Contrasting what a toddler can and can't do

Written by Cindy Hovington

Montreal, Canada

After my first child turned 1, I realized that I was beginning to use the word “no” more often than I wanted. She had started walking and exploring her environment, which was great, but that meant she was climbing everything, opening all the doors, grabbing anything she could and putting everything in her mouth. I was creating a world filled with barriers for my child and with very little freedom. In addition, even if I would say “no” to opening cupboard doors or climbing chairs, she would do it anyway.

I decided to make a few changes. First, I created an environment that would allow her to explore freely. I moved items around in my kitchen so that any drawer or cupboard she opened was free of any danger. Secondly, I consciously stopped saying “no” to her and started explaining myself more and showing her what she WAS allowed to do or touch. This made a huge difference!! If she happened to go into a different room and opened a drawer I would say “I DON'T want you to open this drawer, but you CAN open this drawer”. If she climbed a higher chair I would say “I DON’T want you to climb this chair, but you CAN climb the sofa”. I would nod or shake my head as I said DO or DON’T to give her a visual.

This helped her reduce most of her emotional outbursts since she was starting to understand that she was allowed to do certain things and wasn’t allowed to do others. I repeated this method with my second child who is now 20 months and it has been working really well.

We tend to forget how much our children understand at a young age and how beautiful their curiosity is. We need to nurture their curiosity. This also taught me that I need to speak with my child in the same way I would speak with an adult. I don’t just say NO to someone if they did or said something wrong. We communicate what we want and what we don’t want. Our children want and need the same type of communication, regardless of their age.

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