Parenting toddler boys is an adventure.
The other day I heard the toilet flush and my heart sank. After all, I was home alone with my son and I was not the one in the bathroom flushing the toilet. This meant only one thing was possible—my toddler was flushing the toilet and I was praying it wasn’t my iPhone circling the drain.
*post contains affiliate links for your convenience
Nope. It was worse.
There he was swirling his toothbrush into the flushing toilet with the water swirling around and around.
I yelled, “Stop!”
And just as I yelled, he looked up at me, made eye contact and proceed to put the toothbrush into his mouth to “brush” his teeth. I swear, I have to wrestle my child using ultimate fighter moves to get him to brush his teeth before bed each night.
But now? Oh yeah, piece of cake. And by the way, toilet water is included free of charge.
The art of parenting toddler boys.
Recently, I started reading the book Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas. It’s honestly sat on my shelf for over a year. I picked it off Amazon when my son was around 9 months based on Lisa-Jo Baker’s recommendation.
Now before anyone sends me hate mail about gender equality and what not, please know that these strategies may apply equally to toddler girls. I personally have no idea. I only have experience with a toddler boy and adventures in brushing teeth with toilet water. Plus, the book Wild Things was written with boys specifically in mind, based on their biological chemical make-up and actual science demonstrating the unique characteristics of boys.
Parenting strategies for toddler boys (and preschoolers too!)
Note: These strategies are geared towards boys ages 2-4. You could certainly use them before age 2 (I did) and through the preschool years.
Parenting Strategy #1 – Boundaries
Your first initial thought here might be…well, duh. That was my first thought at least. What the book is talking about, however, is redirecting the toddlers’ bountiful energy towards something useful. For example…
“It’s not okay to pound the coffee table with your Lincoln logs, but it is okay for you to punch your pillow.”
“I notice that you seem fidgety. Let’s see how many times you can climb up and down the stairs in two minutes.”
One of the biggest mistakes, according to James and Thomas, is setting the unrealistic expectation for a young boy to be quiet or sit still for extended period of time. I would agree that getting our toddler boy to sit still for very long is highly unrealistic in our home.
So again, redirect the energy when possible to something useful.
Parenting Strategy #2 – Open Spaces
You can head off many behavioral problems by simply implementing this easy technique. Boys in the 2-4 year old age range need wide open spaces to run, hit, kick, throw, spit, dig and jump. Getting boys outside at least once per day—rain or shine—is really the best medicine.
This parenting strategy works wonders in our home for our son. And I can attest to toddler behavior gone horribly wrong by staying inside for too long. Hence the epic toilet water tooth brushing.
Parenting Strategy #3 – Consistency
Keeping a consistent day to day schedule and routine is your magic ticket when mastering this parenting strategy. Toddler and preschool boys thrive on structure and consistency.
“Preschool educators understand this, which is why they have children at this age follow the exact same ritual every day. Music happens at the same time; recess is at the same time; stations are visited at the same time. They even visit the bathroom and wash their hands at the same time every day.”
Parenting Strategy #4 – Understanding
Young boys do better when we make our requests very specific, instead of using a lot of words and asking a lot of questions.
Interestingly, James and Thomas recommend giving boys a direct command rather than asking a question. The authors argue that we shouldn’t say, “Now where should the dirty clothes go once you take them off?” But instead say, “Put your dirty clothes in the basket.”
The strategy is a grey area for me. I do agree that using short, simple verbiage is best, but there are times when a question can avoid a power struggle. For example, “Do you want juice or milk?” Rather than saying, “You can have milk.” Offering a direct command 100 percent of the time might not lead to optimal results, but it’s good food for thought.
My favorite part.
Each of these parenting strategies are really easy to implement. Nothing overly complicated, and I love that. Because when I am in the midst of wrestling a highly contaminated toothbrush from the hands of a toddler boy, I don’t have time for complicated parenting.
I need simple, easy and something that actually works.
Print this free toddler listening checklist.
This post comes with a free printable checklist to help with toddler listening. I always have the hardest time remembering these phrases. This printable simplifies it!
Here is a sneak preview…
Download Your Free Printable
- Download the checklist. You’ll get the printable, plus join 37,000+ parents who receive my weekly parenting tips and ideas!
- Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
- Place it on your refrigerator. Check things off as you go and don’t forget a thing!
Want more on toddlers?
- A New Approach to the Epic Toddler Meltdown
- What No One Tells You About Parenting Toddler Boys
- 9 Phrases That Change Life with a Toddler
- The Parenting Tip You’re Missing to Help End Power Struggles
You can click here to see the book Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys on Amazon.
What’s your best strategy for parenting toddler boys? Let’s chat in the comments!
I've created a free email series just for you! If you are struggling with teaching your child to listen, this series will help transform your parenting. Yes, really. I've seen my proven strategies work time and time again for parents. I know it can work for you too.
After taking my free email series, you will:
- Learn simple, yet highly effective listening strategies
- Experience a stronger connection with your child
- Enjoy more peaceful parenting days
- Gain more cooperation from your child