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The 3 Ps of Parenting Toddlers {That You Probably Already Know}

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

They call it the “terrible twos” for a reason; caring for a toddler is definitely not a walk in the park. From Mood swings, tantrums, and stubborn hardheadedness to cuddles, curiosity, and puppy dog eyes. Every day - no, moment! - is an adventure. You never know if your day will roll along smooth as a baby’s bottom or if the colour of a cup could ruin any chance at a civil breakfast.

The 3 Ps of parenting started with my daughter’s swimming lessons. She used to be great in the water, a right splashy little fish, until I went back to work and neglected regular pool visits. So, naturally, her first swimming lessons didn’t go as pleasantly as we had hoped… Who am I kidding, it went terribly! Like, cry and scream so long and hard that she vomited on the pool deck kind of terrible. It wasn’t just the first class either. This lasted for at least half of the sessions until I managed to come up with a strategy that worked. I implemented my strategy and worked hard on myself to uphold its merits. Before long my little sweetheart was excited to get in the pool and made progress in leaps and bounds!

Later, I applied the same principles to other aspects of my toddler’s volatile, mood swing saturated, -boundaries-are-the-bane-of-existence- life and found that it worked in much the same, productive, way. This strategy seems like common sense and, let’s be honest, it is. The trouble is that we, as busy, well-meaning parents, forget. We get caught up in the moment of possibility and, not unlike our mini-selves who we are trying to shape and guide into all that they can become, forget that everything is new to them; that emotions are difficult to handle, even for us, let alone when they are being experienced for the very first time.

So, I present to you something that you probably already know: The 3 Ps of Parenting Toddlers - Patience, Persistence, and Playfulness.



Your 'little' is working out the strategy behind not only fitting the nub into the hole of their new 12 piece puzzle but also making sure that the picture lines up properly and looks the way they think it should. They struggle, become frustrated, and fling the pieces all over the dining room floor with a stream of imperceptible toddler cusses - anything from “plasticine” to “poo head” to shrill, banshee screams is fair game.


The mess, the noise, the suddenness - and seeming irrationality- with which their outbursts often occur can all lead to an over-reaction on our part. It’s difficult to hold back, but pausing here is very important.

In the above-mentioned circumstance, and those like it, there are a multitude ways to respond in a productive - another P word! - and patient way. This article lists 10 ways to respond when a child says “I can’t” which may help in a variety of different circumstances but my favourite article on this topic sticks to the KISS rule - Keep It Simple Stupid! - and encourages using one word more regularly when your child says “I can’t” which applied to nearly every similar circumstance.

Like many parents out there, I have a very busy, strong-willed toddler on my hands so my patience is tried in many more ways than simple task frustration. It is so easy to lose your cool when your toddler is defiant, rude, and a downright unreasonably emotional mess of a little person; but we mustn’t. Even if you need to give yourself a time out while they scream it out, it is vital that we stay calm, cool, and collected. Remember that they are experiencing many things during the day - emotions, experiences, thoughts! - for the very first time … like, ever.


Although persistence is very similar to patience in a lot of ways, the difference lies in its scope. Patience helps you and your toddler get through in the moment while persistence drives the lesson home and encourages fewer difficult instances in the future. It also instills consistency in your child’s life which has been proven to facilitate healthy emotional development as your toddler ages, making it easier for them to adjust and adapt to new challenges and obstacles that will inevitably come their way (Landry, 387-403).


You’ve told them umpteen *thousand* times not to pick the flowers from the garden - but they still do it. You’ve explained to them - patiently - why the flowers need to stay in the soil - so that they don’t shrivel up and die - and what the consequences will be if they disobey you again, but still they pick the damn flowers. “It’s for you Mommy!” Sigh, they know just how to charm you.


Don’t relent! Keep true to what you have said and follow through with the consequences - even with the inevitable tantrum that will follow. Then let them try - and potentially fail - at following your rules again and again until they get it - they will, eventually. This holds true with non-behavioural circumstances as well. When my daughter didn’t want to swim we just stayed on the ramp going into the pool and gradually - persistently - encouraged her to progress and we made our way deeper and deeper, closer and closer to her classmates. It worked brilliantly!


It’s easier to get anyone to do what you want them to do if it sounds like fun. Turn a task into a game, make funny noises as you work, distract from the unwanted *something* by singing their favourite song or make up your own silly one. We sang pretty much every song from the movie Rio while inching our way into the swimming pool and we expanded to include Sesame Street songs once we got into the deeper waters.

The thing with this strategy is that it works for both the parent and the toddler. They don’t say Laughter is the best medicine for no reason. It really does help with all of the struggles you may encounter in life - even if they’re your pint sized clone. Braid this last P with the above 2 and your days will go from a bumpy roller coaster of ups and downs to a pleasant stroll on a warm spring day.

Now, I’m not saying that there won’t be hills on this walk through toddler-parenthood, or that some of those hills won’t be steeper than others. I’m just showing you how to make sure that the stroller you’re pushing along that walk isn’t going to hit any large rocks and tip over into a mess of parent-toddler emotional train wreck - been there, done that, not pretty.

Even though everyday is going to present some form of a challenge while raising a toddler, if you remember the 3 Ps during difficult times - especially during stage 3, core meltdowns over the speed with which your microwave pops popcorn - then you will find that overcoming those challenges will yield far less collateral damage than it would otherwise.

Although you loath to admit it, watching your baby grow out of toddler-hood can be heartbreaking but it is so important for them to be prepared for whatever life throws at them in the future and you are the perfect person to provide it.

Landry, Susan H.; Smith, Karen E.; Swank, Paul R.; Assel, Mike A.; Vellet, Sonya. Developmental Psychology, Vol 37(3), May 2001, 387-403.

Keep your eyes Peeled for the next Part in this series: 3 MORE Ps of Parenting Toddlers! {Keeping the ball rolling!}

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#toddler #patience #persistence #playful #playfulness #meltdown #tantrum #parenthood

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