The Girlfriends Guide to Toddlers: A Survival Manual to the Terrible Two's (and Ones and Threes) From the First Step, the First Potty and the First Word (No) to the Last Blankie

The Girlfriends Guide to Toddlers: A Survival Manual to the Terrible Two's (and Ones and Threes) From the First Step, the First Potty and the First Word (No) to the Last Blankie

by Vicki Iovine


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With a combined total of over 300,000 Girlfriends' Guides in print, Vicki Iovine offers the kind of tongue-in-cheek humor and straight-from-the-hip advice that has made her one of today's most popular authorities on child rearing. Now she takes the next step in the Girlfriends series by helping mothers deal with that mysterious, baffling, often adorable and frequently alarming being their baby has become—a toddler.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399524387
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/11/1999
Series: Girlfriends' Guides Series
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 653,556
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Vicki Iovine is the happy and chronically overwhelmed mother of four children. Iovine was raised in Southern California and graduated summa cum laude from the School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. After receiving an LLB degree in Public International Law from Cambridge, she returned to Hastings to earn her JD. She is a member in good standing of the California Bar Association. She is the author of the successful Girlfriends' Guide and Best Friends' Guiide series.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Who Are These People, Anyway?

Mother Nature really is so damned smart to give you your child in infant form first: There might not have been quite so many takers if she were handing out toddlers. Not that toddlers aren't adorable and captivating; it's just that it's hard to imagine devoting your life to a person who breaks your things, eats with her hands and hurls herself onto the floor if she doesn't get her way if you aren't already hopelessly devoted to the little tyrant. It was awfully nice planning on somebody's part to give you about a year to get to know your baby in a somewhat calm and orderly fashion. As an infant, she may have wreaked havoc with your sleep patterns, she may have nursed till you thought your breasts would fall off, and she may have left you with ten pounds you have no use for but she probably cooperated most of the time. You dressed her how and when you wanted. You put her in her bouncy chair or on a blanket or the floor. You fed her what you felt was best for her and she generally accepted it graciously. But did you get down on your knees and thank your lucky stars every day that you had such a gift? Oh, no. You, like all the rest of us, just wouldn't keep the lid on Pandora's box.

The Race to Walk

    You were probably getting so confident about your mothering abilities around the ninth or tenth month that you started hungering for bigger challenges. All your little one had to do was push to a stand one day while you held her in your lap, and ZOOM, you were off to the toddler races.Her walking not only seemed like an exciting new developmental stage for your child, it became your personal goal, too. Admit it, Girlfriend! You may not have pressured her; you may not have let her know in any overt way that the exhilarating feeling of achievement her first two steps gave you rivaled that of any climber to reach Everest. You and your mate may have tried not to squeal and slap high fives every time she bravely let go of the coffee table to tumble toward the middle of the living room; nonetheless, she got the message she was doing something that rang your chimes. Think about it; isn't your lower back out of whack to this day from all the mileage you put in walking bent over behind your toddler and holding her upright hands while she swayed about on pigeon-toed feet? You may have taken the consumer's digest advice against baby walkers, but I bet you bought at least one push-along toy that helped her stay balanced while moving upright (you know the ones, shaped like mini shopping carts—like babies have so much marketing to do).

Walking Separates the Toddlers from the Babies

    Sure, the other baby milestones were fun, especially if sleeping through the night was one of them, but really, how many of us sent telegrams when our kids rolled over for the first time? Walking, however, is the lollapalooza of baby achievements. Even if you didn't know that when you first signed up for this parenting job, you learned it soon enough; every parent of a baby over ten months of age is asked, "So, how's the baby? Is he walking yet?" As the mother of four kids who preferred sitting to walking for at least a year each, I felt a stab every time I was asked that question. With the first two kids, I lied and told anyone not likely to visually verify my statement, that they were ready to take off "any minute now." I guess I felt that my baby's failure to walk early was an indication that the mothering I was giving him wasn't nearly as enriching and, well, good, as I thought it should be. By the time the other two came along, however, the older toddlers had robbed me of my innocence about the beauty of walking. If anyone asked me then if my babies were walking yet, I was just as likely to snarl, "They would be if I ever took them out of their blanket sleepers.... "But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

    When your baby did finally master two-footed locomotion, either in spite of or because of your encouragement, it was a transcendent event. Angels were heard to sing on high, grandparents were called (as were a couple of the other mommies in your baby group; okay, maybe you gloated a little), videos and photos were shot! Your little darling had achieved his destiny and fulfilled your wishes and dreams for him—he crossed over from the world of baby to the world of toddler, ON HIS OWN TWO FEET! What on earth were you thinking?

Which Years Are the Toddler Years?

    Child development authorities differ greatly on what exactly constitutes a toddler. This is understandable because a one-year-old waddling around in a diaper doesn't appear to have much in common with a lightning-fast three-year-old preschooler (even if he, too, is still wearing a diaper). Keep in mind that at the beginning of this little life era known as toddlerhood, your child won't yet be able to talk, but by the time he is ready for preschool, he will probably be fluent enough to share all of the most intimate details of your home life with all the kids at preschool. At the beginning of toddlerhood, he will probably walk with his arms held out to the side or up in the air for balance, as if all walking surfaces were tightrope wires, and by the end he will be a perpetual motion machine, running, unlocking, opening and closing, jumping and falling until he passes out. If you end up with a three-year-old like my Girlfriend Shelly's son, Bentley, you won't only be chugging after a runner, you'll be calling the fire department to get your climber down from the top of the pergola at the community center.

The Girlfriends' Definition of Toddlers

    For the purposes of The Girlfriends' Guide to Toddlers, we will focus on those little people whose abilities range from just learning to walk unassisted (about one year old) to those who are negotiating the challenges of preschool (three-year-olds in all their glory). In other words, most of our anecdotes and advice will focus on those fascinating creatures between the ages of one and one day shy of their fourth birthday. Pediatricians and other authorities will certainly have more exacting criteria, but my Girlfriends and I have noticed that even a one-year-old who is barely toddling can exhibit those charming particular personality quirks of toddlerhood, and some of our most cherished three-and-a-half-year-olds are still reluctant to let go of such toddler souvenirs as binkies, bankies and Pull-Ups.

    After years of watching all our babies enter toddlerhood and come out on the other side, the Girlfriends and I have identified what we think are the behaviors and concerns that make toddlers toddlers:

    1. The struggle for independence is the hallmark of this entire age group. Walking is the first step in that direction (yeah, pun) because it manifests the child's very real ability to leave its mommy or other symbol of safety and security. Your little one spends much of his toddlerhood experimenting with leaving you. Don't cry, Mommy; they almost always come back! Whether they have just toddled into another part of the house where you can't see them or they have just waved goodbye to you for their first unchaperoned day of preschool, they are learning to separate. We Girlfriends will remind you now and several more times in the Guide that the goal is to raise a child who can eventually enter the world without you in tow—that's why they invented Miami—the all-American reward for a parenting job well done.

    The universal toddler declaration of independence is the phrase "I do myseff!" You can be late for the most important appointment of your life (like getting your tubes tied), and your usually compliant toddler will pick that moment to demonstrate his ability to squeeze toothpaste onto his toothbrush and clean his teeth ALL BY HIMSELF. This desire for mastery, terrific though it may be in concept, can be counted on to add a good five to ten minutes to the task of getting out of your driveway. This, too, is part of that independence business, and it is sure to affect your life in several ways (like migraines and chronic tardiness, in my case).

    2. The most dramatic bursts of development you and your child will experience occur during these three years. Think of it this way: Like a flower, an infant grows and blossoms in a sort of slow, constant progression. Its muscular development is greater with every day. Its hair gradually thickens and grows longer. Even the acts of rolling over and sitting up tend to be progressive and predictable to us eagle-eyed mommies. (But that doesn't mean you are guaranteed a divine prediction of when that first roll will be, so for you moms of toddlers-to-be who are reading ahead, NEVER leave your baby unattended on the bed or changing table.)

    On the other hand, a toddler can best be compared to a box of fireworks with a spark loose inside. One minute the two of you can be quietly reading a picture book about animals together, and the next a Roman candle seems to go off in his head and he becomes a kind of animal himself, one that scratches and bites. For six straight days he will spend all his play hours with the Little Tykes kitchen you bought him, then, on the seventh day, he will move the entire kitchen across the room and place it directly under the cuckoo clock your grandmother gave you, and you will walk in to find him balanced on one foot on top of the plastic microwave with his fat little hand around the poor cuckoo's throat.

    Cause and effect, at least as we overtired and overwrought mothers know them, have little relevance in the toddler world. Their minds seem to jump around so quickly, usually dragging their moods with them, that their little brains should smoke from all the short-circuiting going on in them. When it all gets to be too mind-bending for even your toddler to tolerate, she will blow a gasket altogether and flip out with one of those tantrums that her generation is so famous for.

    This is also the age when a toddler, like Cro-Magnon Man, learns to use tools. Don't hold your breath waiting for him to build you a new deck or kitchen cabinets, but be prepared for your VCR to be "repaired" several times, for all bureau drawers to be liberated from their tracks and for your car keys to end up in the sandbox, where they were employed for digging tunnels for your automatic garage door opener to drive through. Whether you are the mother of a younger toddler, who would stick a fork in a light socket on sheer whim given half a chance, or of an older toddler, who is able to hit a ball with a bat or connect all the flowers in your wallpaper with a box of push pins, you will find that "tools" are a defining aspect of toddlerhood. And, if you'll excuse this bit of gender bias, if you have a boy toddler, he may find that his most favorite tools are those that can be used as weapons, which includes nearly everything.

    3. Children in this age group are "changelings." Stop by any parent-tot gathering, and you will be sure to hear a mother declare that her toddler has more personalities than Congress. Are they babies? Are they children? Are they human? Well, the answers to these questions are yes and no. What they really are are creatures petitioning to become children, but who haven't given up their membership in the baby world.

    First of all, just look at them to see how truly in-between they are. Their feet are almost perfect rectangles and their toes look like decorative fringe rather than functional balancing appendages. They often use their hands as if they were brooms or shovels, swiping and grasping things like a bear going through a picnic basket. It's only toward the end of toddlerhood that most kids can control their fingers accurately enough to pinch their baby sister's cheek or use scissors to give themselves a haircut. And speaking of hair, at the beginning of toddlerhood, many of these little tykes still have that wispy growth that sentimental mothers hate to cut, but by preschool most of them actually have enough "human" hair to snarl, tangle and be the final resting place for cookie crumbs and finger paints.

    With really young toddlers, this period of being neither fish nor fowl is usually only moderately confusing because you can be pretty safe treating them like big babies most of the time. But by around eighteen months, your luck generally has run out. By then, they are such an amalgam of curiosity, energy, frustration, boldness and insecurity that they don't know whether to spit or wind their watch, as my father used to say. (Or Something like that.) And there you stand, just dying to help in some way, and not knowing how to get in. Is a hug the answer? Is a firm "no" the answer? Or should you just turn and run the other way? The Girlfriends and I maintain that this critical period is second only to pregnancy in the amount of brain damage a mother sustains. It's a constant source of wonder to me that you don't see more mothers lying on the floor of Costco, kicking and screaming right alongside their toddlers, since their frustration levels must surely be just as high.

    Simplistic as it sounds, the time of day can be a big factor in whether your toddler is a child or a baby. In my household, toddlers were all grown up and full of fun and "I do myseff" when they were well rested, like in the morning or after a nap. Then, as the day dragged on and the frustrations mounted, my toddlers would start disintegrating right before my eyes. That often results in the one-two punch that takes all mothers out at the knees: the needs of a cranky baby colliding with Mom's need to make dinner. Even though I'm not raising toddlers these days, I still feel my shoulders tighten as the sun goes down and the local news comes on TV. It can only mean that the dinner-bath-story-drink-of-water-back-patting-stay-in-your-bed obstacle course has begun.

    4. These little people need to be guided into society (euphemism for discipline). For the first several months of life, a baby isn't faced with the burden of making decisions. She is pretty much a creature of cause (e.g., hunger) and effect (e.g., crying till somebody gives her something to eat). Walking, along with the bigger brain that comes with being a person who can do it, creates a whole new set of circumstances that can all be lumped under the heading of Choices. This is why discipline was invented by the cavewoman, to make sure that most of the choices made were acceptable to the mother. Parents of toddlers are constantly torn between being gloomy control freaks and being completely bulldozed by their child. We want them to be free-spirited, but not near the deep end of a pool. We want them to be creative, but not to blame the pet bunny for writing with Sharpies on their shirt. We want them to delight in discovering the magic of the universe, but we want them up, pottied, dressed and breakfasted before we have to leave for work.

    How does one accomplish this? Well, to be completely candid, with very mixed results, especially when this is our first run through the toddler gauntlet. Toddlers are so impetuous and unpredictable that we mothers are usually found reacting to one crisis after another rather than methodically training them to understand and adhere to a planned behavioral code. If sports analogies help you, think of yourself as playing defense against a mini Michael Jordan; it's all reaction, not action. If you occasionally feel that your best-laid plans for reasoning with your little person and helping him to cultivate a sense of freedom within a context of respect have collided head-on with a reality in which you yelp before you leap, don't take it too hard. That's usually how it goes for all of us who mother in the toddlerhood trenches.

    5. During these three years, little people learn to join the community of big people. By the time a child turns four, she is officially no longer a baby. (Even though, as all mothers recite to our children, they will always be our babies.) Most of these little darlings have an active social life, leave the house for several hours a day to do fun stuff without parents, have decided that they are going to marry Daddy and know precisely why there is a day in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Heck, put a briefcase under a four-year-old's arm and put him on the subway, and he'll blend in as just another, albeit much shorter, commuter.

    Toddlers are not yet there. In order to reach that kind of competence, they have to master certain behaviors like sleeping in a bed, using the potty, and, hey, knowing how to use a fork and spoon wouldn't hurt. In the combined experience of my Girlfriends and myself, none of these milestones is achieved in a day. Not only that, once they are achieved, they can be forgotten entirely and have to be taught again, and again and, well, you get the picture.

    6. During these three years, your child gets a social life. No longer just adorable little koala bearlike appendages hanging on the mama marsupial, toddlers are literally thrusting their way into the world. It's as if there is some irresistible force pulling them away from all that is known and safe, and toward everything that vigilant mothers try to protect them against. There is something achingly symbolic about a baby's learning to walk because with that first step, they are free to walk to whomever they choose. Up until that time, we parents get to make all decisions regarding where they go and who they will meet when they get there.

    Particularly compelling to toddlers are other people, especially other very small people, and this is the source of great fun for us parents. For some reason, we moms are drunkenly enthusiastic about our babies' interest in socializing. Like manic campaign managers of miniature politicians, we become strategists for these barely verbal socialites—spending hours finding playmates for them, scheduling playdates (when in the world did that word come into vogue?), wooing the parents of potential playmates, and getting positively giddy over the giving and attending of the countless birthday, Halloween, Valentine and Groundhog Day parties that are the toddler traditions.

    As attractive as being "one of the gang" might be, learning to coexist with other little heathens can be tough for toddlers. Some kids are as gregarious as game-show hosts, and others have to be pulled screaming from their mothers and pushed into interacting. Some are naturally patient and placid, and others simply can't resist pounding on any kid within reach. Most disconcerting of all, toddlers can morph from being one kind of kid to the exact opposite, so you never know whether it's Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde you'll be letting loose on the playground.

    Helping your toddler adjust to civilization may be the hardest task you will face as a parent. It's just all so personal; love me, love my child. If our child is rejected in any way, we are usually the ones who feel the pain. If our child is the one who is careless about the feelings of others, we are the ones who feel we've failed to teach them any sense of morality. Take it from me, it's particularly difficult with your first toddler because you are so easily shocked by the assaults the world can throw in your darling's path, usually in the form of someone else's little darling. My Girlfriend Karen once called me from her car as she was speeding away from a two-year-olds' gymnastics class. One of the other gymnasts had bitten her little girl right on the face, and Karen didn't know what to do first: call the police or rush for a rabies shot. The bite alone was not what made her mental (although it would have been an acceptable defense for homicide in any mommy court in the land); it was the remark she overheard the biter's mother tell the gym teacher, "She's just overreacting because it's her only child and she doesn't know any better." The implication was clear that a more seasoned mom would take this episode in stride, apply antibiotic cream and ice and get over it. In a way, the other mother had a point, but I didn't think that our car phone conversation was the appropriate time to tell Karen. Instead, I encouraged her outrage and judged the obvious lack of parental supervision of the little heathen. It's only right that we Girlfriends should tell you; the first cut really is the deepest.

    7. Kids this age believe in magic. Reality is a very amorphous concept for a little person who is stepping out into the world for the first time. For example, few things are more wondrous to a toddler than bubbles. They really see these soapy spheres as much more fantastic creations than most adults do, and bubbles never fail to elicit screaming and laughing in a gaggle of two-year-olds. They also think blimps are creations of some wizard, as is whistling or the fact that red and blue paint mixed together makes purple.

    Not coincidentally, this is also the age when we parents start weaving our mythologies about everything from Santa to the Easter Bunny to Mommy the Monster Killer. Getting to participate in making magic is one of the greatest satisfactions of being the parent of a toddler because it wakes up and dusts off our old innocence as true believers. I'm pretty crazy about keeping up the myths, but my husband's even more obsessed than I. He actually goes outside on Christmas morning to bring in snow to sprinkle in front of the fireplace to show Santa's footprints. Normally, you couldn't get him outside in freezing predawn weather even if the house were on fire. He also tells our kids that the jelly beans on the floor on Easter morning are Easter Bunny poops. You gotta love a guy like that.

    Since the true nature of things is still largely unknown to toddlers, even ordinary phenomena like vacuum cleaners, escalators and toilets can look like big scary monsters. You only have to spend a few hours introducing your child to the toilet to be introduced to all sorts of toddler concerns, from a fear that flushing sucks children in to a worry that their beloved poo poos will drown in there and ultimately disappear. This is also the time when struggling actors dressed up as Big Bird or Barney at a toddler birthday party can send some kids running for their therapists. My daughter used to repeat like a mantra the words "It's only peetend, it's only peetend" just to endure the time all seven of Snow White's dwarfs followed her around Disneyland.

    Another aspect of this belief in magic is that toddlers affix special, feel-good powers to otherwise ordinary things, hence the devotion to the blankie or other lovey. Only a mother of a toddler can know panic in its most urgent form: when we have arrived home after a day of at least a thousand errands with toddler in tow, only to discover that the precious magic item has disappeared somewhere along the line. I have literally ripped apart the Yellow Pages in my frenzy to call everyone from the dry cleaner to the beauty supply store to the pediatrician's office to find the missing blankie before bedtime.

**By the way, take this veteran's advice and try to have doubles of any items your toddler has invested with magical powers. It can save your little darling a lot of distress and keep you from going totally gray in an afternoon.

    8. Parents of these little changelings are constantly bewildered. The stakes of rearing a human being are enormous and overwhelming for any thinking person. We frantic mothers can't help but worry that every little decision we make concerning our toddlers will cement their fate as either the next Bill Gates or the next Unabomber. There are so many bizarre child-rearing philosophies floating around that we live in abject terror that we will fail to nip thumb sucking in the bud in time to protect our baby from a future of antisocial behavior.

    Here's the news: Toddlers will learn to accomplish nearly all of the milestones that signify a successful passage through this stage all by themselves. (I know we've told you that already, but we will again, so either sigh a breath of relief or just ignore us.) You can demonstrate the function of a spoon for weeks or you can keep all spoons hidden in the drawer, and when his personal DNA says he's ready for a spoon, he'll quickly figure out how to use a spoon. Really try to hear me when I tell you that you need not teach your child to walk, to climb stairs or to drink out of a cup. There is a force of nature that compels a healthy and stimulated toddler to figure this stuff out on his own. It's that box of fireworks concept again.

    Does that mean you're not needed? Of course not. But your job is not so task-oriented as you might believe. Think of yourself as a sort of cruise director, like that bouncy woman from The Love Boat. Your job is to provide an attractive array of activities or experiences for your toddler. Taking the analogy further, you can show him where the shuffleboard is played and where the sticks are kept, but it's not up to you to repeatedly teach the proper flick of the wrist in making the shot. In fact, if your little cruiser decides to use the shuffleboard pucks as cymbals instead, that's his business. What's needed here is your applause, your encouragement and your best efforts to ensure that the voyage is as safe and loving as possible.

    Please don't think I'm suggesting that toddlers aren't paying attention to you. They are watching you with such intensity it's a wonder you don't catch fire. And here's a little parenting secret for you: they not only watch you, they WORSHIP you. This will not always be the case, so now's your window of opportunity to imprint on your little one's mind all your best habits and behaviors. They'll pick up on all that and much more. Just wait until you catch a glimpse of your toddler pretending to be you in an imaginary phone conversation—it's a hoot! But you do your best toddler teaching through being present, loving and as consistent as possible. This is something quite different from playing "Hooked on Phonics" tapes every time the two of you are in the car (as I confess I did with my oldest).

    Even if your toddler isn't delivering bon mots with the timing of Oscar Wilde, or even stringing two words together, it's time for you to learn the age-old lesson: "Little pitchers have big ears." I may not fully understand the meaning of that cliché, but I can vouch for its truth, which is: Your little one might not be talking, but she sure as heck is listening, and understanding a lot more than you know. In the big picture, it means your toddler is sponging up your "gestalt," the way you feel about her, your level of respect for your mate, the way you address tasks and your disposition. So if your darling's first complete sentence is "You're an ass!" and she says it to her father, don't spend too much time wondering where she learned such trashy talk.

    Later in toddlerhood, your little big-eared pitcher will freely march into preschool and announce that Mommy is just like Luke Skywalker because she is going to the doctor to get her face lasered. The teachers and other moms just love inside scoops like that. I, by the way, have made a pact with my children's teachers not to believe what my kids tell me about them if they promise not to believe what my kids tell them about ME.

    Kids may listen and actually understand many of the words used, but that doesn't mean they pick up the correct nuance or significance. For that reason, you have to be careful not to speak of potentially alarming topics in front of any toddler, even those who can't yet talk. Once, when my oldest was a toddler, my husband and I decided to rent the old surf movie Endless Summer. What a disaster that little trip down memory lane proved to be. Since we live near the beach, I had to spend the next month promising that no big waves were coming to get us.

Perpetual Motion Machines

    Until you have a toddler of your own, other people's stories about how traumatic it was chasing their little wobblers around sound just a tad hysterical. I mean really, how hard can it be to keep up with a tiny person whom any grown-up can outrun in a race? It's when you become the warden of a toddler yourself that you realize speed isn't the issue, it's the length of the race and the unpredictability of the terrain.

    The parents of toddlers are creatures of reaction. When the toddler is in their care, meaning not with a sitter, the grandparents or some very tolerant boarding school, the parents can do little more than run a defensive line around her; after all, she is completely capable of killing the pets, you and herself if left to her own devices. Sure, we all know the delicious moments when they cuddle in our laps to read a picture book or when they learn to sing their first song. But on any given day, most parents of toddlers will agree that a disproportionate amount of time is spent averting a disaster or cleaning up after one. This is called "spontaneity" by people who are so old that they don't really remember their own children as toddlers, but to those of us living it, it's called psychological warfare.

Born to Be Wild

    As someone who would almost always prefer sitting to standing and lying down to sitting, I'm astonished at how compelling the urge to move is in a person who has only recently learned to walk. Once they have felt the wind on their faces and the road beneath their feet, these little scramblers have two speeds, fast asleep or moving quickly. They may sit occasionally, perhaps to eat or to pull everything out of the bottom drawers in your bedroom, but even then their hands are in motion and their eyes are scanning the terrain to see where the next thrill lies.

    My husband and I are still recovering from the L.A.-New York flights we made with little people who were obsessed with walking. Traveling with babies seemed like a day at the beach by comparison. How in the world do you explain about consideration for your fellow travelers or about sudden turbulence to a child who views sitting still on a par with illegal imprisonment? Up and down the aisles we'd walk, constantly apologizing indiscriminately to everyone we met along the way. Even during those few precious moments when we succeeded in getting them to sit in a chair, they would tap their little Stride Rites against the seat back in front of them like a podiatric form of water torture. How we yearned for a child who did nothing more distressing than cry for five straight hours.

Table of Contents

A Word of Thanksxi
Why I Wrote This Book1
Top Ten Toddler Myths6
ONE Who Are These People, Anyway?7
TWO The Social Life of Toddlers31
THREE The Comfort Zone (Or, Binkies, Bankies, Loveys and
FOUR Eating (Or Not)81
FIVE Discipline105
Top Ten Things to Do When Your Toddler Drives You Nuts133
SIX The Potty135
SEVEN Sleepy Time161
Top Ten Toddler Lessons185
EIGHT Fashion187
NINE Toddlers and Babies211
TEN "School Days, School Days"237
Top Ten Things We'll Miss Most About Toddlers253
ELEVEN More Than a Mommy255


On Friday, February 19th, welcomed Vicki Iovine to discuss THE GIRLFRIENDS' GUIDE TO TODDLERS.

Moderator: Welcome, Vicki Iovine! Thank you for taking the time to join us online this afternoon. How are you doing today?

Vicki Iovine: I am tired as usual and getting ready for yet another birthday party. from xx: I love the Girlfriends' Guides. How did you decide to start this series? I love them! Also, do you plan on progressing with the Girlfriends' Guides as you reach different levels of having and raising a child?

Vicki Iovine: I plan to keep writing them until I am so brain-dead that I can't notice what is happening to me. The reason I wrote these books is because 99 percent of the true wisdom I have heard about parenting, and even enjoying it, has come from mothers who have been there and done that.

Maureen from New Jersey: How do you recommend cutting off the pacifier habit?

Vicki Iovine: There are times right now when I wish my pacifier still held its magic. I know mothers hate to see their children with a plug, but don't look at breaking the plug habit, consider seeing why your child needs that extra comfort. When the comfort is there, the plug will go.

Chris from Connecticut: I've read your GUIDE TO TODDLERS and see that you come down very strongly on the side of caution. I applaud you! People often tell me (especially my husband) that I am too cautious. I don't believe you can be too cautious. I'm wondering, however, now that my son is five, what are some of the things parents might overlook now that their child is beyond the toddler years? (Or is that your next book?)

Vicki Iovine: It is my next book, but I will share some now. Five is the age of climbing, breaking bones, and getting feelings hurt. Five-year-olds are old enough to have joined society, with all its glory and gloom. You are as apt to have a five year old come home from school in tears because so and so wasn't nice to him on the playground as you are to get a call from the school nurse. Very complex little people -- five year olds. By the way, the wonder of daddies is that they can introduce the element of risk taking on their watch.

Vikki from Missouri: My grandson is 22 months old, he is wonderful with a very pleasant disposition, unless his mom (my daughter) is around. Then he whines and fusses most of the time. I tell her he doesn't cry or act like that when she is gone. This is very frustrating to both of us. Why would he be so grumpy and fussy with her? She is very gentle and sweet with him. I say spoiled, but what is the solution?

Vicki Iovine: This is an age-old story. I wish I had a dollar for every preschool teacher or babysitter who told me my children were perfect angels around them yet acted satanic around me. Here is my suggestion: Part of this is a phase in which a child is testing to make a split from the single person he relies on most, namely Mom. Without diminishing your role, Grandma, he still needs to work out this most basic kind of independence with the woman who brought him into this world. Poor Mom.

Justine Lowe from Short Hills, New Jersey: Should a parent ever spank a child?

Vicki Iovine: I don't know. In all honesty, I keep telling my children, the oldest of whom is 11, that I still haven't decided whether I believe in spanking or not, so they better watch out. So far, spanking has not been the form of discipline in our home, but that is more because it is my husband's tradition and I feel this has to be a family decision. According to my father, who spanked me three times, spanking is not to teach a lesson, but to get the children's attention so that then you can teach the lesson. It seems to me that the spanking part can be left out if you go to the trouble of removing your child from the offending situation and having your conversation seriously and with consequences. For example, a quick dash to the laundry room, a very serious "no way," and the taking away of a Teletubby video all in one motion tends to work magic around here.

Laurie Jones from Brooklyn, New York: Vicki, I love your books. I saw you in the fall of 1997 while on maternity leave with my first baby on "Oprah" and "Leeza." Actually I only have THE GIRLFRIENDS' GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE FIRST YEAR OF MOTHERHOOD and was so upset that I did not know about the GIRLFRIENDS' GUIDE TO PREGNANCY while I was pregnant, but I tell everyone to read it when I find out that they are. One of the things I'm most looking forward to when I get pregnant again is to read that while I'm pregnant. I just found out about this new book; I am so excited to go buy it tonight. Now, my baby is 16 months old. I have a boy; his name is John Andrew. I can't get him to eat any vegetables, meat, or fresh fruits, or drink milk. All he will eat is grilled cheese, pastina with butter, mashed potatoes, or French toast. Please help me, Vicki! He does eat yogurt, too, and I still give him stage-three fruits but I can't even get him to eat a piece of apple or banana or broccoli.

Vicki Iovine: Boy, does John Andrews sound like a lot of toddlers I know, four of whom I have mothered. My advice for you is twofold: First, trust me when I tell you that your beautiful boy will thrive and grow and become increasingly intelligent on a diet of pastina and French toast because this doesn't last forever. Second, here is a secret: Make a vegetable stock or a vegetable/chicken stock with all of the leftovers in the fridge, stew them all day on a low heat in a soup pot. Right before dinner, when the vegetables and chicken are limp, scoop them out carefully and throw them in the trash. The good stuff is in the water. Make your pastina with that. You will feel like the angels have sung in your kitchen, I promise.

Megan from Williamsburg, Virginia: I babysit for some two kids, ages three and five, and am alarmed at all the junk food their parents buy for them. The kids insist on having chocolate milk before bed, only eat plain noodles for dinner, and then gorge themselves on cookies and candy. I can't lay down any rules because this is what they are used to. I guess I am wondering how important it is to establish good healthy eating habits for your kids early on? Should you just let them eat basically what they want and realize the baby fat will come off later or should you start laying some restrictions? Thanks!

Vicki Iovine: What a difficult position you are in, Megan, because clearly the family has its rules and it is inappropriate for you to change them, no matter how ridiculous they seem to you now. You can, however, feel free to experiment with creative omelettes, or a veggie burger, or even some peas and carrots, and I guarantee if you succeed the mom will be grateful. Unfortunately, this mothering business is a lot easier to criticize from the outside in. My advice to you is pay attention and learn from other people what you think is appropriate parenting so when you have your kids, you might be able to get it a little more right.

Betty Muntz from Columbia, New Jersey: I love the GIRLFRIENDS' guides! I don't have a question, I just wanted to personally thank you for all your help and assistance in such an important part of my life.

Vicki Iovine: Betty, thank you so much for this opportunity to let you and all the other mommies who are my extended girlfriends know how deeply I appreciate your support. If I didn't have these four kids, and an incredibly high-maintenance husband, I would try to write to each and every one of you. As it is, I still haven't begun my thank-you's for Christmas yet. In the meantime, know that I read all of my letters and practically feel I know your babies. And I love you all.

Jackie McTear from Baltimore: Dear Vicky, I'm a work-at-home mom. I spend everyday with my two kids (Sophie is four and Thomas is one). I'm constantly looking for fun, free things to do with my children. Any ideas? Thank you.

Vicki Iovine: Jackie, you may not believe this, but there is actually value in numbers at this age. The kids are not so much interested in sightseeing the Natural History museum for the 30th time as they are in figuring out their place in society. Organize play dates for your kids. I have four children and I guarantee it is easier for me and I also work in my home when there are eight children here. Sure, it takes some extra supervision, but you almost never hear anybody say those dread words, "Mommie, I am so bored."

Kim from Florham Park, New Jersey: Does your book cover bed-wetting? I have a toddler who wets his bed, but I believe he does it more for attention than anything else. What do you recommend?

Vicki Iovine: When toddlers have accidents at night, I don't call it bed-wetting, I call it incomplete potty training. I save the concerns about bed-wetting for the seven, eight, or nine year olds, at which time it is a medical problem best dealt with by your pediatrician -- but back to your toddler. You may be right, that getting you to come in and clean a wet bed looks just like a midnight party to a person only two feet tall. So here are my recommendations: First, stop all liquids after dinner. Second, make sure you have protected that mattress with a waterproof pad. Third, keep the bed-wetting change ritual to a minimum. In other words, no conversation, don't remake the entire bed (put a beach towel down on the wet spot) or better still put a pull up on the child until he stays dry through the night for at least a week. After all, we moms need our beauty sleep too. Besides, I promise he won't be wearing a pull up to college.

Susan from Atlanta: My husband and I have very different attitudes on certain things involving parenting. For starters, he can't stand any mess around. How can you avoid mess with a two-year-old? He's also very protective and I'm not. Any advice for coping with the delightful marital conflict this creates?

Vicki Iovine: First, trust me when I say no parents are completely in sync about the raising of their children. Parenting, like everything else in marriage, is an endless series of compromises. Try to find the time to explain to your husband that while you understand how distracting toddler clutter can be, you would rather focus on reading PAT THE BUNNY to your little one. Then pop him in a playpen while you pull out the Lysol; perhaps he can check in with a little bit of the cleanup (in your dreams), or why don't you compromise by designating one part of your home "Daddy's area" and try to keep it a "child-free zone?" It may just be the bathroom, but hey, he should go in, lock the door, and knock himself out.

Mindy from Rockville, Maryland: What do you think about Barney and Teletubbies? The little kid I know is so attached to them and he is only two. Is it really good to introduce TV to little kids at this age?

Vicki Iovine: I adore Barney and Teletubbies. I don't think I could have balanced my checkbook or returned any calls for four years of my life if it had not been for the free babysitting offered by these fuzzy friends.

Theresse from Denver, Colorado: Hello, Vicky. Do you think the toddler stage is one of the more difficult stages in the raising of kids?

Vicki Iovine: It is certainly the most physically taxing. And it is astonishing to watch a little person who was previously a dependent and adoring little infant morph into a child with opinions and the ability to run faster than you. In retrospect, however, it was one of the more magical times of parenting and I mean that literally. I adored having children who believed that I could kill any monster, that I was the prettiest lady they had ever seen, and that Santa was as real as the nose on my face.

Kristin from Redwood City, California: Besides falling out of the crib ten times, how do you know if your toddler is ready for a bed?

Vicki Iovine: The big decision for me was what the child did after they fell out of the crib. Did they immediately run for the kitchen and grab a sharp object? Did they nurse their wounds in the bedroom or did they come straight to me? If their behavior was somewhat safe, I think he or she should be introduced to a bed. After all, it is a lot shorter way to fall, but don't assume that the switch will be simple and without setbacks. Change of any kind is met with a weary eye by toddlers. So there will be a few sleepless nights for both of you; in the meantime, may I suggest that you pave the way by starting to talk about it in a casual way, once every day or two. You might even go so far as to sit down with a mail-order catalogue and let your toddler pick out sheets for the big kid bed when it comes.

Kristin from Redwood City, California: Is there an excerpt from your book regarding getting your 21 month old to nap? Mine is screaming right now, but will sleep three hours for his part-time nanny! Any suggestions?

Vicki Iovine: I presume your nanny isn't as afraid of crying as you are, they rarely are. I am going to go out on a limb here and assume the nanny puts the baby down at the same time every day and tells the baby to take a nap. Not a bad concept. Perhaps the child knows that tears break your heart and you will come in and rescue him eventually. It is up to you if you want to challenge that notion.

Teresa from Bel Air, Maryland: Hi, Vicky. I want to thank you for helping me survive my first pregnancy (back in 1997) with lots of laughter. On those days when I was feeling not so attractive and was swinging with the mood of the moment, I would get out your book GIRLFRIENDS' GUIDE TO PREGNANCY and read new chapters or reread previous chapters. It really helped me! With my daughter, Taylor, now two years old, I really need your new book! She is quite a challenge most days, but then quite the angel some days. I swear I think she's having her own mood swings (must have been that epidural!). My question to you is what do you recommend I do when I feel like I'm going to lose all of my patience with her? I've been so tempted to call my dear husband and say, "Come home now and claim your child!" How do you, the mother of four (God help you), handle keeping your patience? Thanks for your response. Keep up the outstanding work you are doing. I look forward to reading your new book and to continue reading your columns in the numerous magazines for which you write.

Vicki Iovine: Thank you for the nice words. Here are a few of my survival kicks: When you feel like drop-kicking the toddler, put her in a playpen or on the floor (in a secluded area), then pick out the most rocking dance CD you own, put it on to just short of deafening level, and start dancing. Dance with the baby or without the baby. Sing, scream! Another trick is to get outside. Cabin fever is a big complaint of moms of toddlers. Go for a brisk walk or go for a drive. Third thing, eat something -- you may be getting hypoglycemic and may not know it. Mothers cannot survive off of leftover tater tots. Fourth, call a girlfriend with a toddler and beg her to come over this minute. The toddlers can go after each other and the two of you can have some tea and gripe; it does wonders for the mood. By the way, along that line, I joined every parent-taught-mommie-and-me group in my neighborhood, not for the kids but so I would be surrounded by understanding women, and it worked like a charm.

Moderator: This has been so much fun, Vicki! Thanks for all the great tips on raising toddlers. Do you have any closing comments for your online audience this afternoon?

Vicki Iovine: My mantra these days is to try to treasure the special moments when I am experiencing them, not when I am watching the home videos in ten years. I will let you know how I do; in the meantime, keep reading.


As the author of the wildly popular Girlfriends' Guides and a monthly column for Child magazine, Vicki Iovine helps mothers through all the difficult decisions a parent must face every day. Iovine is the mother of four children, ages four, six, eight, and ten, and she tells mothers what they need to know -- straight-from-the-hip survival tips from one who has been there.

With her Girlfriends' Guides, Iovine has assisted hundreds of thousands of women with pregnancy and the first year of motherhood, and now, with The Girlfriends' Guide To Toddlers, she shares her strategies for the next challenging stage of a mother's life. Iovine offers secrets for surviving toddlerhood with the toddler and mother still intact, providing invaluable guidance and advice -- based on her own experiences and those of her girlfriends -- with her trademark dose of humor.

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The Girlfriends Guide to Toddlers: A Survival Manual to the Terrible Two's (and Ones and Threes) From the First Step, the First Potty and the First Wo 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Vickie Iovine's advice is so heartfelt, honest, and funny that I can't think of a single real-world person who wouldn't benefit from reading this book. She openly says that her advice is not medical, but is just what she experienced and how she coped. People looking for a more 'traditional' book probably won't be pleased, but for the rest of us irreverent types, it is a breath of fresh air.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really like Vicki's sense of humor. She lets you know for sure that you are not the only one that has problems with your toddlers. She offers a variety of sensible strategies to choose from. She is not afraid to share in her book some of her own embarrassing, angry moments with her kids; and I find that very comforting. Her book is fun to read with its friendly "girltalk" style that most moms (or dads) with toddlers can relate to. It feels good to know that other kids say and do things that challenge their parent's sanity and that all of us regret what we say and do from time to time. I also recommend "The Pocket Parent" which has a similar compassionate neighborly tone, as well as a variety of personal short anecdotes from the authors... however it has far more "meat" as far as specific bullets of helpful tips arranged in 40 easy reference topics (such as bad words, bedtime, biting, hitting and hurting others, interrupting, mealtime, morning crazies, the gimmes, separation anxiety, and whining). Both books give lots of support, a good dose of humor and sensible advice without being preachy nor condescending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a huge fan of all of Vicki's books but this one is the most funny and you really need that sometimes. I literally laugh out loud while I am reading it and it's so funny I am in tears! People that want something serious can go and buy other parenting books or read Parent magazines. Vicki does not claim to be an expert. She's just a mother who has been through it all and I enjoy her books and would recommend them to all mothers of those very active toddlers. I look forward to more of Vicki's books.
cmartin21 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you can read this book without feeling in danger of losing all bladder control then you've obviously never dealt with a toddler. Iovine describes the daily joys and frustrations of navigating this stage of development in a child's life with so much humor and warmth that you sincerely feel as though you are one of her girlfriends chatting on the phone about your day. A must-read for any mother of preschoolers.
jianlyn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Humorously written book organized by different "problems", providing lots of advice on how to deal with the not so pleasant behavior of toddlers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have a girlfrind
DanielleAM More than 1 year ago
This was the only book I read that seemed like the author actually lived a real life with a toddler. I could relate to just about every scenario shared. Reading the book is like having a conversation with an old friend...very comfortable and familiar. This is a must have for any mother of a toddler. It contained plenty of sound advice, tips and tricks, and reassurance that your child will survive your parenting (I needed that)! I think it's best to give it to a mom before the toddler phase kicks in and they can steal a few minutes to read here and there before having to put on the running shoes to keep up with their little one.
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Iris31415 More than 1 year ago
I love Vicki Iovine books. This book discusses important topics in a way that makes me less stressed. Is my kid the only one who bites? When should I potty train? What are night terrors? I find her books great fun to read. Most other advice books about children usually end up making me feel worse. In addition, this book gives practical advice about how to address the issue. I've given this book as a gift to many friends and find myself re-reading sections once in awhile. I definitely recommend this book to anyone with kids age 1 to 3.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I recently bought a bunch of toddler books and thought I would enjoy this one for a laugh with some learning thrown in. However, I did not like the tone of the book and found it hard to read. Overall not impressed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Daphne2007 More than 1 year ago
Let's face it, while most of us enjoy being mothers, there are those days when our entire household becomes "terrible". Just because we find humor and sometimes need perspective in dealing with motherhood doesn't mean we don't love motherhood and/or our children any less - it just means we're normal. This book is definitely for those of us who are able to find humor in motherhood, are not perfect and are able to laugh at ourselves on a regular basis.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I have a 3 year old son, and after a bad day with him, I open this book and laugh so hard, my stomach hurts and tears are streaming down my face!!! This mother of 4 has been there, and though it isn't typical advice she gives or advice from your pediatrician's office, it is good, common sense advice of what worked for her. It is extremely funny. And, yes, answers from her don't come easy without a story behind it. But it is exactly what I needed after a hard day with a toddler. This is the first of the group I had received, and if I'd have known about her books before, I would have made a point to purchase them. This book is awesome!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I've had a really bad day, I open up this book and find myself suddenly feeling better about my parenting challenge of the moment...and that girlfriends, may not surprise you...except for the fact that I'm a DAD! Yes, I too, appreciate the tips, the humor, and the compassion that has helped to build my confidence that I am a good parent. I am not a stay at home dad, but my wife travels with her job and I often spend challenging, busy evenings with my one-, three- and five-year-old sons. Another very helpful book that I keep handy with the same friendly, compassionte tone is called THE POCKET PARENT. Literally pocket-sized, this book addresses 2- to 5-year-old behaviors and issues in a quick-read A-Z format. I enjoy the many Daddy anecdotes included in this book which I can totally relate to. Many dads are in my shoes, doing the majority of raising their young children. We sometimes feel lonely and confused when things get frustrating. We welcome kind reassurance that we're on the right track and THE POCKET PARENT along with THE GIRLFRIENDS' BOOKS have restored my sanity-many, many times. My sincere thanks to the girlfriend authors of both books from one very grateful 'boyfriend'!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Vicki will always be Vicki. She needs to become a stand up comedy personality instead of trying to give insightful parenting tips. Does anyone ever take her seriously? I have 5 kids and need answers now, not jokes. We got several books as gifts but this is not one of our favorites.
Guest More than 1 year ago
To begin with, any mother that calls her kids' first years 'terrible' isn't really enjoying motherhood. So why write about it? I don't get it. Instead of seeing the beauty in being a mother, and being proud when her child stands firm and becomes assertive, she complains. Is it really so bad being a mother? Come on.