Baby's Second Year -- Your 20-Month-Old


1. Your toddler may be testing your boundaries. You can improve your child's behavior and reduce potential conflicts by clearly communicating the family rules and the consequences if these rules are broken. Despite her initial protests, your toddler does crave boundaries; they provide a much-needed sense of order and security. When she does push the limits to the breaking point, remain calm. Be sure not to overreact or accuse her of being bad. Focus your comments on the behavior itself, and then follow through with the consequences you established. She will learn that you mean what you say. Continue this pattern as your child grows, being sure to revise the rules and consequences to fit each stage of her development. You'll find you won't have to scream to be heard and that your child will listen -- most of the time!

2. Your toddler will thrive on a set routine. Structure your activities so that meals, naps and playtime fall around the same time each day. Begin each morning with a wake-up ritual: Greet each other with a hug or a kiss followed by breakfast and morning hygiene needs. Establish rituals for everyday tasks, such as dressing, bathing, housecleaning, meals and bedtime. For instance, if your child attends day care, create a routine where you greet the day care provider and other children, find an activity, kiss goodbye and then depart. If he is reluctant to leave when you retrieve him in the evening because he's having too much fun, institute a "goodbye" routine. Following roughly the same pattern every day will help him anticipate what is coming next. Your toddler will thrive in his structured world, and you'll enjoy getting the tasks done without too much protest.

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