We found it
hard to set
consistent
routines at
first—but we
persevered
and Ali is
definitely
much more
contented
as a result.
Sayed, age 32
During this six-month period, your toddler will go through
a very complex series of changes, but will want a very simple
range of responses. She will thrive on love and comfort, but
also need an increasing number of very clear behavior
guidelines and boundaries.
What toddlers
want and need
Without any boundaries, your toddler will try to create her own and may
push you quite hard to get some resistance. She is beginning to understand
who she is and what she thinks of the world. She needs you to be strong
and consistent concerning her behavior. This period is also a time of
transition: her newfound language skills mean she understands more
than she has before and her awareness of being separate from you means
that she understands that you may go away (and worries that you may not
come back). There may be big changes in the family, such as the main
caregiver returning to work, or perhaps a new baby arriving in the family.
There are also changes in the way she is being nurtured. You may have
decided to wean your toddler off the bottle entirely; she is adjusting to a
new range of flavors and textures on her plate each day; and she may have
moved from a crib to a bed. Combine this with the new range of feelings
that she is experiencing and it is unsurprising that your toddler will be
very sensitive to your feedback and needy of your approval.
How you respond
How we shape our children’s early behavior will have an impact on the
way they view themselves in later life. A child who is out of control and
has no boundaries can feel both powerful and afraid, which leads to poor
behavior as well as emotional outbursts. Your toddler will be excited by
her newfound communication skills and be starting to enjoy toddler-style
“conversations.” However, she remains egocentric (see page 55) and will
still be preoccupied with her own needs and wants. She will want to act
1 3 0
1 8 2 4 M O N T H S
W H A T T O D D L E R S W A N T A N D N E E D
1 3 1
independently and be in control, but often becomes anxious and frustrated;
and so need you to be consistent in her care and attention. Managing
behavior at this age is about helping your child learn to manage her big
emotions as well making sure she feels secure. It is about ensuring that you
can keep enough control to protect her physical safety when necessary, and
put in place the routines and boundaries that will help her start managing
her own behavior as she develops, without crushing her spirit. Until she is
three years old, you will need to show her, not tell her, what to do.
Mealtime anxieties
One area of confrontation that may begin to develop at this time is battles
over food. As the chart below shows, this often develops from parents
misunderstanding what triggers their toddler’s behavior.
Toddlers and taste buds
Children’s food and family mealtimes can become fraught with anxiety if parents have not devised a
workable routine or have unrealistic expectations about their child’s needs and wants. It is all too easy
to misunderstand a toddler’s reaction to food by interpreting it from an adult perspective.
TODDLER’S ACTION
A
Pushes plate away
A
Spits food out
A
Plays with food/won’t eat
A
Throws food on floor
A
Leaves food on plate
A
Won’t eat a new food
A
Won’t make up her mind what
she wants to eat
A
Licks food and then leaves it
on plate
PARENT’S INTERPRETATION
Is misbehaving
Is misbehaving, ill, or doesn’t like it
Is misbehaving/will starve
Is misbehaving
Is a fussy eater
Is a fussy eater
Is being awkward/is a fussy eater
Is playing with food/misbehaving
OTHER POSSIBLE MEANINGS
Is bored or full
Food is too hot/too cold/is not used to
the flavor or texture
Has been snacking/is full/has been given
too large a portion
Is experimenting/playing/having fun/likes
to see parent’s reaction
Has been given too large a portion
Isn’t used to it yet. May eat it next time
Is too young to make her own decision
about what to eat
Is experimenting/getting used to new
texture and taste; may eat it next time

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