Research has shown that the average toddler makes three demands per minute. If you’re the parent of a little one, you’re probably nodding your head right now.
It’s not your toddler’s fault, really. Even though they are testing their independence at this age, they still need you for just about everything. That is a lot of responsibility to put on anyone’s shoulders.
It is deceiving for parents because toddlers have new found independence as they are able to walk and move about and even begin to develop better communication skills. But they still need a lot of interaction and direction. They also thrive on having adults play with them. Which is overwhelming for parents who are working from home during the pandemic, or exhausted while caring for younger children.
If you’re feeling burned out, stressed, or overwhelmed by those constant demands, you’re not alone.
Thankfully, there are ways you can cope that are beneficial to both you and your child.
1. Encourage Your Toddler
One of the best ways to stop feeling so “in-demand” is to show your toddler what they can do. Granted, there are always going to be some things they need you for.
But, children want more independence. They want to be able to do things and learn and feel like they are accomplishing something. So, if your toddler is continuously demanding something they could do on their own, show them how to do it. Be there to offer help if needed, but foster a sense of independence that they can further develop on their own.
2. Set Limits
If you really do feel like your child is demanding things three times per minute, set limits. Tell them you can help them with one thing and choose what that “demand” is.
Additionally, work with them to rephrase the way they are “asking” for things — set limits on the way they speak to you, and anyone else when they want or need something.
3. Talk About What They Don’t Know
Many times, toddlers are so demanding because they’re frustrated that they can’t do something for themselves. While encouraging your toddler and showing them how to do things (as stated above) is essential, it’s also a good idea to use every opportunity as a teachable moment.
Even if your child doesn’t demand something in a particular moment, encourage them to learn anyway.
For example, if you’re cooking dinner, invite them to help you. They can do things like measure out ingredients, stir, or make things with their hands if the recipe calls for it. This approach helps you to get ahead of the game and shows them that they can do things on their own or with your help.
4. Reiterate the Rules
It’s essential to have rules in place when it comes to how your toddler asks for things. While you shouldn’t get frustrated because they are in constant need of assistance, it can be overwhelming if their approach is less-than-polite.
Remember, the way your child demands things could turn into a behavior issue. So, don’t wait to remind them of the rules when they are already demanding something.
Instead, talk about those rules other times. Make sure they are an automatic response for your toddler, so when they do need something, they understand what is expected of them.
5. Find Time for Yourself
You can’t pour from an empty cup. Though you’re probably tempted to give your toddler everything they want, it’s crucial to take care of yourself, first. Again, it’s a lot to bear when you have to be responsible for a little one’s every need.
Take breaks whenever you can — practice self-care. And, don’t be afraid to ask for help as often as you need it.
When you first take care of yourself, you’re more likely to understand your toddler’s demands. Additionally, you’ll help them learn and grow, so they can start to gain more independence.
If the effects of the ongoing pandemic are taking a toll on your overall mental health, please reach out for additional support. Parenting is hard during a good year. It's exceptionally hard during a pandemic year.
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Jennifer Perera is a mom, spouse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over a decade’s worth of experience in mental health. She has a private practice in New Jersey, with locations in Cranford and Princeton. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual, group and couples counseling. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with a pregnancy loss or infertility. Her other passion is travelling to different parts of the world and her goal is to vacation in a different locale every time. She also has a great fondness for cats!