The Best Parenting Resources for Parents of Toddlers

May 13th, 2014 by Dionna | 14 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Carnival of Natural Parenting, Consensual Living, Gentle Discipline Ideas, Successes, and Suggestions, Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting

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Welcome to the May 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Ages and Stages

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about their children’s most rewarding and most challenging developmental periods. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Toddler Spanking

If you’ve ever parented a toddler, chances are you have spanked. An overwhelming 94% of parents will spank their toddler.1 Not just once, either: research shows that more than half of all toddlers are spanked three or more times a week!2

But spanking toddlers and children does little (if anything) to teach them, and it “does lasting harm to your child and ultimately sabotages the positive things you do as a parent.”3 For more on the harmful effects of spanking and additional resources, please visit StopSpanking.org.

Toddlers can be so challenging. Not only are they learning how to exert their independence, but they simply do not have the developmental ability to be calm and logical when they are frustrated. It’s the nature of the beast. I mean . . . the toddler.

Ailia is firmly entrenched in the two and a half year old world. Even after having gone through the toddler years once, sometimes I’m still surprised by how much this tiny person can push my buttons. When we are in a bad spot, it always helps me to remember where my children are developmentally and to refresh my positive parenting intentions. Here are five of my very favorite books and articles about parenting a toddler. I hope they are a help to you, too!

Best Parenting Resources Toddlers

Your Two-Year-Old: Terrible or Tender

Louise Bates Ames hits the nail on the head with every single book in her “Your ___ Year Old series.” I really cannot recommend the series enough. This morning as I was flipping through Your Two-Year-Old, I recognized Ailia in so many different scenarios. For example:

  • “Most of all, one feels that this is a time of opposite extremes. By his very nature, the child of this age has merely to choose the red one, and he wants the blue; to choose yes, and he definitely wishes no. . . . This is how he finds out about the world–by exploring both of any two opposite extremes in quick succession. Annoying as this kind of behavior may be to the adult, it is a very important part of growing up. Soon will come the time when he can make a choice and stick to it.” (page 11)
  • “He may disrupt parental harmony by pitting Mother against Father. And he can drive everyone to distraction by his insistence that “Mommy do it” when Daddy is taking over, and then “Daddy do it” when Mommy takes hold. In fact, his insistent “Mommy do” when Dad is helping out is often a cause for hurt feelings. It shouldn’t be. The person he wants is whatever person is not available at the moment, and if everyone is available, his demand may change to “Me do it myself.” (page 15)

Ames’ series does not really give me solutions. What each book gives me is reassurance that what I’m going through with my children is normal. I’m not doing it wrong. They’re just kids who are experiencing developmentally appropriate challenges.

Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting

Ames helps me realize that what I’m going through is normal. Dr. Laura Markham helps me figure out how to manage “normal” peacefully. Dr. Laura – creator of AhaParenting.com – has written a straightforward, common sense approach to parenting peacefully and effectively. She teaches parents how to set healthy limits, how to foster loving, connected relationships with your children, and how to coach without controlling.

On talking to toddlers gently through tantrums, Dr. Laura says, “Giving him words to reflect on his own feelings and those of others is developing what we think of as our toddler’s conscience. Inside his brain, his budding understanding of words is building connections in the orbitofrontal cortex, which in concert with other areas of the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate manages his emotions and helps him respond appropriately to the emotions of others. . . . [Toddlers] need our help to develop the inner ability to manage their strong emotions so they can follow essential rules and get along well with others. How we respond to their messy emotions and wild behavior determines whether they build that kind of brain. Punishment and disconnection create more upset and less self-regulation. By contrast, empathic guidance helps our toddler develop a brain that can regulate itself emotionally within a few short years.” (pages 104-05)

Dr. Laura’s book is meant for parents of infants on up, so you’ll learn skills that will serve you throughout your child’s formative years (and beyond). Be sure to visit AhaParenting.com for more ideas on how to parent positively.

Teacher Tom

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I could send my children to Teacher Tom’s preschool class. His community preschool serves 2 through 5 year olds, and he writes about their days, their projects, their living and learning journeys at Teacher Tom: Teaching and Learning from Preschoolers. His blog has helped me better embrace the mess of childhood, as well as to give my kids more room to explore and experiment.

One of my favorite of his posts on toddlers describes them as “mad scientists rushing around the laboratory of life pushing buttons to see what happens. They push the ‘button’ of smiling at a stranger: the stranger smiles back. They push the button of helping a friend: the friend says, ‘Thank you.’ They push the button of hitting another kid: the kid cries.”

He goes on to share his peaceful ways of managing normal toddler behavior (hitting, biting, kicking, and so on).

The Emotional Life of the Toddler

In Alicia Liberman’s “The Emotional Life of the Toddler,” we learn about the science and psychology of being two (or thereabouts). She explains how games of hide-and-seek help toddlers learn that mama will always come back to her, strengthening her secure base attachment. We learn how play is a toddler’s main way of managing anxiety – an opportunity for her to experiment and to safely suspend normal social rules. And we come to understand – from the toddler’s viewpoint – some of the normal challenges our little ones experience, from anxiety to potty learning.

This is another of those books that help me remember that our challenges are normal. It helps me regain compassion in the midst of parental angst. You can read a good chunk of it on Google Books.

Janet Lansbury: Elevating Childcare

Janet Lansbury, a proponent of Resources for Infant Educators (RIE), believes that infants and children should be respected and treated as people, right from the beginning. Her approach to parenting and childcare encourages parents to make positive connections with their children, to develop age-appropriate boundaries, and to trust that children will internalize our lessons. Here are some of Janet’s thoughts on helping toddlers resolve conflict:

“It’s a big challenge to let go of our adult wish to tie a neat bow around our children’s disagreements and avoid their emotional outbursts. But our interventions can prevent children from learning much of anything other than that they are dependent on us to fix these situations, incapable of handling conflicts themselves.

Resolving it for them includes demanding that toddlers share or take turns, as well as offering ideas and suggestions like, ‘How about you both hold onto the pail and carry it together? There you go!’

The challenge for parents is to allow children to safely engage in conflict and resolve it their way, rather than letting our discomfort or impatience get the better of us. The more we say and do for our children in these situations, the less they will learn to handle themselves. Trust and patience must precede learning.”

Resources on Code Name: Mama

I’ve written quite a few posts on parenting toddlers. Here are a few of my favorites:

What are your favorite resources for parenting toddlers?

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Both photos were adapted with permission (added words) from Nate Grigg via Flickr Creative Commons (Amazing Resources/happy toddler and Spank/sad toddler)
Author’s note – of course this toddler had not been spanked in this picture. I simply searched for photos on Flickr of “sad toddlers” and came across this cutie. Also, Nate Grigg has some amazing pictures.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon May 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • Making Space — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is adjusting her thinking and making room for her babies to stay near her.
  • The Best Parenting Resources for Parents of Toddlers — Toddlers can be so challenging. Not only are they learning how to exert their independence, but they simply do not have the developmental ability to be calm and logical when they are frustrated. It’s the nature of the beast. I mean … the toddler. Here are Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s favorite books and articles about parenting a toddler.
  • The Fab Five Stages so Far — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen couldn’t choose just one stage for this carnival and is sharing her top five favorite stages in the young lives of her son and daughter at Natural Parents Network.
  • The best parts of ages 0-6 — Lauren at Hobo Mama gives a breakdown of what to expect and what to cherish in each year.
  • Lessons from Parenting a Three-Year-Old — Ana and Niko at Panda & Ananaso are quickly approaching the end of an era — toddlerhood. She shares some of her thoughts on the last two years and some tips on parenting through a time rife with change.
  • Feeling Needed — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders which developmental stage is her favorite and why. She bares it for us, seemingly without fear of judgment. You might be surprised by her answer!

  1. Straus & Stewart, Corporal punishment by American parents: national data on prevalence, chronicity, severity, and duration, in relation to child and family characteristics. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, June, 1999.
  2. Straus, Children Should Never, Ever, Be Spanked No Matter What the Circumstances. Current Controversies about Family Violence, 2005.
  3. Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids at 15.

14 Responses to:
"The Best Parenting Resources for Parents of Toddlers"

  1. Camille Flores   survivorSurvivorinMX

    What you wrote about early childhood applies throughout a child’s life. It is so important to not try and resolve for him or her the issues you as a parent see in your child’s relationships. Most times, careful observation and advice (if solicited) is quite enough. Good read!

  2. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    These are great resources! I love the books I’ve read, so I’ll have to check out the others. And I feel the same way about Teacher Tom! :)

  3. Laura   Puginthekitchen

    Whoo! Love it when there are lists of resources to refer to. And ones that won’t make me cringe when it comes to the behavior “tips”. And we too, love Teacher Tom!

  4. These are good resources for families to know! I totally agree with ms Lansbury on toddler gentle discipline and the basic RIE tenets of respect. She is a great writer. Unfortunately I don’t link to her site because she and modern RIE as a whole are anti Attachment Parenting and pro Cry It Out :(

    • I definitely have qualms with RIE, Moorea. I *don’t* think they are cry it out in the traditional sense. Suchada did a post for NPN on letting kids cry that is pretty good, and she is pretty heavy into RIE I think.

    • janet lansbury (@janetlansbury)   janetlansbury

      I’m really sorry you got those impressions, Moorea. Neither are true. RIE is a nuanced approach, so it can be easy to misinterpret if not investigated thoroughly. (Hence my comment below!)

      Thanks so much for your compliment about my writing!

  5. Nathalie   nabejero

    Another rave for Teacher Tom :-)

    I love these young ages (mine are 14mo and 3yo). It’s a treat to watch their personalities develop. Your impact on that is so apparent too, like the change in behavior after you snap at them a few times on a bad day and then you catch yourself, course-correct, and their temperament those next days follow right along.

  6. janet lansbury (@janetlansbury)   janetlansbury

    Thank you for including me in this great company, Dionna! I just want to clarify that I strongly recommend parents remain present, close and supportive when children are in conflict with their peers… Sometimes this advice gets misinterpreted as a suggestion to just leave kids on their own to work it out. It actually takes *more* focus and mindfulness to remain open to children resolving issues their own way, than it does to insist they share or take turns, etc.

    Thanks again for the mention!

  7. Love the resource list. Entering the joys of having an almost 2 year old now! Going to check some of them out!

  8. Laurie Hollman, Ph.D.   lauriehollmanphd

    I’m so glad you made that point about spanking. I think what happens is moms get so frustrated they feel helpless and forget in the moment there is meaning behind the child’s behavior. This is a key part of my concept, Parental Intelligence, that suggests that moms understand what is going on in their child’s mind that leads to different behaviors. Alicia Lieberman is a writer on that same track of thinking. I’m pretty sure she is an infant-parent and child-parent psychotherapist like myself who looks closely at how the minds of children work. To read more about parental intelligence, just go to my blog listed in this carnival and go to the book navigator. I hope you find it interesting. It works well with “gentle discipline” discussed in the Natural Parenting Network.
    Laurie Hollman, Ph.D.

  9. Momma Jorje   MommaJorje

    I feel like we’re constantly trying to improve and can never reach our ideal in parenting… or at least myself and my own parenting partner. Sasha is 4 now and we’re having a rough time of it. Spencer is 2½, but… he’s far from typical. I suspect he may be about 3 before he really hits this developmental stage. Peace be with me! lol

    • Laurie Hollman, Ph.D.   lauriehollmanphd

      Mama Jorje,

      Parenting is on a constant learning curve I’ve found with each new age and stage. Ages 2 and 3 have many challenges that you seem to be finding for your little ones and yourself. As you note, each child is so individual, we should probably disband the use of the word “typical” because it only makes us as moms feel like we’re ahead or behind. Who needs that?! If you want to read more, I just posted two brief articles on three-year-olds, the first is in the carnival and then one follows at Parental Intelligence: lauriehollmanphd.com/blog. Hope they help.

  10. Anne Mayall

    It made my happy to see Louise Ames sited. The Ilgs and Ames books got me through parenting young ones 30+ years ago. Now I am spending a lot of time with my grandchildren and really like Dr. Laura Markham.

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