By around 9 to 12 months, babies start to act more like toddlers. Toddlers are a lot of fun, but they do have a little attitude that influences everything they do. What toddlers want out of life is parent’s attention. Anything that works to get your attention they will do more of, and anything that takes your attention away from them they will do less of. Lavish toddlers with attention for good behaviors and withdraw your attention away from bad behaviors. The main behaviors to watch for are:
- Temper tantrums: The classic scenario at this age is when a toddler grabs a hold of something you don’t want them to have, you take it away and they cry. Don’t look at them, don’t talk to them, don’t pick them up and don’t give them anything else to play with (certainly don’t give them the object you took away). They will cry a little and when they notice nobody is watching, they will crawl off and start playing again. Once they can walk and they come after you and hang on you so you will see the fit, separate them in a safe place that they can’t get out of. Let them cry and once they calm down you can go get them again.
- Whining: Whining is usually to get your attention away from something else. When you are on the phone, they may crawl over and hang on you and act like they want to be picked up. You pick them up and then they want down, and they want back up again. What they really want is your attention and they are getting it. So separate them and when they are done crying and you are done talking on the phone you can pick them up again.
- Aggressive behaviors: Toddlers are not trying to hurt anyone; they are just trying to get you to notice them. The classic behavior at this age is when you are holding a toddler and they playfully hit you in the face (or pull your hair or glasses or your earrings or they bite or pinch). What we tend to do is grab their little hands and say, “Don’t hit mommy.” They smile and hit you again. Toddlers are basically preverbal, so don’t say a word just firmly put them on the floor and walk off or if they come after you, separate them.
The other thing that toddlers do is get into anything and everything. Even in a well, child-proofed room they can get into a lot of trouble. Things that you didn’t want them to chew on are good to get out of reach as well. Life is too short to be running after our toddlers all day keeping them out of trouble. Let them have free run of the house.
At age 2, “NO!” is their favorite word, so it is good to take “no, no” out of your vocabulary. It never works at any age. So instead of saying, “no, no,” I recommend looking away. Toddlers have a short attention span and they get interested in something else fairly quickly. If you have to, you can redirect their attention. You can pick them up and move them, or coax them away to look at something else. Eventually, they get back around to the TV, but that is the game that you play with toddlers.