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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.

Mistake 5: Serving Only Kiddie Food

Does your toddler seem to eat nothing but chicken fingers and fries? Are goldfish crackers the only fish he or she eats? As some parents realize too late, toddlers fed a steady diet of nutritionally iffy kid's foods may resist eating anything else.

Fix it: Encourage your child to try "grown-up" fare. "A good percentage of kids are willing to try a new food if they see mommy and daddy enjoying it," Altmann says. "If they push back, keep putting it on their plate. Some kids need to try things a dozen or more times before they take to it."

But don't worry too much if your toddler is a picky eater. "Most toddlers are," Braun says. "Children love the fight over food. If we make a fuss about it, it becomes a much bigger deal than it needs to be."  

Braun's advice is not to worry as long as there's something your child can eat on the plate. Do not allow yourself, she says, to become your child's short-order cook.

Mistake 6: Getting Rid of the Crib

Cribs do more than keep little ones safe. They promote good sleep habits.

A toddler moved too soon into a "real" bed may have trouble staying in bed or falling asleep and so may end up climbing into bed with mommy and daddy.

"Some moms wear themselves out because they have to lie down with their child every night," Altmann says. "They don't realize they're the ones who set the pattern."

Fix it: The time to get rid of the crib is when your child asks for a bed or starts climbing out of the crib. For most kids, that comes between the ages of 2 and 3 or when a child reaches a height of about 35 inches.

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