(nose picking, masturbation, drinking bathwater and (ugh!) eating boogers)
Your tot is intrigued. He has discovered his nostrils and his penis – with gusto! You are feeling grossed out by the nose-picking and playing with his 'willy' in public is enough to make you want to pretend you are fostering a poor deprived street child (if only you could get him to stop calling you 'mummy').
Let's face it, whether your child is a boy or girl, bodily parts are a sensory experience – nose holes, vaginas and penises are fascinating places with interesting feelings and textures (tastes too if we count the boogers – sorry!). For some kids, fiddling with their 'bits' can be a bit of boredom buster, for others it is a form of self soothing, and it can just as easily turn to habit.
A lot of confusion arises around feeding as your chubby baby becomes a toddler: although he is now very active, the rapid growth of your toddler's first year will slow down and his appetite may decrease accordingly. He will also be so busy exploring his world or playing with his toys and practising his new physical skills that he may simply have better things to do than stop and eat. As well as less interest in food, your toddler's limited concentration span will mean it is unrealistic to expect him to sit at a table for a three-course meal (unless it can be eaten in minutes!). His eating behaviour will seem erratic as his appetite tends to fluctuate from day to day – he may have an 'eating day' followed by several days when he seems less hungry. Also, in the second year it is common for little ones to use food (or refusal of food) to assert their developing independence.
Toddlers learn the limits by testing them. It is normal for toddlers to assert their developing independence by saying no or 'escaping'. This doesn't mean you will thwart their development by setting limits. In fact, now is the time to gently lay the foundations of discipline.
Keep expectations realistic. Toddlers don't understand concepts like hurry, tidy and wait, and taking turns or sharing depend on developmental readiness, not parental demands. Keep teaching, but be patient.
Notice the good things. Toddlers like to please the people they love, and they delight in attention. Comment positively and give hugs when you notice good behaviour and you will get more of it.
If you sit on the potty, you can have a Smartie."
"Thank you for helping pack up the toys. Now we cango to the park."
"I will get you the ice-cream now if you promise you will sit still in the doctor's room."
What is the difference between a bribe and a reward?
A bribe is something offered before the task in order to get your child to do what you want him to do (so the first and third example are bribes). A reward (the second example) is something that happens after the event.
Does it matter, as long as it makes your child cooperate?
Well, that depends on what you are trying to teach him. Do you want a child who will only do things if there is something in it for him? Do you want to encourage your child to have an unreasonable sense of entitlement, to ask himself, 'What's in it for me?' each time there is a job to be done?
If you have ever watched a desperate mother trying to round up flailing arms and legs as she wipes her child's snot off her arms in the middle of a shopping centre and vowed that your own sweet baby will never carry on like that incompetent mother's brat, think again. Tantrums are a normal fact of toddler life. It can help to think of a tantrum as an intense storm of emotion that a toddler isn't equipped to handle, rather than an attempt to wield power over everyone around him, especially you – his poor, embarrassed parents.
Tantrums are often an expression of emotional distress (to your child, that is – you are the big person here) and can be triggered by frustration, loss, disappointment, feeling misunderstood or a need to discharge an accumulation of stress. Of course, some tantrums are about pushing boundaries, perhaps to get the biscuit or toy that isn't allowed and these 'tiny tanties' are usually fairly easily diverted or will blow over if they are ignored (with you close by). We do though, need to also consider whether the 'broken biscuit' tantrum is actually the straw that has broken the camel's back – for instance, is your child's seemingly massive reaction to a broken biscuit really about the biscuit or an accumulation of minor but stressful events that have happened throughout the day (a spilt drink at breakfast, her brother knocked over her block tower, she had to wait for lunch while mummy settled the crying baby and now she is grumpy because she is hungry and her blood sugar is low – and her rice cracker broke)?
Being able to wee and poo on the potty is a complex process that can't be rushed – your little one needs to be able to recognise when a wee or poo is coming, to hold on long enough to get to the toilet, to remember where the potty is, and to pull down her pants in time to wee without making a puddle. She will also need to be able to understand simple instructions or she won't know what is expected of her or how to tell you she wants to go to the toilet.