Toddlers can definitely be a handful, but we can’t blame them. They still haven’t learned the rules of the world yet. However, their little brains are so pliable at this age and we need to take advantage of that by molding them into good humans now.
You can start teaching your toddler good habits as soon as they are able to understand and communicate with you. For most, this happens around 1 year old, so this is a great time to start sculpting them into well mannered and well behaved children.
Here are a few habits I have started teaching my 14 month old daughter and she is picking them up very quickly.
Teaching Patience and Waiting Your Turn
This is a great technique I learned on Instagram from an OT Playing with Chanel. I taught it to my 14 month old daughter and within a couple days she was initiating it by herself without me even asking.
When your toddler wants something, most of the time they will fuss, reach, grab, or wave their hands wildly until they get it. The waiting hands technique teaches them to keep their hands down and wait until you are ready to give it to them- and it really works!!
When your toddler is reaching for something he wants, say ”waiting hands”, take his hands and place one over the other, count to 5 while still holding his hands down, and then immediately give it to him once he lifts his hands up. Do this consistently whenever he is asking for something or wants something, whether it be his milk cup, your phone, a toy, or cheerios.
Once he gets the concept of it, you can reduce the counting to 3 or just say waiting hands and not have to count. Soon, he should just put his hands down on his own when you say waiting hands and wait until you give him the object.
We’re picking up after our kids ALL DAY LONG. Why not get them to help out a little? I know you may think they are too young to help you and understand the concept of cleaning, but they do! As early as 8 months, babies love to put objects into containers. Why not get them to use this skill for a purpose and have them put their toys back into the bins they belong in?
This is actually something my daughter picked up right away without me even teaching her, but by just watching mommy! She has seen me clean up after her spills and messes and wants to imitate and copy everything I do.
Initially, she picked up a paper towel and started wiping the floor and I realized she was copying my actions. Now, if she has a spill (usually her milk cup or food), I just give her a paper towel and say clean up, and she gets down and wipes up the mess she made. We also tell her to clean up when she’s done playing, and she copies me as we put her toys away in their bins and books away on their shelves.
We also sing the Clean Up Barney song because putting anything to a song is super motivating for my toddler!
Saying Yes instead of No
We try to reinforce positive behaviors with my daughter instead of punishing negative ones. I like to praise her for things that she should be doing, rather than constantly saying no and telling her what she shouldn’t be doing. I like to use the word yes more often than no.
Of course, toddlers think they have free reign of everything and everywhere and do need to be told no once in awhile. So when we do, we say ‘no thank you’ instead of just yelling no. I don’t want her getting into that ‘no stage’ that everyone says their toddlers eventually enter, so we will see if that still happens.
Saying Please & Thank you
At this point, my daughter doesn’t have a huge vocabulary, but she is picking up words very quickly. When she puts out her hands for something, we tell her to say please and when we give it we tell her to say thank you. She mumbles her own versions of these words, but she’s still learning the concept of saying these words before and after receiving something.
Giving hugs and kisses
Teach them to be loving and kind individuals and show affection to those that they love. We make sure that part of our night time routine and when we say hello and goodbye, our daughter gives a hug and kiss. Now, at 18 months old, it’s pretty much her favorite thing to do (especially to her baby brother)!
Teaching empathy for other’s feelings
Babies and toddlers are very ego-centric, meaning they only think of themselves. Showing them emotions early on teaches them that others have feelings too. You can exaggerate your emotions-pretend crying and rubbing your eyes when you’re upset or showing over-excitement when you’re happy- so they can try to figure out what to do to change those emotions. If we ask for a hug and she doesn’t give it, we ‘cry’, if she cleans up her toys well, we show over-excitement, and she loves this!