Positive rules can help your little one learn how she is supposed to behave.

Positive Rules for 2- to 3-Year-Olds

by Jane Rodda

Oh, the sweet goodness of a 2-year-old. The sparkling eyes, infectious giggle, chubby cheeks and incessant use of that one little word that makes every mother cringe: "no!" Perhaps you are wondering why your little piece of heaven is so fond of this particular word. If you think about it, she probably hears it directed at her quite often -- for example, when she is about to throw her food on the floor. Learning to establish positive rules for your little one helps her learn not only what behavior you are expecting but may also help cut down on the use of "no" from both of you.

1. Use Your Words Nicely

Teaching your child to use words nicely from the time he is 2 can help both of you through the next few years. Rather than telling him, "Don't whine," say, "Use your words nicely," which helps him start to think about how he is speaking and the words he is saying. This rule can also be applied to basic manners. "Please" and "thank you" are a part of using words nicely, while yelling and screaming most definitely are not. When he is using his words in a way that makes you frown, a gentle reminder of this simple rule can help him get back on track.

2. Let Everyone Have a Turn

Telling your 3-year-old, "Don't be selfish" results in a blank stare before he goes back to hoarding all of the dump trucks in the sandbox. Even suggesting that he share with others is likely go over his head and do nothing to alleviate the tears from the other children at the playground. The simple statement "Let everyone have a turn" can help him learn the principles of sharing but in language he understands. This rule can apply to several situations: "Let everyone have a turn on the swing." "Let everyone have a turn eating a cookie." And "Let everyone have a turn washing their hands." He should start to understand that sharing with others doesn't mean he gives everything away, but rather that he lets others have a chance to enjoy it, too.

3. The Family Pet is to be Loved

"Don't pull Rover's tail." "No, don't climb on Rover." "Don't eat Rover's food." If these statements are a part of your daily vocabulary, you aren't alone. Having a pet in the house with a toddler means a whole new set of rules. Summarizing them all into one rule -- "Rover is to be loved" -- can cover a multitude of issues. "Rover is to be loved, and he doesn't like it when we pull his tail. Let's pet him instead." "Rover is to be loved, and climbing on his back hurts him. Let's play fetch with him instead." "Rover is to be loved, and eating his food means that Rover goes hungry. Here, have some pretzels." This can help your little animal lover learn how to take care of her pet, and Rover sure will appreciate it, too.

4. Listen the First Time

Your toddler can be happily watching a large yellow bird on television, but the minute you turn on the stove to cook dinner, she may be intensely interested in what you are doing. As she is reaching to touch the glowing red surface, your natural instinct is to scream, "No!" -- and that's a good thing. Of course, you don't want your little one to burn her fingers. But setting up rules ahead of time can help cut back on the need for shouting. Take a walk through the house with her, letting her know that there are things that can hurt her and that she needs to listen the first time when you establish boundaries. For example, when you say, "The stove is on, so stay in the other room," it is because you don't want the stove to hurt her. When you say, "We climb on the slide at the park, not the entertainment center," it is because the TV could fall over and give her a huge boo-boo. She is curious and wants to explore everything in her world, and helping her understand which things that can injure her and why they are off limits (hopefully) makes her more willing to stay away.

About the Author

Jane Rodda has been a writer since 2004, with articles featured in "Gameday Magazine" and "Urban Family Magazine." She is also the social media director and lead copywriter for a piano instruction website. Rodda holds a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies with a concentration in psychology from Point Loma Nazarene University.

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