Gentle Parenting Ideas: Toddlers and Transitions

September 17th, 2010 by Dionna | 4 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Eclectic Learning, Gentle Discipline Ideas, Successes, and Suggestions, Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity

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This post is the eighth in a series about gentle parenting through potential power struggles with your toddler or preschooler. Each post will give you ideas and examples for using love and logic to work through some fairly common parent/toddler areas of concern: brushing teeth, getting into the car seat, meals/eating, shopping, diaper changes, picking up toys, and traveling. I welcome your gentle/respectful parenting ideas and feedback; thank you to everyone who has already contributed ideas.

2010-08-12 01
Ideas to Make Transitioning (Leaving with) Toddlers a Positive Experience

Warnings: Your little one will do better if she is not yanked out of an activity unexpectedly. Instead, give her several warnings. We generally do “5 minutes until we leave,” “2 minutes,” “1 minute,” “ok, it’s time to go!”

Go On An Adventure: Instead of just leaving to go to the car, or the store, or home, make leaving an adventure. As you grab the backpack, say something like “whoa! Did you see that lion over there! Come on! Let’s go walk through the jungle!” Or pretend everyone around you is a pirate, and you have to tiptoe quietly out so that no one sees you. Make leaving into a game, and you’ll have more willing participants.

Have Fun in the Car: Keep some games or special toys in the car that stay there. My little one is always more interested in toys when they are not accessible all the time.

Leave with a Friend: Coordinate your leave time with a friend. Let the kids walk out together, that way it won’t feel like they are missing out on the fun.

Don’t Shame Them: If your toddler has trouble leaving, if they cry or fuss or go into total meltdown, don’t make comments about it to the general public. Likewise, don’t berate them for their desire to stay – you’ll only be adding insult and humiliation to injury. It’s ok foryour child to feel sad that there is a transition – our job is to calmly acknowledge their feelings, listen to and validate their concerns, and empower our child to work through their upset.

Let Kids Choose When to Leave: Have you ever stopped to think about how powerless our kids feel? Especially our toddlers and preschoolers, whose days are usually planned for them, who are still too “little” to make their own food, to go wherever they want, etc. If you had no control over your own life, wouldn’t you get emotional about it? I would! As much as possible, try to make leaving the choice of the child – then you won’t have any battles. Arrange outings where your child is in charge of the destination and/or the amount of time you are there. Chances are, he will wear himself out and ask to leave eventually (mine often does!).

Make Getting Into the Car Seat Fun: If it’s the transition to the car seat that is the hard part, figure out some ways to make that journey a pleasant one. Here are 10 ideas to get you started.

Compromise: Much like giving kids control over when to leave, I also compromise with Kieran when I want to go and he wants to stay. Sometimes when I say “ok, one more minute,” he will say, “two more minutes please?” When I agree, that normally makes him happy enough that he will leave much more willingly after the two minutes are up. Other times, I might say “ok time to go to the store,” and Kieran will say “let’s play ball first!” And so we’ll compromise on a certain number of throws or pitches before we leave.

Talk About What Comes Next: Along with giving warnings of when you’ll leave, it often helps kids know what they are leaving to do. Toddlers are very interested in knowing what comes next (that’s why they want you to read the same books over and over!) – it makes them feel more secure.

Play a Game: If your child is old enough to do a game like “I Spy” or “The ABC Game” (finding letters on signs, etc.), engaging in some game play during a transition might be helpful.

Walk Like An Egyptian: Don’t just walk to the car – walk like an Egyptian! Or hold hands and sway like elephants. Stomp like bears looking for honey. Hop like kangaroos across the Australian outback. Skip. Crab walk. Forget your dignity and have fun!

Offer Choices: Another way to give kids control over transitions is to give them choices: what shoes to wear, what toy to take, whether to go to the library or the park today, etc.

Say Goodbye: Younger toddlers might enjoy saying goodbye to everything as they leave. (This might backfire though, since they are already unhappy about leaving – use with caution!)

Make Sure Their Needs Are Met: Is his blood sugar low? Give him a snack a few minutes before leaving to stave off blood sugar related meltdowns. Does your child need a minute of connection to help him with the transition? Nurse him or give him a cuddle. Is he showing signs of exhaustion? Try to suggest leaving before a nap is crucial – tired toddlers are more apt to meltdown.

Review: Some little ones like to talk about what they’ve been doing to help process it. Help cement the activity in their memory by talking about what you did, who you saw, where you went, etc.

What ideas do you have to help make transitions a good experience? Please share them in the comments.

4 Responses to:
"Gentle Parenting Ideas: Toddlers and Transitions"

  1. I have found that the 5-minute countdown (or 3-minute if I’m in a big hurry) facilitates a smooth transition the vast majority of the time for my 2 year old. Usually nothing more is needed. Maybe I’m lucky ;)

    On the rare occations that he is still not ready to go and gets upset, active listening and showing empathy is important. I say things like “I see you are very upset. You’re having fun and don’t want to go yet. I hear you.”

    The other thing that helps quite a bit is explaining to him why I want to go. For example, “I am hungry. I want to go home so I can prepare dinner. Are you getting hungry too? Would you like some milk on the way home?” and then pull the milk out of the cooler so he can see and get excited about having milk while we go.

    My little guy isn’t much of a talker himself, but he understands everything, so communicating what is going on and why is really important with him. It is predominantly when I forget to tell him what’s going on that I encounter more difficultly or resistance.

  2. Amber   AmberStrocel

    This is for a slightly older child, but I love-love-love the timer on my iPhone. We’ll agree on how long we have have to play, and set it. Then when it goes off, my 5-year-old knows that the time is up. Then it’s not me nagging, and a battle ensuing.

  3. Melodie   bfmom

    Honestly I have nothing to share because I am constantly floored by how awesome these posts are and how much I learn from you! Seriously, I kind of wish you lived close by and that I could hire you to teach me how to be a better mother. I mean I think I’m pretty okay and that I value all the right sorts of things, but your patience and creativity is pretty humbling. Go mama go!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      (blush) I just can’t take all the credit – I have such a great network of wise, experienced mamas to turn to – including you!!

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