Toddler parenting tips

Toddler tantrum

Eventually, toddlers turn into kind little people whose company you cherish. In the meantime, with the Terrible Twos striking at around 18 months and potentially lasting for three years, they can be little despots. Here are Mumsnetters' tips to turn to in the dark moments when, frankly, you feel like toddling off…

Mumsnetters' toddler truths

Mumsnetters' wisdom concerning toddlers has been hard won so take note and be under no illusions about the battles that await you:

“We fall in love with our babies and think they are the most perfect human beings on the planet. They become toddlers to redress this imbalance.”

“Although they can walk, toddlers can't walk. They get tired and demand to be carried after two metres. (And, during that two metres of walking, they pull your arm, step in dog poo and walk in front of you so you trip up.)”

“'Share' is a one-way concept to a toddler. As in 'what's mine is mine, and what's his is mine too'.”

“Toddlers suffer from temporal insensitivity. It takes 10 times longer for a toddler to do anything than an adult. Unless chocolate buttons are on offer, in which case they react with superhuman speed.”

“Toddlers are just Labradors with less fur. Both need daily walks.”

“You will get to know the TV repair person very well and learn to smile at their bemused expression on finding half a pound of butter in the DVD – again.”

“Tables, walls, doors – in fact, anything – is more satisfying to draw on than the nice flat piece of paper you've put in front of them.”

“You will spend the first two years encouraging them to walk and talk. The following years you just want them to sit down and shut up.”

As for you, well it's not always easy when they're scything you down with a scooter but as one wise Mumsnetter puts it:

“You should pretty much treat a toddler like a confused elderly aunt – just keep talking to them kindly, gently but firmly (without any judgement in your voice), explaining everything very slowly”.

Mumsnetters' rules for parenting toddlers

Be kind to yourself and obey these rules to avoid embarrassment, injury and glitter that gets everywhere:

  • “Pretend they belong to someone else, especially in public.”
  • “If your children – and you – would like any sort of social life, it is essential that you try to tame their more revolting habits.”
  • “Never allow glitter in the house.”
  • “Look after your back. You will spend months leaning anxiously over your child as they stagger around, always just inches away from death (sockets, cars, stairs, dogs). You won't realise the damage that's been done until it's all over and you have a dowager's hump.”
  • “Suspend all thought of embarrassment and do what you have to do to get things done. My daughter will only let the cat brush her teeth, so I have to hold a struggling cat under one arm while trying to brush them, but making it look like the cat was doing it.”
  • “There's no such thing as a vacation, it's just childcare in a different climate.”
  • “Do not question their choice of bedfellows (including balloons, bath toys and vegetables) or bed attire (wellies or superman/fairy tinkerbell outfit). It's not worth it.”
  • “Don't waste the daytime nap on housework.”
  • “Never express even slightly unfavourable opinions of friends, family and acquaintances in front of a toddler. They will parrot them to the person in question at the most inopportune time.”
  • “Should your toddler utter the phrase 'I'm being Tarzan!' in a restaurant or shopping centre, be very afraid. As every toddler knows, Tarzan wears just pants…”

Actually, you're best off spending the years from two to four Mumsnetting. Then all sorts of behaviour/discipline problems simply don't arise. 'Mummy, me flush purse in toilet.' 'Mm, lovely darling, well done!'"

Toddler girl screaming

Mumsnetters' tips for dealing with tantrums

Before you have children, toddler tantrums are what happen to rubbish parents. Then you have children and, before you know it, you're in the middle of Sainsbury's with a child screaming blue murder while other shoppers shoot you appalled glances. Here are Mumsnetters' tips to try when your little one descends into fury:

  • “Distraction works best with toddlers – and with me. Toddler throwing himself on floor screaming? Distract him by pointing at big red bus. Toddler still throwing himself on floor screaming? Distract myself with food/ Mumsnet/something else until tantrum is over.”
  • “Try chocolate buttons. In toddler land, everything can be resolved with chocolate buttons.”
  • “The illusion of choice is a powerful tool. I find 'Do you want to wear this jumper or that jumper?' can give them enough choice to prevent the going out in the rain wearing nothing but a hat, nappy and wellies meltdown.”
  • “Bubble mixture is the single most important piece of toddler kit to have in your handbag. It is great for preventing any kind of waiting room wriggling/brewing tantrum. And, from a parental point of view, it is, most importantly, a toddler activity which can be done sitting down…”
  • “Brief, brief, and brief again. Toddlers don't realise that you may have plans. So tell them the whole day's plan, then the morning's plan, then repeat again and again. It may seem like constant rabbiting but it is so much nicer than an unseemly half-hour fight over a sock, which makes you both late and cross.”
  • “If you have more than one, don't intervene in quarrels until you see blood. This helps them learn conflict resolution from an early age.”
  • “Do not get distressed by their refusal to share, take turns, or stop bashing smaller children at playgroup. They simply do not understand. Do, however, continue telling them (loudly) the correct way to behave and that you simply Will Not Tolerate Such Behaviour. It doesn't matter that it will make no difference; you're doing it to safeguard your reputation among the other mums.”
  • “There is a reason toddlers are ticklish. If used judiciously, and not overdone, it may divert yet another tantrum…”
  • “Ignoring a toddler is your most powerful weapon. If they lie down and scream in the middle of the supermarket, step away and pretend to look at an interesting tin of tomatoes. Tantrums often stop without an audience.”
  • “Do not waste time expecting them to show remorse and sorrow: they can't.”
Toddler on the phone

Mumsnetters' toddler health and safety notices

Follow these steps and you might just emerge from the toddler phase without experiencing calamity:

  • “If it's quiet, panic. A silent toddler is a danger-seeking missile.”
  • “A brush is a brush to a toddler, even if you think it's something for cleaning the loo!”
  • “Do not let your toddler watch the builders.”
  • “Given access to any phone, a toddler will dial 999.”
  • “Once I found my son naked, sitting cross-legged and playing with his cars. He had his penis stretched out and was holding it down on his ankle using it as a bridge.”
  • “Check the washing machine before you turn it on.”
  • “Just because the receptionist at A&E knows you all by name, that does not make you a Bad Parent.”
  • “Choose playgroups with chairs (for you) and clear sight lines. Tea is a bonus.”
  • “That stain on your sofa may be chocolate – equally, it may be poo. Just clean it off with a disposable cloth.”

Mumsnetters' mantras for saving your sanity

Think positively and remember that nothing lasts forever, with Mumsnetters' words to say to yourself when you think you might be on the verge of your own tantrum:

  • “Most of what they do is funny, really – you'd see it if you weren't so knackered.”
  • “Have 'This too will pass' writ large above the cleaning products, so that you see it every time you go to clean Biro from the sofa / wall / guinea pigs.”
  • “In the worst moments, imagine yourself waving them off at a railway station when they leave home at 18. You will suddenly feel awash with either sadness or relief, both of which make a change from exasperation.”
  • It's only a phase. Sadly, the next phase will probably be worse."

And one itsy-witsy plea from parents of toddlers to mums of teens. Never smile wistfully at the mother of a tantrumming toddler and inform her that, if she thinks it's bad now, just wait until he hits his teens.

Said mother will likely say you're lucky to be able to poo unaccompanied. You may only communicate with your teenager once a week, and that may be via text, but you have clearly forgotten that when your children are two this is a dream scenario.