Devon’s 3 Steps to Parenting a Needy Toddler

Sometimes I think that though Arthur doesn’t quite understand that we are adding another baby to the mix, he has some innate sense that everything is going to change rather soon. Or, that in a couple of months, he’s going to get less attention from me than he does now. At least it seems that way…

These days, he pulls on me more, asks to be held, cries, and whines, and whines, and whines. I try to be patient but usually, ultimately I just give in and do exactly what he is asking because I can’t handle any more crying.

The other day, Devon turned to me in the midst of a particularly trying evening and said, “Phoebe, I feel like he bullies you.” And I totally agreed. I asked for help and his response was in the form of these three brilliant steps for communicating with a needy toddler. I haven’t perfected them yet, but I keep trying and watching Devon. For him, this works every time.

Step One. Assess the situation. Are your toddler’s basic needs met? Is he/she hungry, tired, hurt, lonely? If the answer is yes, meet the need (if you can). If you can’t meet the need or all needs are met, move to step two.

Step Two. Communicate. Look your child in the eye. (Eye contact is critical.) Express to your child why you can’t meet the need/do what they would like. Something like, “I know you want me to play right now, but I really need to finish cleaning up the kitchen first.”

I would even add a step 2.5 here: involve your child in what you are doing, if possible. Ask them to help put away utensils from the dishwasher or put away folded clothes etc. If I’ve learned anything in the past few months with Arthur, I’ve learned that toddlers like to be included.

Step Three. Continue doing what you need to do. Finish cleaning the kitchen or making dinner or talking on the phone or whatever it is that you need to do. Sometimes there will still be whining, but you have expressed to your child what the situation is and hopefully they will realize that they can’t have what they want right now and will start developing a little more patience.

Like I said before, I am only beginning to use these steps and I want to get better and develop more patience and communication skills myself so I can help Arthur learn to be patient and polite. I’m learning that it takes a lot of effort to teach a toddler, but I keep reminding myself that this teaching that I’m doing right now can affect the rest of Arthur’s life.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” -Proverbs 22:6


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