Building routines for your toddler

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Thought Series : Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 11

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As humans we have an inbuilt need for security, for feeling safe. And, one of the ways in which we feel safe is when ‘everything is predictable’ or when we know what can happen next. Sadly, in our adult life, this is not always possible. But as parents, we can surely make this possible for our toddlers.

That’s the next need in line for a HAPPIE toddler – Predictability.

Like us, our toddlers also seek ‘predictability’. When they know what’s going to happen next – it makes them feel safe, it gives them a sense of power & control.

Toddlers tend to meltdown more often, when their days are haywire – that’s because it makes them feel out of control & unsafe, thus activating their brain’s stress hormones and then causing the meltdowns, crankiness & clinginess.

The simplest way to give them predictability on a daily basis is through a ‘consistent routine‘.

When it comes to routines, most parents are often at two extremes – either following a strict timetable or not following any routine at all. Let me explain what a balanced routine looks like that’s enough to give your toddler the much-needed predictability and a sense of power, control & safety.

A strict timetable looks like :
We get up at 8 am,
Brush at 8.15am
Breakfast at 8.30am & so on.

The problem with this approach is that – toddlers have a way of ‘extending’ every little normal chore in some way or form. If you’re too strict with the time, it can cause unnecessary stress to you – when your toddler wants to have a bit of fun while brushing or is taking longer for breakfast. That stress will cause you to react with unnecessary scolding or yelling, spoiling the day for you & your toddler.

A more balanced approach to having a daily routine is to have a FLOW.
For example:
We wake up — Then we brush — Then Breakfast — Then playtime — Then Bath — Then Lunch… and so on.
Toddlers don’t understand time, but they understand FLOW. When done consistently, it helps them predict what comes next (after brushing), giving them a feeling of control over their day.

You can definitely have a rough timeline behind the flow, in your mind – but make sure you’re flexible to incorporate some special fun requests or tantrum that your toddler might decide to have.

Handling change in routine

Toddlers need and love routines! Now, the downside to this is – if you’ve been following a set flow & routine consistently, and your child is used to that – any change in routine can also easily upset him/her.

For example, if you decide to visit your Mom and stay there for a week, or a change in Nanny, or a new playschool / daycare. These changes can be difficult for your toddler, and she might take time to adapt.

How you can help in the process : Through PREP.
Whenever the change is predictable (which it often is) – Make sure you’re informing your child much beforehand, helping her imagine how the new change would look & feel like, validating her fears and reassuring her of your presence.

Prepping your toddler beforehand can work for all of the above situations plus other common scenarios like guests visiting, doctor’s appointment or anything new & different from their normal routine. Yes, even after prep, it’s possible that your child might resist or cry, but prepping helps you calm their nerves, most of the time!

Thought for Today:

Reflect and share : Do you think your toddler prefers having a consistent routine? Does he/she have trouble with change in routines?

What kind of routine do you prefer or which one would you like to adopt?
Strict / Flexible with Flow / No specific routine

Next:

How to bring in ‘predictability’ in the rules & responses towards our toddler?

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Access Previous Days In This Series: Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 0 : Laying out Universal Human Needs
Day 1 : Healthy Parent = HAPPIE Child
Day 2 : Making Self-Care A Habit
Day 3 : Meeting your toddler’s physical needs
Day 4: Identifying your own triggers before you tend to your child’s
Day 5: Dealing with feelings of guilt & inadequacy (Moms!)
Day 6: Attention v/s Connection Parenting
Day 7: Ways to connect with your Toddler
Day 8: Making way for ‘special time’
Day 9: Identifying Power Struggles
Day 10: How to end Power Struggles with your toddler



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The Secret to a Peaceful & HAPPIE toddler

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As a Toddler Mom, I often feel that toddlers are quite misunderstood. The thought of the ‘terrible 2s’ gives many mothers jitters.

But the more I understand my own 2.5 yo daughter, the more I read about toddlers and their brain, the more I help other toddler parents overcome their struggles – the more I realize that the picture of toddlers as little monsters trying to manipulate their parents with their tantrums – must change!

After much deliberation, experience and research, I’ve come to the conclusion that toddlers can be very peaceful, playful and happy, if their needs are met.

Unmet needs lead to disruptive behavior in toddlers.

Well, that’s true of all humans. But what adds to the challenge with toddlers is their inability to communicate as well as adults can.

So, the onus is on the parents to decipher their toddlers needs and provide accordingly, it’s almost like trying to read someone’s mind. And it’s not easy.

To make it a little easier for parents, I’ve put together the top 6 most important needs of a toddler.

The six basic needs of a toddler are:

Health, Attention, Power, Predictability, Inclusion and Evolution.

Fulfilling these needs on a daily basis, make and keep your toddler HAPPIE.

Let me explain these needs in more detail.

Understanding your toddler’s needs

Health:

This aspect relates to the physical well-being of your toddler.

Think:

  • Is she well-fed?
  • Is she well-rested with enough sleep during the day & night?
  • Is she experiencing any kind of physical uneasiness due to teething, indigestion, colic, fatigue, or injury?
  • Is she experiencing enough warmth & comfort from a parent/caregiver?
  • Is she getting enough opportunities to move around & play indoor & outdoor?
  • Is her Sugar intake excessive? Excess sugar is also known to cause aggressive behavior, lack of sleep because of the effect it can have on the brain.

Attention:

All of us crave for attention from our loved ones. For kids, attention means your ‘undivided’ positive time & presence. So, if you are near your child expecting her to play with her toys, while you are glued to your phone – that does not count as attention for them.

When kids feel a lack of positive attention from you, that’s when they knowingly or unknowingly resort to negative behaviour that is sure to get your attention!

So, take time out when you can indulge with your toddler one-to-one personally, give her special time with hugs, cuddles, story time and play. When her cup of attention is full, you will notice her drift away slowly, and she will leave you alone to tend to your own work.

Think:

  • Is she getting enough hugs, cuddles and play with me/other parent during the day?
  • Am I intently listening to her, and making enough eye contact when she speaks?
  • Am I sure that she feels seen, heard and understood by me/other parent?
  • Do I pay ‘real’ attention to what she’s doing and appreciate her efforts & tiny successes?

Power:

When you’re a kid whose life is mostly controlled by an adult, you will at some point feel POWERLESS. As a fact, nobody likes to feel powerless! As parents, we must learn to respect our child’s need for power. Most of us have been raised by authoritarian parents, and so subconsciously we believe that elders know better, and kids are not really capable of doing things themselves, making choices. We feel that if a kid is given too much power or control, they will get spoilt or take us for a ride. Well, ‘too much’ power is bad – but age-appropriate power is necessary for your child.

It is when a child feels powerless, that he tries to snatch the power from you by rolling on the floor wailing at top decibel, forcing you to buy him the lollipop that he demanded!

On the other hand, giving age-appropriate choices is a good way to help your toddler experience power that she can manage. For example, “Do you want to have the lollipop, or do you want us to take you to the park after shopping?” (Give choices where you are fine with whatever your child chooses.)

Creating spaces with the house where your child can explore unrestricted (without you constantly saying, “No, don’t do that!”) also gives the child a sense of positive power.

Think:

  • Is she being restricted with too many ‘No’ during the day?
  • Is she given enough age-appropriate choices to make?
  • Does she feel ‘independent’ in doing age-appropriate tasks like helping you dry clothes, or remove her own pants?

Predictability:

Knowing what will happen in our lives gives us a sense of power, doesn’t it?

The same is true with toddlers. Predictability in their daily schedules, in your responses and reactions gives them a much-needed sense of power, stability, familiarity and calm. That’s why, establishing routines, responding to similar requests or behaviour in a consistent manner helps!

When every next moment is unpredictable, anxiousness is bound to arise – which can easily trigger any of the alarm systems that result in tantrums/aggressive behavior.

A sudden change in routine like a new daycare/playschool, change of residence, change in caregiver will need to be handled with care, by gently preparing the toddler mentally much in advance of the change. Also, try to bring in the change gradually, if possible – For example, instead of starting the 1st day of day care with 4 hours straight, start with just 1 hour.

Transition from one activity to the next can sometimes be difficult, like ending bathtime and getting dressed. So, before end of bathtime, explain to your toddler what will come next, and how much fun that is going to be!

Think:

  • Do we have an established daily routine for day-to-day activities like brushing, bathing, food time, nap time?
  • Can we handle transitions in a more fun way?

Inclusion:

How do we feel when people whom we adore & admire, refuse to include us in their plans? Well, for toddlers, they admire & adore us – they want to be like us. And so, they want to participate in all that we do, they want to feel included.

That’s why, when we constantly keep telling them, “You can’t do this”, or “You can do this when you grow up.”, it reiterates their feeling of smallness/powerlessness. It can be frustrating, which if bottled up can erupt as tantrums.

Do your best to include your toddler in your routine activities, they love to ‘help’.

As long as the activity is safe, find smaller versions of the huge task that they can manage.

Appreciate their ‘efforts’, however avoid praises like ‘You’re such a good boy!”. Such praises tell the child nothing about themselves. Rather a more helpful praise is, “I am happy you helped me dry these clothes. Thank you.” Your toddler will swell with pride, and that’s good for building her self-esteem and confidence.

Think of your toddler as your ‘partner’, they love it! Your work might slow down a bit, but it sure is worthwhile, helping them gain life skills and also connect with you deeply.

Think:

  • How can I include my toddler in daily household activities?
  • Is my child receiving enough appreciation that makes him feel like she’s contributing positively to the family / tasks at hand?

Evolution:

Progress is essential for humankind, and hence it is hardwired within us. There is a dire need within all of us to keep learning, gain mastery, discover new things, explore and evolve.

Likewise, toddlers constantly want to learn, explore and gain mastery. By helping your toddler fulfill this need for constant growth, progress and evolution – you will not only help him hone necessary life-skills, but also build her inner spirit with self-confidence & self-esteem.

Giving your toddler age-appropriate tasks, letting her explore by herself, helping her when she needs or asks for help, encouraging her to try when she fails, and accepting her stance when she does not want to try anymore – are simple ways to fulfill your child’s inner need for progress & mastery.

Think:

  • Is my child constantly learning new things?
  • Does he have enough opportunity to gain mastery at age-appropriate tasks?
  • Is he being encouraged to try when he fails?
  • Is he being unnecessarily pushed even when he does not want to try anymore?

So, the next time, you have an aggressive or unhappy toddler – think what’s making him/her unHAPPIE!!

A side note: If you’re concerned about your toddler’s aggression – hitting / biting / pulling hair / throwing / pushing / kicking – I’d strongly recommend this COMPREHENSIVE ACTION PLAN for Resolving Toddler Aggression. You can click here to download it for FREE. Thank me later! 😊

If you’d prefer a more personalized solution for your toddler concern, book a consultation with me (FREE for a limited period only) by clicking here.

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