Friday, September 25, 2015

Toddler 101

Toddler 101 is the expectations of performance and compliance to specific commands for behavior necessary towards the safety of the child and the smooth conduct of transitions. 

teaching toddlers for safety how and why

I will go over what those expectations are, how I teach them, why I teach them for child care situations, and why they are important for parents. 

Toddler 101 is one of the main reasons why we are complemented EVERY SINGLE TIME we go on outtings about how well behaved are Little Stars Learning students.

I started writing this post years ago, and frankly, my methods and expectations haven't changed. I have a newly enrolled 1 year old Mr. R, and Mr. L who is also 1 has been with me now for a few months. I'm once again convinced of the importance of Toddler 101.

I had a client who liked to play chase with her toddler. She would chase after him laughingly saying, "Stop! Come back here! I'm going to get you!" The child would laughingly run away from his mom.

See any issue with this?

Of course when he was two, he ran past her out the door and directly towards my busy street at rush hour. She's screaming at him to stop, come back. He laughed and ran on. I stepped out and said, "[Thomas!] Stop! Sit!" He did. On the sidewalk. Inches from the rushing traffic.

We were at my oldest son's graduation. My youngest was twenty months. As we chatted with family, each thinking that he was being watched, he wandered off and climbed 3/4 of a two story straight stair case in the lobby. As his dad ran up the stairs I said loudly, "Jacob! STOP! Stay!" He did. Going no higher, waiting for his dad.

It is that important. Life and death important. Toddlers' abilities far outweigh their mental capabilities or ability to self-impose limitations on impulses.

I was explaining to Mr. R's mom Toddler 101, and she said, "So, it's like with a dog?" Yep. The American Psychological Association equates the intelligence and understanding of a dog as being equivalent to that of a 2 year old human child. So for a 1-2 year old toddler, expectations of behavior and verbal understanding are the same. If you would expect your dog to understand it, then you can expect your toddler to understand it. If you would expect your dog to do it, then you can expect your toddler to do it.

It is not demeaning to have appropriate expectations for understanding and performance based upon a person's development, no matter what their age. As you would speak differently with an older person with dementia or a person with reduced mental facilities, so you should speak appropriately to toddlers WHEN YOU EXPECT COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING.

I do not speak to a 2 1/2 year old or older child in this manner. I do not speak to toddlers in one-word commands at any other time. Only when understanding and compliance of action is expected.

So what is Toddler 101?

It is a toolbox of commands that are easily taught, understood, performed and necessary. The are not over-used. They are stated in a firm, commanding voice that is easily recognized as expecting compliance.

How are they taught? Expectation, repetition, modeling, physical guidance.

When do I teach this? EVERY SINGLE TIME!! that it isn't done correctly. There are no exceptions. There can't be. If they get away with defiance even one time, then it will get exponentially more difficult to gain compliance at any level, especially instant compliance.

At 2 1/2 and above, most children gain a level of logic/reasoning capability that makes instant compliance unnecessary. You can say, "You can stand in that chair, but not that one. This one is sturdy, but that one will tip over." Toddlers DO NOT have that level of understanding. For them, everything must be strictly black and white. Do/don't do. 

I'll go through the commands one at a time. At school, I always start with their name, so that the child I am addressing is very aware of who I am directing the command towards.

School: Toddlers love to climb. Often they want to climb on inappropriate things. Mr. L, today, managed to get half way up the big slide for the first time. I always expect them to do the unexpected, so while I was several feet away, I saw him and said, "DOWN!" He walked himself back down the slide, walked over to the smaller slide, looked at me, and I smiled and nodded. He played happily on the smaller slide. I also use this one at nap time to tell them to lie down.

Home: Mr. L has also been climbing onto the dining table at home. He knows he's not supposed to, but impulse control at 1yo is pretty much non-existent. He knows he shouldn't, but NOT doing it is nearly impossible. So, mom can say, "DOWN!" from across the room and stop the action in its tracks, rather than having to go to him, and coach him down. [Always coach them down safely rather than remove them, so they can do so when they sneak behind your back. Which they will.]

School: Sit in a chair rather than standing or kneeling. Sit down while I'm dealing with someone/something else, Sit down to eat, rather than wandering with hands full of spaghetti.

Home: Pretty much the same. Sit down in a restaurant, Sit down at church.

School: Whatever you are doing, stop doing it and don't even think about doing it again. As with all of these commands, it is not over used. For instance, if I see a mouth going towards another child's body, it doesn't matter if their intention is to bite or not, it's a firm, "NO!" and they move away. If the child is reaching onto the counter for anything, it's a firm, "NO!" Mr. L started reaching into the toilet while I changed Mr. R today. It got a firm, "NO! Sit!"

Home: Too often home environments are not child-friendly. There are TOO many NOs. At home I always request that NO be used for absolutes: electronics, death-trap issues, etc. Pick your battles and as always, if a child needs to be told NO repeatedly for the same issue, then most likely the environment needs to be changed until they have better impulse control, around 2 1/2 years old.

School: It means freeze in place. We had a massive spider web next to the shed. I saw Miss L going towards it and yelled, "STOP." She did. I then told her what was there and she went around it. This is rarely used, but when it is, it is usually important and I say it to the group, not an individual, because it is something I need complete concentration upon or I need everyone to be aware of it, so I freeze the whole group.

Home: Parking lots, stores, restaurants, basically any public place that a child may run off or wander out of your comfortable physical distance or potentially into a dangerous situation.

School: Most of the boys like to touch themselves during diaper changes. This can get really gross during a really nasty poopy one. HANDS UP means that they keep their hands higher than their neck during diaper changes. I also use it after finger painting as we walk to the sink, and after lunch when they have spaghetti or chili hands.

Home: May not be used as often at home, but imagine if they picked up something gross off the ground, etc. and you don't want them getting it on themselves, furniture, or in their mouths. Yeah. It's nice to have in the arsenal.

School: At the end of nap, I say UP to get them to stand up in their pack-n-plays so I can get them out. I change them on a pad on the floor of the bathroom. When done, I say UP and GO. It's convenience for me more than anything.

Home: Same. Have them stand up in their crib, etc. Toddlers can get very heavy. The easier they can make it on your back, the better.

School: Leave the bathroom, leave the room, leave the kitchen area, go to another area of the room. They learn GO pretty quick. Following the finger I point in the direction they are TO GO, takes a lot longer.

Home: Ever take a hot pan out of the oven and find your toddler behind you? Yeah. Happens more often that you might think. GO is the answer. Find peering eyes as you try to go to the bathroom? GO!

School: Trying to hear a phone call, older children trying to hear a video or music, children sleeping and someone is making stupid noises, reading a story and someone is talking/playing loudly. Child throwing a fit for no good reason. [Good reasons don't get shushed. Children are entitled to their valid emotions vs. drama for drama's sake.]

Home: Church, restaurant, phone call, etc.

I just threw in this pic because it's cute.
School: This is the hardest one to teach. The lack of impulse control is REALLY hard for toddlers. This one comes into play most often here during the winter months when I am trying to get everyone into winter wear and the toddlers want to strip as quickly as I can get it on them. Knowing, someone has to go potty at the last minute, or mittens can't be found, etc. and I just need them to SIT and STAY for 5 minutes. Pleeeeease. I used it the other day when the bigs were picking up and the toddlers were dumping bins faster than 4 preschoolers could pick up and the frustration level was getting out of control. I worked on the toddlers doing SIT and STAY while the bigs finished.

Home: Bringing groceries in and need your child just sit for a few minutes while you go back and forth. Anytime you need them just STAY for a few minutes while you do something. Not often, but comes in handy when it is needed.

School: I'm old and out of shape. There is NO WAY I'm going to chase down everyone over a 1/2 acre when I want them to come in or come to me. All mobile children are expected to come to me when I say COME. I also say, "Come change," when I want the diapered ones to come to the bathroom. I tore my rotator cuff carrying around large children. I don't do that anymore. If they are mobile, they can get there on their own.

Home: Just getting a child to move can sometimes be a challenge. They get side-tracked easily. Conditioning them to come at a simple command can be a huge frustration remover.

School: We have a large school yard. We have a lot of trees and street noise. My voice gets easily lost within the mix of theirs, their play, and everything else. When I clap, everyone stops and looks to me for direction. It's kind of like STOP without the urgency or importance, with the specific expectation that they all look to me. When I want them to all come in, I do a specific clap cadence. It saves my voice.

Home: This would probably work best with older children at home, when out of easy hearing and you want to give them some direction or call them back.

School: The most common sound I utter. It is a simple reminder that they are making un-wise choices and need to change their direction of behavior. Uh-uh will morph into a NO and then a VERY firm NO! before physical intervention of removal from the situation.

Home: I believe in giving children the opportunity to make wise choices, of giving subtle reminders when they are heading in the wrong direction so that they have the opportunity to change their course. Too often children are allowed to head in the wrong direction, then slammed with parental frustration when they cross some invisible line. That just isn't fair. Give children a heads-up when they are headed in the wrong direction. Toddlers have been on this earth for 1-2 years. Keep your expectations reasonable.

Consistency in expectations and limitations is necessary for children to trust their world and to make good choices. They are fully capable of doing so from a very early age. All it takes is teaching them how to meet them.

The benefits of teaching Toddler 101 are mainly for safety reasons. Instant compliance to simple commands is crucial in an emergency situation, and toddlers are more likely to get into an emergency situation than any other age. 

Another benefit is that a toddler feels control in that they can understand and perform to meet expectations, receiving praise and confirmation. Without Toddler 101, this may happen much later in a child's life. Additionally, they learn how to LEARN. Toddler 101 is TAUGHT, through repetition and showing the child what to do to be successful and meet expectations. That is pretty powerful for a 1 year old. 

Sit, stay, come, go may seem like dog commands, but they are developmentally appropriate. Many parents want to baby their 1 year olds, but they are fully capable of meeting simple expectations and verbal direction. Don't minimize their capabilities. If taught Toddler 101, then they have some level of responsibility for their own actions and well-being.

Mr. R's dad hung out with us for a while this afternoon, and he was AMAZED that Mr. R responded so well to my commands, and said that they would DEFINITELY be working on those at home. I got back into this post for them.

You'll also find out a LOT about your toddler's personality when teaching Toddler 101 commands. I've taught more than a dozen toddlers. Each one is different. But they ALL learned the commands and responded accordingly. To me. To their parents, well, it's been a mixed bag of results. Consistency is the key. Good luck!

After Toddler 101 commands are mastered, we move on to Toddler 102. Toddler 102 is simple single directions: bring, pick up, put in, give, put back, not yours give back, nice touch...
Tags: daycare, child care, homeschooling, toddler, infant, teaching, baby, teaching, instruction, curriculum, expectations, parenting, parents, lessons, discipline, behavior,