As toddlers grow out of their baby phase and begin to gain more
independence and autonomy, they can also become defiant and stubborn. We all
know the expectations of terrible twos and tantrum threes, which can test
patience and parenting know-how. However, instead of dwelling on the
frustrations of the phase, it is important to keep things in perspective.
In the Filial Therapy training program by Landreth and Bratton, they share rules of thumb to
give reminders of effective parenting skills based in play therapy. In this
series, the focus is on rules that are especially helpful for parenting
toddlers. Further, the benefits you and your children can expect from
implementing these techniques will encourage you.
The rule of thumb for difficult behavior patterns in toddlerhood
is, “Focus on the donut, not the hole.” In
other words, do not get caught up in what you wish was there or what you
believe is missing in the child’s behavior (the hole), but instead
make a conscious choice to see the good that exists and the positives in the
relationship between you.
The principle behind this rule is that the more good you
willfully decide to see in your child and in your relationship with him or her,
the more he or she will act in just that way. One of my favorite quotes, from
William Glasser, states, “Always treat a child as if he is good,” which
parallels this rule.
“Always treat him as if he is good” because:
1. Self-fulfilling prophecy means a child acts according to what
he believes about himself. If you communicate that he is always good, he
believes it and his behaviors reflect that.
2. Focusing on the good you witness in your child prevents you
from focusing on any problems or things you wish were different. Unconditional
acceptance is a powerful motivator for children to rise to the best they have
3. When you shift your attention and attitude to positivity about
your child, it allows you to build a bond and deeper relationship. Negative
attention creates barriers and defenses.
In any situation (parenting included!), we have the option to
find the good or point out the bad. I liken it to the mommy’s
half full or half empty glass. As we transition with our kids into a new
developmental stage, there are certainly going to be bumps in the road. It is
choosing how to navigate them that makes the difference.