You want your child to be active, independent, and curious—just not when it's time to change his diaper. "When a child gains his walking legs—and the freedom that comes with them—he doesn't want anything holding him back, especially a parent who wants him to lie still for a diaper change," says Arleen Portell Elizondo, a pediatric clinical nurse specialist in San Antonio. Those legs are like a new toy. Your toddler wants to use them all the time, to move around, to learn about his world, and, literally, to reach new heights.
Power struggles with toddlers are usually frustrating; diapering struggles can be messy, even dangerous, if they take place on a changing table where a child can fall. If your toddler challenges you at changing time, you have to be prepared, quick, and entertaining.
If you have a squirmy child, you can eliminate any chance of a fall by putting a changing pad on the floor and taking care of business there. For some children, just the absence of that dreaded changing table ends the fight. You may find you're faster on the floor, too—and the less time your child is on his back, the happier he'll be. With your child down low, you don't have to hold him to keep him from falling or jumping off. Both hands are free for faster changing.
If you're more comfortable changing on higher ground, move to a bigger surface. Create a changing spot by placing a towel or changing pad on a bed, as far away from the edge as possible. If your child still sleeps in a crib, all the better. The railings, even when they're down, give added protection from falls.
Don't abruptly pull your child away from a toy or game to change his diaper. He'll resist even harder if you snatch him from the fun. Ease into it. Give notice that changing time is coming up as soon as you get the changing area ready or as soon as you finish loading the dishwasher, folding laundry, or some other short task. Young children can't yet grasp on the concept of time, so they won't respond to a five-minute warning.
Ask for Help
Toddlers are creatures of habit. They also want to have some control in their lives. Elizondo says if you combine those two elements, you're in for a smooth change. "Set a changing time routine and give your child a task so he can participate in the process," she suggests. "He feels involved, knows what to expect, and will be more likely to cooperate." Let your child turn the light on when you go into the room to change him. Ask him to give you a clean diaper or open the container of wipes. You always want to have supplies in the same spot so you can quickly grab what you need, so ask your child to line up the diaper, wipes, and lotion, or have him check to make sure they are in place.