Using Rituals and Routines to Ease Toddler Tug-of-War

Toddler Whispering Workshop -- Lesson 2

This week, start to develop a more predictable daily routine for your child by trying some of my suggestions below. Take into account your child's temperament, your own parenting style and the needs of other family members. Consider your schedule, too, and be realistic. If you can't eat with your child every night, at least commit to two or three nights of the week. Also, rituals are personal; they are most meaningful when they truly reflect the values of the participants. Figure out the most creative ways of making R&R both dependable and fun for your toddler. And know that by repeating it, you're teaching your child what you expect, which can often prevent problems before they occur.

Waking Up: There are only two ways a toddler wakes up -- happy or crying. An Angel Toddler may greet the day with a smile and play contentedly on her own, while a Grouchy Toddler may find the transition from sleep to be upsetting and cry until you greet him. To teach your child that bed is a nice place to hang out, make sure your child plays in her crib during the day. Spending fun time in a crib reinforces the idea not only that it's safe, but also that it's a great place to play. If your toddler doesn't yet feel this way, put her into her crib once or twice during the day. Have on hand her favorite toys, and in the beginning, stay by her side, reassuring her with your presence. Gradually walk away and then out of the room for increasingly longer periods.

In the morning, try to gauge how long it takes for your child to go from playing happily on her own to crying, and walk in before she gets to the crying stage. (Ideally, your child should be able to play on her own for anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes.) Go in cheerfully and make a big deal out of greeting a new day. Some parents have a wake-up song, or a special greeting such as, "Good morning pumpkin. I'm sooo glad to see you." The ritual ends with your taking your toddler out of the crib, with both of you excited to start the day.

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