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

Toddler Whispering Workshop -- Lesson 2


Bath Time: As much as infants dread a bath, toddlers often dread getting out of the tub. A consistent bath time ritual can go a long way toward preventing that struggle. Announce to your toddler in a cheery voice, "It's time for your bath!" or "We're going to have a bath now!" Run the bath and put cups, squeeze bottles, duckies and other floating toys into the tub.

Put your child in, or if she's old enough, let her climb in on her own. I always like to sing a song while bathing. "This is the way we wash our arms, wash our arms, wash our arms..." Because most toddlers hate to see a bath end, don't lift her straight out of the tub. Instead, start taking the toys out of the tub first. Then pull the plug, let the water out, and say, "Uh-oh, water's going down the drain. Bath time is over!" End with a good snuggle in a fluffy towel.

Naps and Bedtime: There's nothing as delicious as book reading and snuggle time before bed. Then comes the moment of getting your child off to sleep. Some children, depending on their temperament, need more support than others -- sleep is a skill children must learn. But even if your toddler is a "good sleeper" who goes down for naps and to bed with relative ease, it's important to maintain consistent bedtime rituals.

First, end stimulating activities, like TV or play, put toys away and announce, "It's almost time for bed." Draw the curtains and pull down the shades. To help your child relax physically, incorporate the evening bath as part of the nighttime rituals -- as well as massage if your child enjoys it.

After bath and pajamas say, "Let's go and choose a book." Decide ahead of time how many books you're willing to read (or how many times you'll read the same one) and tell her. Stick to it -- otherwise you're asking for trouble. Tailor this ritual to your child's taste. Incorporate a blankie or stuffed animal, a soothing tape, a rock in a rocking chair or waving goodnight to the moon. The bedtime ritual should end when you put your child into her crib. Some parents are able to leave the room immediately; others stick around a few minutes to sing a lullaby, or give a back rub.

Parents who create rituals and routines for their children describe them as an "anchor" for daily life and for their own values. These events and practices stay with the child, even as she takes developmental leaps and becomes increasingly independent. By taking time to perform these rites and thereby slow down the busy pace of life, rituals not only help us connect, they can make any and every moment more special.

When you're ready, move on to Lesson Three and learn how to encourage your toddler's language development by talking, listening and clarifying her words.

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