I’m not a parenting expert, I just play one on my blog. Ha! Nothing could be further from the truth, but I do share about my foibles as well as my successes in parenting.
Now that my son is in the throes of toddlerhood, much of my parenting is about guiding and teaching him to become a well-adjusted, emotionally healthy being equipped to deal with whatever curveballs life throws him. I’m fascinated by child psychology, especially that which deals with parenting.
I’ll be the first to admit that parenting throughout the toddler years can be a challenge. In fact, it has been a challenge for me, which is why I am constantly in search of materials to better educate my parenting techniques. I learned very early on that I needed to take a ‘choose your battles’ approach, but after reading Dr. Tovah Klein’s How Toddlers Thrive, I’ve found that I really don’t have any ‘battles’ to choose these days.
You may be wondering how it is that I, with a two-and-a-half-year-old son, no longer have any battles of will with my toddler; it’s not that there aren’t difficult parenting moments, it’s that I understand the reasoning behind the behavior and am better equipped to parent through what used to be incredibly trying toddler moments. I have Dr. Klein to thank for my new parenting skills (and outlook)!
Dr. Tovah Klein is the Director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development, and is often referred to as “The Toddler Whisperer”. Klein’s twenty years of toddler research, and complete immersion into the world of toddlers, translates into her veritable handbook for [successfully] parenting through the toddler years: How Toddlers Thrive.
Klein’s How Toddlers Thrive is a fluid read, devoid of the heavy use of clinical terms that often weigh down many psychological texts. Parents will appreciate the organizational structure of How Toddlers Thrive, clearly divided into different topic areas (read: concerns), making it easy for parents to flip through to pertinent sections. Most importantly, Klein provides real-life examples of situations parents of toddlers often encounter; she discusses how parents were handling the situation, the causes of that particular behavior, the adjustments the parents made in how they treated the situation, and the outcome after altering their approach. These scenarios, with scripts, are extremely valuable for someone like myself, as probing and acknowledging my child’s feelings isn’t something that comes naturally to me.
Perhaps the greatest wisdom How Toddlers Thrive imparts is for parents to put themselves into their toddler’s shoes, armed with knowledge of the emotional, cognitive and physical abilities of this age (2-5 years old). Understanding that your child’s brain is still developing and is incapable of approaching and dealing with daily life situations in the manner we adults are accustomed to, is the key to parenting through the toddler years. In How Toddlers Thrive, Klein states:
Children are not mini adults. They don’t think like we do. They don’t see the world like we see it. Toddlers are not thinking ahead of themselves. They cannot. They are beings tied amazingly to the present tense, thinking only about themselves and wanting to feel safe, loved, taken care of, and yet independent all at once. (7)
Simple, right? I needed Klein to remind me of this, and explain in greater detail what is going on with my toddler, so that I could (and can) slowly adjust how I approach [what used to be difficult] situations with my toddler. Armed with the knowledge Klein provides in How Toddlers Thrive, I’ve found myself gradually becoming a more patient and understanding parent. I no longer attempt to engage in a ‘battle of wills’ with my toddler, instead, I purposely connect during times of frustration, probing and acknowledging my son’s feelings and [re]actions. And guess what? Temper tantrums and other behaviors one would label as acting out are few and far between.
When my son told me that he hated me last week, I knew he was navigating his newfound emotional independence and testing out a new word in his vocabulary (I’m not sure where it came from, though). His next statement, after I expressed no alarm and probed his reason for making such a statement, was “I love you, mom.” The incident, if you could even call it that, was over before it ever really began. What I was left with was a verbal indicator of how my son’s brain was piecing together information, making sense of the world around him, and asserting his independence in a new way.
Perhaps my biggest reason for reading as much as I can about child development, and learning healthy parenting strategies, is because I want use every tool I can to help my son develop into an emotionally healthy individual. Klein speaks about the importance of this early in How Toddlers Thrive, and it remained in my mind throughout the remainder of the book:
Indeed, how we interact with our toddlers now plays an enormous role in how they develop later. Set a strong foundation during the toddler years, and ongoing development has a firm base. Weaken that foundation during these crucial years, and the consequences are seen for years to come. (9)
Think about the enormity of that statement. If you find yourself struggling to parent through your child’s toddler years, are engaging in daily battles of wills, or are interested in preparing yourself for your baby’s next stage of development, I wholeheartedly recommend picking up a copy of Dr. Tovah Klein’s How Toddlers Thrive; I guarantee you’ll find yourself parenting differently after reading.
For more information about Tovah Klein, her work with toddlers, and more parenting tips, visit www.howtoddlersthrive.com. How Toddlers Thrive is available in major bookstores, or you can purchase through my affiliate link on Amazon HERE.
*I was sent a copy of How Toddlers Thrive for review purposes; all opinions expressed are my own.
Curious to learn more about toddlers and their emotions? Check out this article by The Brain Flux.