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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!'"

Mistake 4: Talking Too Much

Talking with toddlers is usually a terrific idea, but not when it's time to rein in errant behavior.

Imagine a mom has just said "no" to her 2-year-old's request for a cookie. The child fusses. Mom explains that it's suppertime. The child grabs a cookie anyway. Mom takes it away and tries again to explain herself to her now tearful child. Back and forth it goes with mounting frustration on both sides.

"Talking can lead to what I call the talk-persuade-argue-yell-hit pattern," Phelan says. "Toddlers are not adults in a little body. They're not logical, and they just can't assimilate what you are saying to them."

Fix it: Once you tell your toddler to do something, Phelan says, don't talk about it or make eye contact. If the child disobeys, give a brief verbal warning or count to three. If the child refuses to toe the line, give a time-out or another immediate consequence. No explaining.

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