Continue in App Continue in App

continue to mobile site

Parenting Toddlers and Young Children

Meg A.
MEG A.
Certified Parenting Educator
Fill 1 Created with Sketch. Fill 1 Created with Sketch. Fill 1 Created with Sketch. Fill 1 Created with Sketch. Fill 1 Created with Sketch.

Join Parenting Educator and author Meg Akabas for a Q&A all about finding the best ways to parent your children. Meg understands the struggles of parenting children of all ages and is here to help our parents improve their parenting skills. It's time to stop all those tantrums, power struggles and whining at home!

Show more
Meg A. photo Group 2 Created with Sketch.
Have your own question?

Ask Meg, our Certified Parenting Educator!

Message Meg
MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!

Toddlers and food

ALIDA, PARENT OF 9 YEAR OLD, 6 YEAR OLD

My three and half year old is close to eliminating everything from her diet. The only way I can get her to eat vegetables is through a purée in a fruit smoothie. She doesn't even like chicken -- I've tried grilled, breaded, broiled, doesn't touch it! I call it different names (dippers, etc) but she doesn't touch it. Please help!

Meg
MEG

Hi Alida,

This is a complicated topic given that it has progressed to the degree that your daughter has gotten to the point where she is refusing almost all foods. Typically, we advise to NOT let yourself become a "short order cook" because that just fosters the pickiness. At each meal offer different foods in small portions prepared in various ways and let her eat what she chooses. If she chooses not to eat anything, there is no other option for her (and certainly no dessert if that's something you usually have) except for her to get herself one of a few healthy alternatives that you have on hand that don't require preparation (e.g. carrot sticks, yogurt, banana) or coming back later to eat some of her meal that you've saved for her in case she has changed her mind. Keep encouraging her to try foods -- even just one bite -- because it can take many tries before children come to like certain foods.

You'll want to make sure with her doctor that she is a healthy weight and it's ok to let her go without eating if she refuses everything you offer. Most doctors would say that children will eventually eat when they are hungry and it's best not to get into a power struggle over eating or to succumb to pickiness. Offer healthy and varied alternatives and she will learn to eat them. If you cater to her narrow tastes, she won't develop tastes for foods that allow for the nutrients that a varied diet supplies. Keep conversation at meal times about fun and interesting topics rather than about trying to get her to eat (and, you can require that she sit at the table for a certain amount of time at each meal, whether or not she's eating -- say five or ten minutes -- since mealtime is important for other reasons).

I recommend getting your pediatrician's take on this at your next visit.

Best of luck!

Best,
Meg

MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!

Preparing toddler for sibling

SARAH, PARENT OF 8 YEAR OLD

I am 36 weeks pregnant. My son just turned 3. Any advice for helping him transition to having a sibling? We talk about the baby a lot and he seems excited. We worry about the obvious- jealousy, new routine, etc. I have heard that making sure you devote one on one time with the oldest every day after newborn arrives is crucial. Also having older one "help" with the baby (bringing mommy diaper cream, etc) and praising his involvement is important. Some friends have also advised that we get new little books and toys to keep toddler occupied with new things while I am breastfeeding. Any other advice is appreciated. Thanks!

Meg
MEG

Hi Sarah,

Congratulations!

It's going to definitely be an adjustment for your son, but keep your attitude positive (see my answer to Eva) because your expectations and outlook are important and will affect him, and do all these things you mentioned. Those are all effective ways to smooth the transition.

In addition, if you're not already, read some story books with him that involve being an older brother -- that will provide a good opportunity for him to express his feelings about it and for you to convey the messages you want. And, make up/act out stories with characters/puppets that involve a baby in the mix to work through scenarios in a fun way.

And, once the baby is born, remember to highlight all the ways that he has privileges and abilities as a "big boy" - the benefits of being older - that the baby doesn't have!

Keep fostering the bond between them as they grow, finding way for them to play together and cooperate/be helpful to each other and the rewards will be great!

Best,
Meg


MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!

Daddy do it

KATRINA, PARENT OF 8 YEAR OLD, 6 YEAR OLD

Sorry for 2nd question! How do I handle daddy do it? My 2.5 yr old had been doing it on/off for 6 months. It is very frustrating. She throws a huge tantrum if daddy won't help her get dressed, go potty, you name it. She screams daddy do it.

Meg
MEG

Hi again, Katrina!

I suggest 1) proactively offer to have daddy do selective things for her throughout the day, so that she gets that "daddy attention" and help that she wants, but without demanding it (e.g. "It's time to get dressed. As soon as you get on your clothes, would you like Daddy to help you put on your shoes?") In that way, you'll nip some demanding in the bud. 2) Do NOT help her anytime she yells, whines, throws a tantrum or doesn't ask with a "please." Be consistent. If it's something that you're willing to help with, but she didn't ask properly, then let her know that as soon as she asks nicely (and you can give her an example of how that sounds) that you're happy to help.

And, stand firm that, while you're willing to help with some things when asked properly, she will need to do certain things herself. Remind her that when she is able to do some things for herself, it frees you to do the things you need to do and you'll have more time to do fun things together.

If you're consistent, she'll find that yelling "daddy do it!" doesn't work and it will stop.

Best,
Meg

MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!

Understanding "No" & Positive Discipline Methods

KATE, PARENT OF 7 YEAR OLD

Our 19 month old thinks it's hysterical to flip certain pieces of small furniture over and throws toys and various things over his baby gate or at other furniture. He's like a baby hulk! We've removed these items from his play area, but given the chance or when we are elsewhere he knocks things over or throws things and thinks it's funny. When I tell him no or if I raise my voice, he also thinks that's hysterical and doesn't get the concept at all. Our doctor offered a "time out" approach, and I think that can be effective if we are home and he has a safe space without access to any toys, etc, but when he is at the babysitters/daycare or we are out, I'm not really sure how to make that work. What are other positive discipline methods? We always try to praise him when he does something he is supposed to or listens/behaves well, like clapping, saying yay and good job. We do not spank and I don't feel that yelling or raising my voice is effective and doesn't set a good example to teach him how to behave.

Meg
MEG

Hi Kate,

I think you're on the right track with your "baby hulk!" You're correct that yelling isn't the way to go, and that being firm and consistent and providing positive feedback when he's behaving well will be more effective in the long run.

There must always be a "consequence" for the behavior in order to teach him to not throw inappropriate things. If it's a toy - then taking the toy away for a certain amount of time works as a consequence (e.g. "This toy isn't for throwing, You'll be able to play with it again when you're able to do so without throwing it. I'm putting it away now -- we'll try that toy again tomorrow. Let's play with something else now." If it's something that can't be taken away (a piece of furniture), then a "time out" to calm down and be removed from attention for a set amount of time is effective if done consistently. You can handle the situation when you're out of the home in the same way (e.g. taking a toy that he's throwing away, removing him from the immediate situation for a time out) and ask baby sitters and daycare to provide appropriate consequences as well.

In addition, provide lots of outlets (lots of soft balls and other toys meant for throwing) for him to be able satisfy his urge to hurl things - games of throwing a nerf ball into a hoop for example) and for lots of physical exertion in play that will give him outlets for all that energy!

With consistency , firmness and re-direction, you'll get through this "hulk" stage!

Best,
Meg

MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!

Positive discipline for sensitive toddler?

PAULA, PARENT OF 8 YEAR OLD

Thank you for taking our questions! I'm not sure how to really state this but essentially we are looking for ways of disciplining our daughter to discourage certain behaviors. She's a fairly sensitive child so up until now we have tried to explain everything which has generally worked but as she is getting older we are definitely having a power struggle as she wants to do and have everything her way screaming "it's my turn" over and over or screams that Mommy has to help her (she doesn't want daddy to do anything). Our parents yelled and spanked us if we acted up like most parents of that generation but we do not want to do that. Can you please suggest other ways of discouraging the whining and crying? Also, how much do we just let go? Like when she insists on mommy instead of daddy, do we just go with it or have daddy help through the screaming? Thanks in advance.

YAEL

I want to follow this post.

Meg
MEG

Hi Paula,

If you've seen my previous answers, you're probably detecting a theme: Your daughter is expressing a need for control over her little world where it seems that she very often being told what to do and when to do it. Try to put yourself in her place to understand that need for some independence. Explaining things will only get you so far, and "letting go" will not teach her what she needs to learn. But, you're right -- you want to stay away from yelling and spanking.

The antidote is the strategy that I gave Catalina in an earlier answer. Choices, choices, choices! By proactively and constantly giving her choices throughout the day, you will start to eliminate power struggles. (See my answer to Catalina for more specifics).

And, in terms of putting an end to whining -- the most effective way to banish whining (and, it can be done) is to never give in to it. Many of us become oblivious to the whining. When our child says "I waaant waaater!" in a whiny voice, we give it to them! It takes self-discipline as a parent to be vigilant and stop and say, "as soon as you ask for what you want in regular voice with "please", I'll be happy to give it to you" and to never let whining slip by. But, if one is 100% non-compliant to whining, it will stop pretty quickly because it is human nature for a child to only continue a behaviors that are working for him/her. So stay alert to even the slightest whining and don't succumb!
You can do it!

Best,
Meg

PAULA

Thank you so much! We try to give choices throughout the day and that has definitely helped so glad that we are doing something right :) I will read through the reply to Catalina for more details on the strategy.

MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!

stubborn almost 3yo

EMILY, PARENT OF 8 YEAR OLD, 7 YEAR OLD

My daughter, who will be three next month, fights about every single thing, every single day. I'm not exaggerating. She will argue and cry about 99% of the things that need to happen in our day, from getting dressed, to potty training (totally could do it, basically refuses), to what she'll eat, to sharing with her brother (just 14 months younger), to going to bed. And then some days she's having a good day and everything is 100% fun and easy. What do I do about her 95% frustrating days? Thanks!

Meg
MEG

Hi Emily,

Well, by now I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but, this is a classic example of what I spoke about in previous answers. The meaning behind the behavior seems clearly to be your daughter's desperate desire for control and independence.

I totally believe you that nearly everything has become a struggle. I've seen it before. You're not alone.

The solution is to give her appropriate choices in spades. Please see the answer to Catalina's question. I am confident that if you proactively give her lots and lots of choices throughout the day (and I mean in everything you do - e.g. " Do you want to hold Mommy or Daddy's hand when we cross the street now?"), in a few days you will start to see the power struggles fade.

Best,
Meg

MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!

Tot's Behavior

NEHA, PARENT OF 9 YEAR OLD

Hi Meg, my LO when gets upset, tells us to "go away" or "get outta my house". we never use that kind of language. How can I curb this behavior?

KATRINA

Follow

Meg
MEG

Hi Neha,

I'm not sure how old your child is, but, in any case, you're right to want to keep the language among your family respectful and kind always. But, on the other hand, you do want to let your child express her/his emotions.

So, I suggest saying: "We want you to use nice language with us, just like we do with each other and to you. When you say 'get out of my house,' that hurts us and makes us feel sad —— we would never say that to you because that would make you sad, right? ——so that's not ok. If you're angry or upset, you can always tell me that. Say 'mommy, I'm angry right now!' Letting me know that is ok. And, we can talk about it or find a way to let the anger out without making anyone feel hurt."

Be 100% firm, clear and consistent with your rules for treating each other with kindness and, at the same time, allow for and acknowledge your child's feelings, which are real and valid.

Best of luck!

Meg

MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!

Toddler Behavior & Younger Sibling

EVA, PARENT OF 9 YEAR OLD, 6 YEAR OLD

Hi Meg. Thanks for answering questions today. I have a 3.5 year old and 10 month old baby. My oldest daughter adjusted well to the new baby at first but now that the baby is becoming more mobile and starting to get into my older daughter's toys she has been acting up more. For example, she wants any toy the baby is playing with and immediately takes it away. She wants all of the "baby" toys for herself and really struggles with sharing. She also hugs her very tightly and sometimes is just too rough with her. We do a lot of one-on-one time with my older daughter and she loves her sister very much, I just think she is having a harder time now that this little baby is becoming more of a real person and active member of the family. Any tips on the appropriate way to handle the toy stealing and challenges with sharing along with the somewhat aggressive behavior? Thank you!

KATRINA

I posted something similar :)
I have a 2.5 and 10 month old.

Meg
MEG

Hi Eva,

Welcome to the world of siblings!!

I have several thoughts for you: First, stay optimistic and, although there are naturally some jealously/control issues that come up for almost all older siblings when there is a new member of the family (some times cropping up immediately and sometimes a little later as in your case), siblings don't inevitably have to have a competitive . I encourage you to constantly stay with the intention of fostering a wonderful bond between your daughters -- it is absolutely possible and can be one of the most rewarding things for both you and your children. I have helped many families do this and have raised my own four children to have amazing relationships ; they adore and support each other. So, keep your eye on the prize!

You're absolutely right in carving out lots of one-on-one time for your older daughter. That is key. Particularly, if there is one parent with whom she gets to spend less time, plan out a set "special" time with her each week where the activity is distinct and something she loves (going on a hike, doing an art project, baking together) and remind her that only she is old enough to do that. Similarly, keep reminding her of the other privileges and abilities she has in being the older child -- things that her baby sister can't do yet.

When you must keep her from taking the baby's toys or being rough with her (for which you might need to separate her in a quiet place for a few minutes as a consequence), remind her that, in a family, everyone must be treated nicely and that you don't let the baby take away her toys or hit her —— that everyone must feel safe and be taken care of and that you will always do that for her, too.

It sounds like you're on the right path -- continue to not allow the grabbing and aggressive behavior, removing her from the situation and firmly stating the behavior you want to see (not just what not to do) when she gets rough or possessive, and heaping on the praise when she is loving and kind with her little sister.

Best,
Meg

MEG ADDED A NEW COMMENT!

Tantrums/Defiance

CATALINA, PARENT OF 7 YEAR OLD, 7 YEAR OLD

I have toddler twins. They turned two in October but this behavior has been going since before they turned two. So, for my daughter, she has to have everything her way or we have a total meltdown--I mean total. On the floor screaming, writhing, crying hysterically for 2-10 minutes depending on the day. It can be as simple as she doesn't want to wear a jacket when it's cold out or that we didn't give her the toy she wanted. She doesn't get rewarded by the behavior by getting her way but, a lot of times, to head off a tantrum, I or the other caregivers (her grandmother or the nanny) will let her do a lot of what she wants within the day. I don't know if that's the problem. Also, I approach the tantrum by ignoring it until she's done, but her nanny tends to try and talk to her or distract her from it, so I'm not sure if we should be handling it the same way. For my son, it's similar but he's not that willful, so it just kind of depends on his mood, but often a no will get a crying on the floor response until I pick him up and hug him and give him a binky. Is there a way to minimize this behavior or respond differently?

Meg
MEG

Hi Catalina,

As you probably know (and, will see from many of the other similar questions I'm getting today), this kind of behavior is very common at this age. But, behind every behavior, there is something your child is trying to communicate. Toddlers are trying to muster some control in a world where they are constantly being told what to do and when and how to do it. It is our job to teach them and provide the structure and guidance they absolutely need, while still fostering independence and a sense of empowerment.

The best way to do this is to proactively give your toddler choices, choices, choices throughout the day. From the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep at night, I encourage you to provide choices about the most seemingly incidental things: "Do you want your milk before or after you come out of bed?" "Should we read a short book or have breakfast first?" "Would you like your blue cup or your red cup?" "Do you want these green socks or yellow socks? "Should we put on your shirt first or your pants?"

Admittedly, you're going to feel a little silly at first asking all these questions throughout the day, and the choices that you're giving your child will seem inconsequential, but to your child, they are not unimportant because it gives him/her the important feeling of having control of his/her little world. If you can get in the habit of doing this for several days in a row (and, then continue naturally because, you'll be in the habit), you'll start to see that the power struggles over the things that you need your child to do (or not do) will start to melt away. Children who are given lots of appropriate choices are much more compliant when you need them to be.

In terms of the tantrum responses, it's ok to use different strategies at different times and among different caregivers as long as none of those strategies involves giving in to the tantrum. They only way to stop tantrums and whining is to be 100% consistent in never giving in to the child's demand in response, because, of course, it reinforces the behavior. In my experience, when parents don't engage with the child (except to hold/hug them to calm them physically, if necessary), it's more effective. Giving your child the message that you're only ready to give them attention and have a discussion with them when she/he is calm and can use a normal voice, works best to not fuel further tantrums. (Children can't really be reasoned with in tantrum mode anyway because they are acting from a different part of their brain.)

I hope this is helpful!

Best,
Meg

Our Q&A starts now!

TINYHOOD, PARENT OF 6 YEAR OLD

Welcome Meg Akabas, Certified Parenting Educator and author of 52 Weeks of Parenting Wisdom: Effective Strategies for Raising Happy, Responsible Kids. Meg is here to share her expertise and answer all of your questions about parenting toddlers and young children.