Some challenging behaviors can be prevented by understanding and working with the child’s needs at various developmental levels. For instance, as babies grow into the toddler stage they have a need to be in control. Our role is to give them the control that they can handle and is safe and appropriate for their age. By doing this, you foster the long range growth of independence (and what parent wishes to have a 25 year old child still dependent upon them!)
Here is today’s example: Billy’s parents and Joey’s parents are both concerned about good nutrition. They have been careful about offering new foods and expanding their children’s diet. However, now that the little boys are 2 ½ Joey’s parents are running into difficulty. When Joey balks at trying a food that is offered, his parents first try to offer healthy substitutes.
“Joey, would you like green beans instead of broccoli?”
We all know the toddler’s response to a yes-no question—“NO!”
So Joey’s parents offer other foods, even going so far as to fix different foods at a meal. By the end of suppertime, they are exhausted and discouraged. Sometimes, they try other tactics with equally poor results. “No dessert for Joey until he eats his broccoli.”
Billy’s family tries a different strategy. They show Billy two bowls. “Would you like broccoli or green beans today?” What they have given Billy is control. He is in charge of making the decision, whatever Billy’s choice, his parents follow through and offer the food he has chosen.
Being in control is all-important for toddlers. When we give them the power to make the choice and when we abide by their choice, we will be fostering a positive outcome.
Now some of you observant readers will notice that I did not go into whether Billy actually eats the food he has chosen! That, of course, is another story. However, if Billy’s parents trust that if they offer Billy healthy food choices and monitor when he snacks and what he snacks on, Billy will grow to learn to make good choices at mealtimes.