Handling Toddler Resistance plus FREE Toddler Routine Cards
Toddlers are sometimes notorious for erratic behavior. When you want them to take a bath, they won't. When they're already in the bath, they don't want to leave. The same goes with everything - wearing clothes and shoes, eating a meal, sitting on a car seat and the list goes on. If you want to lessen the everyday drama, there are gentler ways we can get our toddlers to cooperate with the day to day activities we need them to do.
1. Set a predictable daily rhythm.
Toddlers love predictability. If you read any parenting book, a daily rhythm is recommended from babies up to toddlerhood (up to adulthood if you ask me!). Toddlers who are learning how to be independent want to have control over their day to day life. Knowing what will happen next in their day helps them keep calm and cool.
If there are other caregivers in the family, ask them to keep the same rhythm even when you are not around. Our typical morning rhythm is wake up, have breakfast, free play and a bath. After lunch is usually naptime and then we go out to play (whenever allowed). Otherwise, we play indoors. I try to do all my work within the time that she is asleep, give her some attention when she wakes up and then return to work.
2. Understand where your child is coming from.
Of course, not all toddlers are the same and there are good days and bad days. The best thing I've learned from reading books about Montessori and other gentle parenting methods is this - observe the child and let the child lead. Observe your child and you'll soon discover what causes them to resist. Mine would resist baths because she wants to continue playing with her toys. So we transition to baths by bringing some toys that she can "bathe".
We also find eating together difficult when she's distracted by the television (the adults are watching news) and there are too many people talking on the table (we're a big extended family in the home). Toddlers find it difficult to concentrate when there are too many things happening around them. Try to limit the distractions when you want your child to eat, dress up or read a book with you. Look at the spaces where your child usually stays. Is it too distracting with so many colors and toys? Or does it invite calm and focus?
3. Distract and redirect.
Being easily distracted is both a blessing and a curse. Instead of pushing something your toddler definitely does not want to do, you can temporarily distract them to calm them down. They are too young to know why they are resisting and it will just become a battle for control. You can push your child to do what you want but it will be in massive tears and body thrashes. Instead, you can try to distract them with something they are interested in, like a pet fish or dog that they like. Once they are calm, gently transition again to the activity you needed them to do.
Songs are great distractions too. My daughter will sit longer to eat if we sing some songs she can relate to or is related to eating. She also does not like it when I shampoo her hair so we sing songs in the bath. She also loves participating so we also distract her by giving her cleaning tools like a brush to clean the walls of the bathroom. We also invite her to wear her own shoes and pull her diapers up. She feels proud when she does it on her own. As they grow up, try to find more ways you can get them to participate in everyday practical life.
4. Give visual cues.
Kids and adults are visual creatures. Visual reminders help us remember what we need to do so we don't have to constantly think of what to do next. You and your child's daily rhythm can be transformed into Toddler Routine Cards that you can use to communicate with each other.
I made a free morning and evening routine cards that you can download here. I like drawing and illustrating so this was a joy to do! You can laminate, place in cardstock or stick to magnetic sheets.
How to use the Toddler Routine Cards:
1. Find a quiet time to show your toddler the cards. If she is still around 2 years old or less, you can show the cards a few pieces at a time so you don't overwhelm the child. Maybe start with the familiar ones she already knows.
2. Ask your child what she prefers to do first. For example, a choice between having breakfast or a bath after she wakes up in the morning. It's up to you what options are acceptable for you to present to her. What matters is that you give her some form of choice over what will happen to her day.
3. Stick the cards somewhere she can see in chronological order. After she does the activity, you can place it in a "done" pile and congratulate her for a job well done. Make it fun! If your child is not able to do everything, don't give her a hard time for it. Praise her still for what she did do and then ask her if she can do the others tomorrow.
Hope all goes well with you and your child! Good job, Mama! Let us know if this helped you and if you have other tips in mind. :)