How To Help Your Toddler Feel Loved

When you are dealing the Terrible Twos, what can you do to move away from “no” to instill a feeling of love in your toddler?

Of course you love your toddler! But sometimes as parents we find ourselves saying “James! NO! Stop that! Come back here! Put that down!” so many times a day that we aren’t always conveying the love we feel. Here are some ideas to help your toddler know how loved he really is:

A loving touch is as important to a toddler as it is to a baby. Give him lots of hugs and cuddles whenever he’s willing. Hold his hand. Stroke his hair. Carry him in your arms. Sit him on your lap when you watch TV. That physical closeness conveys emotional closeness, too.

Respect your toddler’s emotions. When he screams “I hate that baby” (or shows his feelings by trying to hit or bite the baby) we often want to respond “No, you don’t! You love your brother.” That response, though, tells him that we think his feelings are wrong. It’s more helpful to clarify what he’s feeling: “You are mad at your brother because I had to change his diaper and you wanted to play with me. But I am finished now. Do you want to build something with Lego?”

Help him with transitions. Toddlers often have a hard time moving from one activity to another, and the hardest transition of can be night-time. Rather than expecting him to abruptly quit playing with trucks and get ready to go to day-care, you could help him make the transition by saying “it’s nearly time to get ready for day-care, remember you’re going to paint pictures today! And your friend Kira will be there!” Then come back a few minutes later and offer to help put the trucks away. At bedtime, toddlers often benefit from having a parent lie down with them or rock and cuddle them as they fall asleep.

Play with him! It may not seem very exciting to you to push trucks around the floor or have conversations between action figures, but following his lead in a game will help him feel that his interests matter to you.

Do special things for him – even if he could do it for himself. Mostly toddlers can walk, but if he asks to be carried because he’s tired or having a rough day, it will mean a lot of you can pick him up for a while.

Try time-in rather than time-out. To a toddler, being sent into time-out can suggest that you only want him around you when his behaviour is “good.” He needs to feel that your love is unconditional – that you love him even when he pees on the floor! Toddlers need help to manager their emotions and to learn what’s appropriate. Rather than separating him from you, try a time-in approach where you sit together – silently, talking, or even cuddling until he is calmed down.

And even if your toddler doesn’t really understand the words, it helps to say “I love you” as often as you can. 

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