, and our toddlers will focus on achieving these goals whether we like it or not. Understanding where our toddlers are coming from is one of the most powerful ways to demystify this developmental stage.
CAPC will offer tips and advice from experienced mamas and papas about how they handled the toddler years.
Parenting With Grace by Dr. Gregory Popcak
The Discipline Book by Dr. William Sears
The No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddler and Preschoolers by Elizabeth Pantley
Building Trust by Kim Cameron-Smith
Toddler Independence by Kim Cameron-Smith
Potty Training by Kim Cameron-Smith
Photo credit: OMG Images (photos.com)