Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

May 26, 2012

Ask Evelyn: Even toddlers can learn good manners

Q: My son is 2 and he prefers the comfort of being held by an adult or being the center of attention. That's been his life so far, but I am a single mom and sometimes mom just has to get things done. At his father's home he is still the center of attention. At my home I am currently working on manners and trying to let him know that he isn't supposed to tell me "no" when I tell him to do something. Is this normal? Is it because we just moved to a new home and he just started daycare. Am I doing everything all wrong? Please help. — S.M.

A: No, you aren't doing it all wrong. Your son probably loves the attention of adults, and that's very normal for 2. They aren't really interested in peers yet, and won't want to play with others until ages 3 to 4. Yes, he may be acting more needy during this time of transition ... new home, family changes and so on. But having the structure of a few clear limits or expectations will help him feel safer.

Make a few very simple rules for him and give him clear expectations for behavior. Don't worry about rules on manners; he will learn those best from your own modeling. Say "please," "excuse me" and "thank you" and smile. Show him positive social behavior at all times when you respond to others. Praise him for copying your modeling.

You also need to know that 2s love to say "no" and sometimes even say "no" when they mean "yes." This is just part of normal 2-year-old behavior, as are occasional tantrums.

Two-year-olds are going through a period when they need to assert that they are individuals and not an extension of you, but they also want and need to know what their limits are. They need to know their limits and know that you're in charge because it makes them feel more secure.

Remember to stay calm when your 2-year-old tests you. You see, 2s love it when you overreact to their "no." It's fun when you're little to see that you can push a big person's buttons. Two-year-olds soon learn to use "no" to create power struggles, especially at mealtimes, bedtimes or during routines like dressing.

So don't feel that you are doing things "wrong." Instead find out what to expect and get information on how to manage his behavior. Go to the library or a bookstore and get the practical, easy-to-read book "Your Two Year Old" by Louise Ames and Frances Ilg. This is one in a series of books by these authors.

You can even look forward to next year! Enjoy knowing that 3s are generally more cooperative than 2s.

Note to readers: Now that proms and graduation celebrations are with us and the weather is lovely, it's easy to sometimes forget about rules for safety. Don't forget to discuss and be firm with your teens regarding your safety rules about curfews and driving.

Evelyn Petersen is an award-winning parenting columnist and child and family advocate who lives in Traverse City. This column is reprinted from her archives. E-mail questions to

Text Only