Prepare the home environment so your child can be as independent as possible. Stools for the counter to brush teeth independently, low shelves for dishes so they can help you set the table, low drawers so they can pick out their clothes for school the next day, and hooks at their level to hang their own jacket, all support their developing need for autonomy.
Do things with your child, not for them.
“When you cut it for me, write it for me, open it for me, set it up for me, draw it for me, find it for me, all I learn is: you do it better than me.”
Prepare dinner together, feed the dog, take out the trash, wash the car, fold the kitchen towels.
Allow enough time for your little one to complete tasks on their own; putting on shoes, a jacket, pajamas, putting things away.
Give effort-based praise.
Instead of “Look what a great reader you are! I’m so proud of you!” Try “You have been working so hard and practicing your reading. You must be really proud of yourself!”
Create opportunities for care of the environment – helping prepare dinner, clean up, fold clothes, etc.
Be kind AND firm. “I love you, and…we are not having ice cream for breakfast.”
Allow and embrace unscheduled time – moments of boredom breed opportunities for exploration and creativity.
Get rid of rewards and punishments. Rewards and punishments are usually very effective in the short term, but are not long term solutions. We want children to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do – not to get a sticker or iPad time.
Have “special time” – one on one time that happens regardless of behavior. This is an opportunity to build a strong foundation and trust so your child feels comfortable talking when the tough stuff does come up.
Give positive directions. Instead of “Stop yelling.” Try, “Use a soft voice.”
Accept and celebrate what makes your child unique – their strengths and weaknesses.
Provide a limited amount of choices whenever possible! Choices give children a feeling of control and autonomy when so much is typically outside of their control.
Adjust the environment for your child’s success. If you don’t want them to wear Summer clothes in the Winter – put the Summer clothes out of sight so your child has options that work for both of you.
Arrange a neat, orderly space. Too many options can lead to clutter and feeling overwhelmed rather than empowered. Live by these two phrases: “Less is more.” and “A place for everything and everything in its place.”
Model how to do things. Use fewer words, more actions.
Hold family meetings. Come up with rules together you all agree on and include your child as part of the problem-solving process.
Encourage independence. Let your child take time to choose for themselves, rather than suggesting or leading the play.
Develop routines. Honor your child’s developmental need for order by keeping as consistent a schedule as possible and remember to be patient with their emotions when necessary changes come up.
Provide long-term tools for tantrums and other challenging behaviors by validating emotions and supplying feeling words. This will help your child communicate his sadness, frustration, happiness, excitement, etc. in an appropriate manner in the future. Allow all feelings – but not all behaviors.
“It seems like you are frustrated. It’s okay to feel frustrated. It’s not okay to kick your brother. Let’s come up with some ideas for other things we can do when we’re frustrated.”
Have realistic, age-appropriate expectations and adjust boundaries accordingly. It is not realistic for a 2 year old to sit, completely still and silent for long periods of time (at least for most!)
Include them in daily life. Any time you can invite your child to be a helper, you teach them responsibility, concentration, executive functions, and the ability to follow sequenced directions as well as improve their self esteem.
Recognize the importance of hands-on learning. Toddlers learn best when they touch, smell, hear, taste, and see things. Look for ways to stimulate these senses and encourage curiosity.
View mistakes as opportunities to learn. Allow your child to correct mistakes on their own, rather than jumping in every time.
Allow time for processing directions and use fewer words. Rather than repeating a direction 5-10 times try saying it once, with as few words as possible and waiting a few beats before repeating.
Foster a sense of wonder. When your child remarks in awe at a ladybug or an airplane, slow down and take a moment to be amazed with them.