Parenting Q & A

Ellen Barrett, a parent educator at Heights Parent Center for the last 12 years, fields questions from parents about the daily ups and downs of parenting. The same issues affect many parents! If you have questions you would like Ellen to respond to in this column, e-mail her at 

Q. My 14 month old is so busy these days! With his new walking skills and curious temperament he’s a little tornado and I’m having trouble keeping up with him and his mess. It can get very frustrating to have to keep running after him and picking things up over and over again and it seems he is most interested in all of the things in the house that he can’t have, such as electrical cords and outlets. Help!

A.  Yes, those little guys do keep us on our toes now that they are walking around. But you can make your environment less stressful for you. First make sure that your house is "toddler proofed." Things that are truly dangerous should be removed where possible.

Then, find one area of your house where you can be assured that your little one is safe. That may be just one room, a playpen or port-a-crib. Having a worry-free space allows you to answer the phone, switch the laundry or just go to the bathroom.

You can arrange things to make a “toddler friendly” space. Put children’s books on low shelves, a few favorite toys in baskets and add child-sized furniture like a bean bag chair or small table and chairs. This will create an attractive area where your toddler will be free to play and explore. You will feel less like you need to follow him around and change his behavior. 

Even so, your day will be filled with times when you can’t “fix” the space where your toddler plays.  Try to redirect and distract as much as possible. Saying “no” and telling your son what not to do is less effective than telling him what he can do. Instead of “don’t touch that!” try “here, hold this (ball, block, cup, book).” Instead of “no, don’t go up the stairs,” try rolling a ball across the floor to encourage another action instead.

Take advantage of his unending energy and curiosity by introducing new sights, sounds, songs and games. Although it can be exhausting to repeat these strategies over and over, all day long, remember that your goal (in addition to keeping your toddler safe) is to help him to learn, in the most positive way, how to negotiate the world. He won’t have the ability to self-monitor or control his impulses for a while, so that’s your job, for now.

And remember, for better or worse, this too shall pass.

Read More on "Got kids?" Corner
Volume 2, Issue 11, Posted 2:38 PM, 09.22.2009