Parenting expert and author Rachel Waddilove offers advice on how to survive the toddler years.

Despite being less than half our size, toddlers wield a disproportionate amount of power in most households. But how do they gain this power? For starters, they can publicly mortify even the most self-assured of parents. They are mastering the art of language, which is cute and endearing, but also means they can talk, or worse, whine. Non-stop. They can be exhausting, frustrating, demanding, or all this, all at the same time. More than likely, at some point during the toddler years, as a parent you will stop and think, “When did my beautiful little cherub turn into this Tasmanian devil I see before me?''

Rachel Waddilove, successful author of two essential parenting guides, including The Toddler Book – How to Enjoy Your Growing Child (Lion Hudson), is a calm voice of wisdom and knowledge for parents getting to grips with their ever-developing child. With over 40 years of parenting experience – as a mother, grandmother and looking after other people's children – and with her own parenting consultancy service in the UK through which she still works with families, Rachel is full of understanding and good advice. Aquarius met up with her in Dubai for some top toddler tips.

Q. What is the key piece of advice you would give to the parents of a toddler?

A. “The job you are doing as a parent is the most important job you will ever do in your life, and you are the only ones who can do it. Remember that nobody can do this job better than you and, although there are days when everything feels like a battle with your toddler and you feel like a failure as a parent, there is always the chance to start again the next day.''

Q: What are your top five tips for managing a toddler?

A: “Well, my first tip would be to remember that your child needs time and attention. It's awfully easy these days to be busy and tired and to fob a toddler off when really they just want you to pay them some attention. When you are dealing with a toddler, you need to get down to their level and look them in the eyes – it's amazing what eye-contact and a cuddle will do for a toddler. Also, make time to play with your child as it means a huge amount to them. By spending time doing something they enjoy, you make them feel loved.

“My second tip is to help your child get a good night's sleep – I am a great believer in children sleeping. If your child is fit and healthy, and everything is fine at home, he should be sleeping well. If he is ill or if there is a new baby in the family, he may start waking up or want to sleep in your bed, but try to get him back into his own bed as soon as you can as these habits form easily. From the age of two, children will start having dreams and nightmares which also may wake them and they may need a cuddle and settling back to sleep in their own bed.

“Tip three: toddlers can be notoriously bad eaters from the age of one onwards and your child is likely to go off food at some stage during toddlerhood. Don't be alarmed if this happens, it's perfectly normal and they can survive on very little. I would advise parents in this instance not to get stressed over what your child isn't eating and rather to focus on what your child is eating. Nearly all children will eat a good breakfast and you may find that's the only meal they eat in a day. But some days they will eat more than others so if you are feeling worried, write down everything your child eats in one week – at the end of the week you'll look back and be surprised how much they have eaten. Remember that children will go off food if ill, cutting teeth, when there is a new baby or just for being a toddler.

“My next tip would be to know your boundaries and stick to them. Each couple has their own ideas about what's acceptable behaviour and what's not, and from the age of one your child will start trying to push these boundaries.

“My final tip would be to make sure that as parents you get time together away from your child. Don't get too bogged down in family life. Being a parent can be exhausting and stressful and frustrating – so you need to make time for yourself and each other.''

Q: What are the most common mistakes people make with toddlers?

A: “Giving in to them – you may be tired and fed up, or distracted, and maybe you give in to your toddler's demands just to get a bit of peace, but this will just encourage demanding behaviour in a child. Also, parents of toddlers must be careful what they say in front of their toddler, because they hear everything even if you think they are not listening or won't understand. Be careful how you talk about your toddler – don't be negative about her when she can hear as it will make her feel sad and will only make her behaviour worse. Talk positively about your child in front of them – you can say what you like later once they have gone to bed.''

Q: What is the best way to deal with bad behaviour?

“The first step should be to warn your child that she will get in trouble if she continues. Step two, remove the child from where she is – being removed is a really good punishment for a child as they don't like missing out on what's going on. Try putting her on the bottom of the stairs or pop him/her in the cot for a few minutes. Get them to say sorry even if they are very small – it will help them learn how to resolve issues.''

Q: What is your golden rule for parents struggling with the terrible twos?

A: “I am a huge fan of positive parenting so instead of saying ‘no' all the time, I would try to encourage good behaviour by praising him when he is well behaved. Try to give far more attention to the things you like him doing than to the things you don't so that by the end of the day he has heard more words of positive encouragement than negative words. One of the main needs that toddlers have is to be noticed by their parents – if you only notice when he is being naughty, he may settle for that. The antidote for this is to spend small amounts of time giving him your undivided attention.''

Q: How can I help my toddler deal with the upheaval of a new sibling?

A: “It's a tough time for toddlers when there is a new baby in the house. All of a sudden there is a new person in their little world who is taking up Mummy's time – especially if she is breastfeeding. So they are feeling that things aren't quite what they used to be. Your toddler may start waking during the night and may show signs of jealousy during the day, which generally comes out as hitting Mummy. Some toddlers may throw things into the cot – safety is a major issue when it comes to toddlers and a new baby. One of the most important things you can do is to involve your toddler in all you do with the baby and encourage them to have a special role as a big brother of sister. New babies often gets lots of presents and your toddler may feel left out, so a good idea is to buy a present and give it to your child ‘from the baby'.''

Q: What are your top tips for potty training?

A: “Get your child familiar with going to the loo by letting her come into the toilet with you – you'll be amazed how quickly she will learn from this. Pop your child onto the potty regularly – roughly at 45-minute intervals, after drinks and when she first wakes up. Also, try not to worry if potty training is taking longer than you thought.''

Q: What are the five most important toys I should invest in for my toddler?

A: “Books, plenty of books. Toddlers enjoy picture books about every day objects and animal books – you can practice making the animal noises with your child, which may well be some of his first few words. Stacking cups are wonderful for toddlers. So are push-along toys or ride-on toys, tea sets, and a dressing up box.''

Q: . Are there any positive points to look forward to in the toddler years?

A. “In a lot of ways things are easier because they are on three meals a day, you can take them to restaurants… but you need to make sure they still have a structure and that they get up at the same time, have a nap at the same time and go to bed at the same time. Some parents have seen awful behaviour in other people's toddlers and are anxious about their child becoming a toddler, but they shouldn't worry because toddlers are really lovely. They can talk, they laugh – and they make you laugh because they are so much fun. And they can love you back, so it's a very rewarding time.''