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January 19, 2022

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How to Parent Your High-Energy Toddler

The energy and curiosity constantly bursting from your little one can be exhausting to you. Help him stay true to his nature while minimizing parental burnout.

If you're the parent of a typical 2- or 3-year-old, you know all too well the whirlwind of energy and activity that comes with those years. While that flurry is fun, it also presents a common parenting challenge: it's often exhausting trying keep up with your toddler. In the midst of your weariness, you may even feel like your child is purposefully making your life difficult … especially on those days when you desperately need to relax but he's not slowing down anytime soon.

Keep in mind while your child is running around like crazy exploring his environment, he's not being bad; he's simply living his true nature. Children of this age don't have the self-control to stop doing what they enjoy, and the concept of it is nowhere on their radar of understanding.

"They are simply unable to stop themselves because the urge to explore is so strong," says Alicia F. Lieberman, Ph.D., author of The Emotional Life of the Toddler (Simon & Schuster; 2017).

You certainly don't want to dampen your child's spirit. You realize the importance of encouraging your toddler's natural exuberance, but what's the solution when you're so worn out trying to keep up with him?


"There are ways of helping very active children remain true to their nature while minimizing parental burnout and family conflicts," says Lieberman.

In her book, Lieberman offers the following suggestions:

• Set up designated areas inside and outside the house where vigorous play is permitted. "This helps the child discharge energy and increases the likelihood of quiet moments following high-energy play," says Lieberman.

• Make the most of quiet moments. Enjoy moments of cuddling, and anytime your child is resting, you should try to rest, too.

• "High-activity toddlers crave novelty," says Lieberman. She suggests coming up with new ideas that will keep you and your child from becoming bored. For instance, while you're preparing dinner, give him vegetable scraps to create a "salad" or let him mix flour and water in a bowl to make "bread." Lieberman also suggests hiding toys that your toddler has become tired of playing with and bring them back out weeks later for him to rediscover.

• Get to know your neighbors so they become a network of social support, and schedule outings with other parents and their children. Park and playground outings are perfect spots for playdates — let the kids run around and play on the equipment to burn off all that energy.

• Induct older kids — whether they're yours or a neighbor's — into watching after your toddler from time to time. "Children between 8 and 13 can match your child's energy level," says Lieberman, noting that older kids are helpful by entertaining your tot while you're in the house tackling chores or taking time to relax. "Responsible adolescents are generally able to care for toddlers on their own. They can provide a parent with a welcome relief from the ever-vigilant stance that high-activity toddlers demand," says Lieberman.

• Relax your standards for as much as you can get away with, whether it's meals, chores, entertainment, etc. "You can catch up later when your toddler is no longer an obstacle to other pursuits," Lieberman says.

• Be careful in picking battles with your little one, and don't be scared to give in if the issue is trivial. "Occasional yielding will not spoil your child, unless it becomes such a habit that you no longer have the will to enforce basic rules about safety, regard for others or care of property," says Lieberman.



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