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Too Much To-Do From a Toddler

Question

My daughter is 21 months. She constantly wants me to hold her when we are home. I cannot keep it up. If I don’t hold her when she wants, she cries and cries. Help! What should I do? Also, she’s not good at playing by herself when I’m around.

Answer

At 21 months, your daughter is still at the age where punishment/consequences are not the answer. She is still in Stage 1, the Season of Service, where she is solely dependent upon you, yet she thinks she is at the center of the universe; and that if you don't respond to her desires constantly and continually as she would like you to, she may very become upset.

First, you cannot enable your child by picking her up each time she cries. Once you develop that habit, she will become conditioned to cry until you do pick her up--even if it takes an hour of crying/fussing. Secondly, inform her that you will pick her up only when she stops crying, whining. And avoid, if at all possible, picking her up when she does so. Only pick her up after she has been quiet for several seconds--even minutes as she learns her lesson. If she continues throwing a fit, pick her up and place her in her crib. And leave her there. And trust me--she will not be happy. Buy some ear plugs-ha! After 5-15 minutes, if she is quiet, you may get her. If she hasn't calmed down, be prepared to wait her out. The next time she "has a cow", you can try playing deaf and ignore her, but after a time---back to the crib she goes. Use the baby monitor to periodically check on her if need be. And get ready--- she WILL wail for an extensive period of time at first. One little thing I would do if I had to go get my daughter out of her crib for an appointment or a meal, etc., was I would go to her crib room door and while she was fussing, open it a crack and bark like a dog one time, then another, etc., hoping she would stop her crying long enough to listen for a second so I could get her. But I always tried my best not to get her until there was some semblance of silence. Be prepared! The first few times she is "encribbed," she will throw an extensive fit; it will pull on your heartstrings and test your patience. But if you don't cave at all, she will be become trained to be calm and ask nicely if she wants attention and hugs. And by the way, when she does ask you to pick her up in a nice manner, you should most of the time early on. But as time moves on, you should be able to say "no" off and on without a negative reaction on her part. Learning to entertain herself for extensive periods of time is a "must" for a child, so as to enhance their imagination and creativity---and allow you some peace and quiet.

Mike Smart, CLPC
"Parenting OutSmarted"
Certified Parenting Coach

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