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Dealing With a Wild Toddler

Tips on managing a daring tot who loves to climb, jump, and push the limits

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Having a toddler can be a harrowing experience. I have been tempted to put a helmet on my toddler even when he's just playing in the house. Some days I would love to wrap all of my kids in bubble wrap. Of course, you can't. Being over extremely protective will not do your or your child any good.

Running into a slide across the yard, jumping off the top of the jungle gym, scaling the kitchen table... expect it all. These daring and physical actions are an important part of self awareness as your child gets to know what her body can do. It's also a vital step in his physical development, helping him build stronger muscles, become more balanced, and gain control over his limbs and other body parts. As these gross motor skills become more refined, your child may continue to push her limits -- so just as she's safely managed to negotiate those monkey bars, she's decided to try and climb the tallest trees in the neighborhood.

While you may never squelch that wild streak, there are three things you can do to try and manage those potentially dangerous situations.

1. Be vigilant
A toddler who likes to climb out onto the fire escape needs extra watching. But she doesn't necessarily need to be disciplined or told "no" every time she tries to make her way up the stairs or hangs upside down from her brothers' bunk beds. A climber or daring toddler is one who may need more monitoring, but that might mean that you spend extra time supervising her while she tries to master climbing the furniture so that she learns how to do it right and you can feel sure that she won't slip when she does it when your back is turned (because she will).

Set Limitations
Maybe the bunk beds are too risky in your opinion for a 2 year old to attempt. If so, you need to be firm when telling your toddler he cannot go up to the top. Be specific when telling him what he cannot do. In other words, don't say, "No climbing the ladder to the bed" when you really don't want him on the bed at all. Don't be too general, either. "No being wild," is not going to be understood by a tot who doesnt' see himself as wild at all.

As part of the job of setting limitations, you also need to follow through and be consistent. Every time he goes on that bunk bed, take him down and put him in time out or use whichever type of discipline works for your family.

Try to Worry Less When you have the wild child (and everyone else seems to have the quiet serene toddler) you can start too feel worried that your child is unusual. More than likely she is not. Exploring and testing the rules is what toddlers often love best. Some just go through the phase in a less physical or less public way (think of the child who fights his mother at the dinner table or who throws tantrums at the park). If you're concerned that your toddler's wildness seems to be occurring with signs of developmental delays, you may want to talk with your pediatrician to see if he could benefit from early interventions.

Sometimes, a greater worry is the thought that others are judging your family or labeling your child. It is extremely hard to push these thoughts out of your mind, but try to let those concerns go. Nothing you do will ever please or impress everyone. Stay focused on your child's well being and your family's needs.

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