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Top Top 5 Questions About Toddlers


Do you have a toddler that is challenging you day to day? Check out the top 5 questions we receive about parenting toddlers, and some helpful tips to solve them.

1. How do you get a toddler to sleep in their own bed?

Don't give you child any other option but going back to bed, and eventually she'll give up and realize she may as well just stay there. Do your bedtime routine, tuck her child in and leave the room. When she gets up and comes out of the room the first time, bring her back to bed and then leave again. The second and all subsequent times, you don't say anything, but just keep walking or carrying her back to bed. It will take a lot of time and energy (and persistence!) to make it work, but it does work (often without tears even) if you're consistent. - Amanda.

a toddler hiding away

The Gentle Route

I started off putting my daughter in her own bed and sitting beside the bed with her; I would read her a story until she fell asleep, or just sit there and hold her hand. Then I'd leave once she was asleep. I did this for about three weeks. By then, I could tell she was getting more comfortable in her bed, so I would still tuck her in and read a story, but I started leaving before she was fully asleep. Sometimes she would get up, but I'd put her right back in her bed. She eventually got the hang of it, and after about a month all I had to do was go in and tuck her in. - Stacie Z.

The Compromise

We took our son to pick out his own toddler bed and told him he would have to sleep in it. But we put his bed in our room so he wouldn't completely feel like we were kicking him out. - Cynthia C.

The Expert Opinion

The moms have it right - bedtime routines and consistency are key to good sleep. Dr. Jodi Mindell, author of "Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep," says clear expectations for your toddler decrease behavioral problems. "If you want your toddler to sleep in his own bed, then you need to be very clear about this expectation and follow through every time. Having him fall asleep in the parents' bed and moving him won't do it.  You need to have the child fall asleep in his own bed. If he refuses to stay, it's all about being consistent and just returning him to his bed over and over and over again." But be careful not to move your toddler from the crib to the bed too soon - Dr. Mindell suggests waiting until your child is closer to 3 years old, when he should have the understanding and control to stay in his own bed.

2. What's A Good Way to Potty Train?

Let The Child Lead 

The one thing that worked with my son was asking him each morning whether he wanted big boy pants or pull-ups. Whatever he decided, he was stuck with for the day. Then, one day, he just did it, and in less than a month he was overnight potty trained. It was up to him and his strong-willed way. The more we got mad and frustrated, and the more we focused on it, the worse it got.  - Jillian D.

Trick 'em

To get my son potty trained, I had him stand in front of the toilet, and I would turn on the water to give him the feeling that he had to pee. Then, when he did pee, I would tell him "good job" and give him a popsicle. When he was used to that, I wouldn't give him anything until he pooped in the toilet. For a boy, it helps also if his dad shows him how to go. - Cynthia C.

a toddler sitting on a potty

Be a Role Model

First try to explain to your toddler how "big people like Mommy and Daddy" go potty. Sit down and show her how, Dad and Mom both. Let her look inside the toilet and see what's going on. I understand this could be nasty, but you are trying to get your child to understand something real. Then, show her the reward: Mommy gives Daddy a treat, and Daddy gives Mommy a treat, and they praise each other on how they did "good potty." Explain to your toddler that she will get a treat too if she performs good potty. The hardest part of this is finding out the best times to do it and being consistent so you go through the same motions at the same times each day. The child may or may not go, and that is fine. From there, every couple of hours you need to take the child to "go potty" and bring the treats along. As soon as your kid does go potty, make a big fuss and give her all the attention she deserves. - Joseph T.

The Expert Opinion

"Role-modeling by parents (yup, that means letting them walk in on you), having practice sessions of sitting on the potty even if nothing happens and providing lots of praise and hugs and kisses when the child either practices or uses the potty are great ways to get started," says Dr. Pete Stavinoha, author of "Stress-Free Potty Training." Readiness is an important factor in your child's potty training success - look for subtle cues of interest, like wanting to wear underpants - to help you recognize when your toddler is ready to potty train. "The pace of potty training depends on a lot of things: the child's level of interest, readiness, motivation, and parental expectations, involvement and guidance," Dr. Stavinoha says."By reading our children's' cues, using thoughtful strategies to stimulate interest, and positively reinforcing potty attempts, we give toddlers the best opportunity to become successful as soon as they are ready - whether in a day, a week, a month, or longer

3. What's a good way to deal with tantrums?

Don't Give Them An Audience

One thing that helped me when my daughter went through this phase was to make sure she didn't have an audience for her tantrum. I'd put her in her room. If she screamed for an hour, she screamed for an hour; I would not enter the room or call for her to be quiet. Eventually, she would tire out. At first she would try to come out of her room, but I would pick her up and carry her back. The first time she came out, I'd say, "Stay in your room until I give you permission to come out." If she came out after that, I would simply pick her up, carry her to her room and place her there without saying a word or giving any sort of facial expression to indicate my frustration. Sometimes it took several times, but eventually, she learned that I could be more stubborn than she is and she gave up. - Maggie

a young toddler crying in front of his sisters

Talk Him Through It 

It's hard for children to understand at this age, but they need to learn that they can't always have what they want. My 19-month-old has thrown some horrible tantrums. He doesn't hit or try to hurt me, but he will try to push me away. He gets extremely distressed - there's nothing fake about it. I've found that he's usually upset because he is trying to get something across to me that he just doesn't have the words for yet. Most of the time, if I talk to him calmly and start going over things with him, I hit on what he's trying to communicate and he lets me know that I got it right. Then I go over the word he needs, over and over, until he starts trying to repeat it to me. Sometimes I just can't let him do or have what he wants and he still gets upset, but not for nearly as long as he would have. At those times that I can't please him, I tell him why he can't have or do what he wants, and leave it at that. - Sarah S.

Time out 

Your son is at an age where he wants to be independent, but physically he just isn't able to. Try letting him take part in some of the decisions you make for him, like picking out his clothes or which veggies to serve with dinner. If you don't want him to be totally in charge of these things, let him pick between two choices that you find acceptable. This will make him feel as if he has a voice and some control over what happens to him. Under age 2 is still kind of young to understand what a time-out is, but a minute to cool out can be very effective. - Jessica H.

The Expert Opinion

When it comes to toddler tantrums, one of the most important things to remember is that children are born with a limited ability to control their emotions, especially when they are upset. "They are like tiny cavemen," says Dr. Harvey Karp, creator of the book and DVD "The Happiest Toddler on The Block." "We have to teach toddlers how to be civilized and handle their emotions." 

Dr. Karp discourages time-outs for tantrums. "You may need to punish a child's behavior, but emotions shouldn't be punished unless the child is being disruptive or aggressive." Instead, he encourages parents to speak "toddler-ese" to help their little ones navigate through the tantrum. This means speaking like your toddler - using short phrases and repetition, and mirroring the child's tone of voice and gestures to acknowledge the emotion. Most important, don't distract, yell or talk overly calmly to the toddler in the midst of a meltdown. "Just like adults, toddlers have a hard time recovering from their upsets until their feelings have been acknowledged," says Dr. Karp. Talking calmly could frustrate a child, because it does not effectively communicate that you are acknowledging his feelings. 

If a toddler continues to tantrum, practice the 'kind ignore" - after you speak toddler-ese, step away for a few seconds (to take away the audience) and then come back and repeat your words of acknowledgement. Continue the cycle of going away and coming back until the child begins to calm down.

4. How do I stop my toddler from hitting?

a young boy glaring angrily


Just redirect!!!!! Don't make a big deal about it because then they want to do it more. - Megan W.

Give 'em a Taste

I don't believe in spanking, but have you tried explaining and showing your toddler that hitting hurts? When he hits, take his hand and show him that hitting hurts. This method worked for me. - Nydea M.

Just Say No!

I tell my 26-month-old nephew "No, we do not hit," and redirect him. If he does it again, he gets time out. Period. - Eileen M.

Withhold Your Attention

Move your toddler away from you every time he hits or bites. For instance, if you are holding him and he hits or bites, say "No" and set him on the floor. He will soon realize that if he wants Mommy or Daddy time he will have to be nice. Another thing to try is saying, "No, that hurts" or "I don't like that," which will help him to realize that what he is doing is not nice. - April

The Expert Opinion

When things get physical, Dr. Karp recommends a sharp warning, like a loud clap and scowl, or even a growl, to stop your toddler from hitting. Calmly saying (or yelling ) 'no' isn't really effective: "A toddler essentially goes deaf with anger," Dr. Karp adds, and showing him that hitting hurts isn't a great option either. "Inflicting pain is too often a road to increased conflict. Parents need to teach little kids that words go with feelings," he says. "We don't teach not to spit by spitting, or not to hit by hitting. A stern, but respectful comment gets the point across."

If your child continues to hit, he may need a time-out (sticking to the one minute per year rule). However once he stops, use the toddler-ese method to acknowledge the emotion. Once the child starts to calm you can talk through whatever interaction led to the hitting. Finally, after the toddler has calmed down, you can distract him.

5. What can I do to get my toddler to brush their teeth?

Focus On Routine

As long as you let your toddler know that brushing is important for a healthy mouth and keeps the "owies" away, she will get the hang of it as she gets older. My daughter knows toothbrushing happens at the same time every day, so it's part of her morning and night routines. I used a banana-flavored gel to help make it enticing, and we change toothbrushes often to keep her interest. - Heather R.

a young girl toddler smiling while about to brush her teeth

Don't Worry About Technique

I allow my daughter to chew on her toothbrush while she watches me brush my teeth. She will mimic my actions; then, when she is done brushing her own teeth, I get to have a turn brushing them. - Stacey

Make It Fun

I now sing Hannah the ABC's while I brush her teeth and she actually opens her mouth and lets me brush with no problems. - Andrea U. 

The Expert Opinion

It's all about parent-child teamwork when it comes to the task of brushing teeth, according to Dr. Jaha Howard of A+ Pediatric Dentistry of Atlanta. "Over time, your child will understand that their participation in this team effort is important for a clean and healthy smile." Parents should take the lead in the effort - maintaining a morning and night brushing routine and making sure it's fun (songs, character brushes and fun flossers help). Is your little one still resistant to brushing? As a last resort, you can swaddle your child in a big towel and do it for him. "Remember to praise any good behavior along the way to build cooperation," says Dr. Howard.

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