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9 Mistakes to Avoid With Your Toddler

These parenting missteps are common, but you can navigate around them with smart strategies.
By David Freeman
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD

Toddlers -- full of energy and eager to test your limits as well as their legs -- can be a particular challenge for parents. But even though children don't come with an owner’s manual, the adventure can be more fun if you're aware of a few common mistakes parents make and how to avoid them. .

Mistake 1: Being Inconsistent

Toddlers do best when they know what to expect, whether it's what time they bathe and go to bed or what consequences they'll face for misbehaving. The more consistent and predictable things are, the more resilient and agreeable a toddler is likely to be.

Fix it: As much as you can, keep regular routines for your child. Consistency can be a challenge when parents (or other caregivers) don't see eye to eye.

If you're not sure how best to react when your child dumps food on the floor or ignores bedtime, sit down with your partner to decide ahead of time how you'll both respond -- and then stick with it.

"You don't want to send mixed messages," pediatrician Tanya Remer Altmann, the author of Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents' Top 101 Questions about Babies and Toddlers, says, "you really want to be consistent."

Mistake 2: Overdoing Family Time

It's fun to spend time with the whole family. But some parents go overboard on family time.

Clinical psychologist Thomas Phelan, author of 1-2-3 Magic, says, "Kids cherish time alone with one parent." He points out, "One-on-one time is fun for parents too, because there's no sibling rivalry to contend with."

Fix it: It's easy to spend one-on-one time with a toddler. Phelan recommends simply getting down on the floor together and playing. At bedtime, enjoy reading a book together or tell stories to your child.

Mistake 3: Offering Too Much Help

Some parents jump in to help a toddler who is having trouble doing something. Before you do, consider the possibility that helping your child complete a puzzle or put on a shirt may send the message that he or she can't do it alone.

"Parents who offer too much help may be sabotaging their young children's ability to become self-reliant," Betsy Brown Braun, author of You're Not the Boss of Me, says.

Fix it: "We need to teach children to tolerate struggle," Braun says.

At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with offering praise and encouragement. "Be a cheerleader," Braun says. "Say, 'You can do this!'"

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