Q: My 24-month-old is constantly wanting to be in her newborn baby brother’s face, poking and touching him. How can I help her with her jealousy?
A: Unless there’s more going on here than you’re telling me, you’re not describing jealousy; you’re describing natural curiosity and rather clumsy attempts to have relationship. The solution is to first involve your toddler as your baby-care assistant as much as possible, and second to make sure that in her clumsiness she doesn’t inadvertently hurt her younger brother. Calmly and patiently teach her how to touch gently. Once her curiosity is satisfied, she will find other things to do. The key is to contain your anxiety and be a patient baby-care coach and manager.
Q: Any words of wisdom for parenting and disciplining a 30-month-old who is using some full sentences and beginning to express her feelings?
A: If wisdom consists of knowledge acquired through experience, I suppose I qualify. I have gone through the “terrible twos” with two children and have counseled the parents of too many to count. If wisdom consists of commonsense, I hope I qualify. Anyway, here goes:
First, to help a child this age learn to occupy herself for relatively long periods of time, gate and completely childproof that area of the home in which you are going to let her roam. Limiting the toddler’s in-home range and childproofing ensures that you won’t have to be supervising her constantly.
Second, don’t overwhelm her with playthings and remember, toddlers would rather play with pots and pans, wooden spoons, and cardboard cylinders from paper towel rolls than with expensive plastic stuff from toy stores. Paradoxically, a toddler’s ability to entertain herself is inversely proportional to the number of playthings she has at her disposal as well as the money spent on her playthings.
Third, where store-bought toys are concerned, establish a “toy lending library.” Let her have no more than two toys at a time and require her to turn one in before she can get another one. That will also teach her to pick up her toys.
Fourth, designate a comfortable chair or rug as her “tantrum place.” Let her know, in advance, that this is her special place for, as you put it, “expressing her feelings” (that made me laugh out loud). When she lets rip, calmly take her there and tell her she has to stay until her expression has run its course. Then walk off. You may have to take her back several times before she gets it, but this has saved the mental health of many a toddler parent.
Last, enjoy! Because they are all strong-willed, toddlers can be infuriating at times, but human beings are never again so cute and unwittingly funny.
Family psychologist John Rosemond: johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com.