Toddlerhood is a great time of life. My older grandchild is now in that stage, and she is absolutely delightful. She speaks in full sentences, tells her little brother stories she has learned from her parents, and wants to be a helper around the house. But even with this sudden burst of maturity from her younger age, there are still things that as much as we want, we cannot expect from her.
So what can a father reasonably expect from his toddler boy or girl? How much can they handle and at what points should we be willing to understand that this is "just how they are?"
From a social and emotional perspective, your toddler at two or three years of age can be expected to:
- see that his or her actions impact others around them. This awareness of one's self and the environment is a pretty big step, and your child will be able to connect that he or she operates in a larger sphere.
- do things for him or herself. Getting dressed, brushing teeth, carrying clothes to their room are within the realm of possibility now. Succeeding at these types of things brings a sense of accomplishment; failure results in frustration and tears.
- imitate the behavior of the parents. They can act like mom or dad in similar circumstances. For example, our two-year-old granddaughter now says to her mom, "I so sorry but I can't" do something Mom has asked her to. Our daughter has used that expression with our granddaughter once she began to talk and understand, and now that is how she responds to her mom.
- become a little more independent. The toddler will not need to be constantly in the presence of her mom or dad, but can be expected to explore a little at someone else's home or in a public place. Hence the need to keep them close and under your watchful eye in public.
Your toddler will also develop some new physical skills during their third and fourth years. They should generally be able to:
- kick a ball
- jump in place
- stand up from a sitting position
- throw a ball
- walk on tiptoes
- climb on things
- walk upstairs or downstairs one foot at a time
- turn the pages of a book one at a time
One of the most amazing things I found with children this age is their new-found ability to think and communicate in a more sophisticated way. Children at ages two and three are usually able to:
- understand simple directions
- speak in simple sentences
- answer who, what and where questions
- name simple colors
- recite nursery rhymes
- name many body parts
- pretend while playing
- relate to time sequences like "now," "later," and "soon."
Behaviorally, children certainly develop at different rates and times. Many behaviors you wish you could expect are still beyond a toddler's ability to sustain. But here are some things you can reasonably expect from a behavioral perspective:
- understand clear and simple instructions
- able to make choices when given ("Do you want the red or the black crayon?")
- able to choose between acceptable choices ("It's time to put on your coat so we can go. Are you going to put your coat on in the bedroom or in the living room?")
- stay in their room or on their bed at bedtime when they are not tired
Toddlers, however, cannot be expected to achieve some behavioral controls. You can expect a toddler to:
- cry, hit or bite to get their way. This usually changes to more
- positive behaviors as their communication skills expand
- have a hard time waiting a long time for something
- throw tantrums
- not share well with other children
- tattle on the poor behavior of others, which is their way of communicating that they know the rules
As our children grow up through their childhood years, they will develop levels of maturity. These changes are only beginning in the toddler years, and fathers and mother need to be patient, reasonable and focused as they help their children learn what they need to be positive and productive children, able to develop and maintain good relationships with others.