Parents may think that if their tot has several calm days in a row, then the era of outbursts is in their rearview mirror. Not so fast! Though your toddler’s desire to be good grows with her, you’ll be teaching her the niceties of civilization for years to come. But you can help her become happier, better behaved, and more fun to be around by flashing a green light of encouragement every time you see her being good.

Because your child loves spending time with you so much, you’ll find that giving her many short periods of focused attention throughout the day will soon dramatically boost her good behavior.

I call this feeding the meter.

When you park your car at a meter, you make sure to go back and feed the meter before it expires, right? The same concept can be applied to interacting with your tot! By “feeding the meter” with small doses of attention and love, your little one will be more cooperative and understanding throughout the day. Feeding the meter is a powerful tool for preventing tantrums and helping your child feel smart, strong, respected, and loved.

Feeding the meter doesn’t have to take a lot of time—it can be just a few seconds. Any time you take a second to connect with your child, you’re feeding the meter. Even looking at them while you’recooking dinner and making asilly face to make them laugh counts! Or pulling them in for a sweet hug. A kiss on the head may be enough to feed the meter and keep them cooperative while you fold the laundry.

There are also slightly more involved ways of feeding the meter. If you notice that your child always gets frustrated when you spend more than 30 minutes on a task that is unrelated to them, consider taking a 5-minute break in the middle of your task and playing with them. Get down on the floor on their level and let them direct play. When 5 minutes is up, tell them you’ll get to play again soon but you just have to finish what you’re doing.

Feeding the meter flashes a big green light to a child, saying, I like what you’re doing…Keep it up! And the more you encourage cooperation, the more you get.

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