It feels like only yesterday when you came home from the hospital with your precious baby. You were tired and a bit overwhelmed, yet determined to capture and enjoy those fleeting moments of infancy. Then it happened: in the middle of the night, someone switched your tiny, compliant infant for a much larger and strongly opinionated toddler! Now you realize that your sleepless nights and numerous feedings were a walk in the park compared to this. Who is this little person yearning for independence and leaping from dangerously large structures while gulping down fistfuls of cookies? Don’t worry — it’s not all terrible twos.

Toddlers, aged 18-36 months, are busy people. During this stage they will hit many developmental milestones:

• Walking and running
• Climbing
• Developing writing and coloring skills
• Dressing themselves
• Naming their own body parts
• Eating with little or no assistance
• Potty training
• Riding a tricycle or a bicycle with training wheels
• Playing games like ball or hide-and-seek
• Asking questions and being able to communicate emotions and opinions
• Developing an imagination

For a toddler, each day is an opportunity to learn and grow. As parents we have the opportunity to teach our children and help them reach these milestones. But they aren’t the only ones learning. Parents must discover how to foster the delicate balance between encouraging independence without succumbing to lawlessness.

Internationally renowned psychologist and award winning author Dr. Kevin Leman says that children as young as 18 months have determined that their behavior has tremendous impact on the adults in their life. Since children tend to be narcissistic during this stage, parents should guide decision-making opportunities. Leman suggests limiting choices to two or three, but at times explaining that they don’t have a choice due to the needs of the family or society. Still, Leman warns against stifling all personal opinions, since these will become important later in life when children need to take a stand against negative peer pressure.

And, don’t forget the fun. As the parent of a toddler you have a free pass to slip down a slide, run in the park or snuggle up with your little one and read a picture book. And if anyone rolls their eyes when you tell them your child is two, don’t forget to remind them that you hold a very important job. After all, who else gets to mold and encourage a future leader — not to mention toilet train them?

Copyright © 2008 Lynne Thompson. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used with permission by Focus on the Family Singapore.
For information on Focus on the Family’s Parenting with Confidence workshop for parents of 0-5 year-olds, visit www.family.org.sg.