Imagine the scene your beautiful baby who just wants to be comfortable, fed, loved and to sleep has overnight changed into a small child with a huge personality and their own agenda - what's more this tiny being has a way of ensuring that what they want is impossible to ignore. Sometimes it can feel as if life is just one long battle from getting dressed in the morning through to bedtime and all the hours in-between.
The first thing to remember is you're the adult in the relationship and although sometimes it's difficult to stay in control of your emotions, it is essential to act as a good role model for your child. You can't change the behaviour of your toddler by yelling at them but you can if you stay calm and rational. It may help to remember that although it feels as if your toddler is being deliberately challenging, actually what's happening is they're learning to be independent.
Secondly remember consistency and firm boundaries are everything,this does not just mean you maintaining a consistent approach but also all the other adults involved in your child's upbringing. I once overheard two siblings, aged three and five, having an in depth conversation. The five year old was trying to persuade the three year old to ask the Mother if they could go swimming, after the Mother had already said, "No!".
The three year old then replied, "No it was Mummy said no, not Daddy". This short conversation revealed that already the children had worked out that Mummy was more consistent in her approach whereas Daddy might be persuaded to change his mind.
The third point I would make is keep it positive and let's face it this is easier said that done. Looking for and praising the behaviour which you want to encourage makes for a more positive approach to parenting. Sometimes however Time out is needed; time out should not be seen as punishment but as a break for both parent and child. Ensure your home has a 'time out' area such as a chair, bean bag or even the bottom stair. This is an area where your child has no distractions and can be encouraged to think about the effect of their actions. It's also a time to reflect on whether you as a parent could have behaved differently and avoided the meltdown. Mostly this tantrum would have happened however you had behaved but sometimes, like most obstacles in life, there was a better way of tackling it.
Avoiding Temper Tantrums
Toddlers live in the moment; As a result they don't yet consider the future (or even the past most of the time) so this is why if they want something it needs to be now!
Tantrums will often occur if your child is tired or hungry so make sure that you consider these factors before undertaking a potentially traumatic trip such as going to the supermarket!
Additionally look for the warning signs. You know your child best of all and so you are the expert in identifying what triggers a tantrum. Having established this though do not say within your child's hearing' "He doesn't like going in the buggy so he'll have a tantrum." This is the equivalent to creating a self-fulfilled prophesy because you've just given your child the idea, even if it wasn't there before, that going in the buggy causes a tantrum.
Tantrums are usually caused by Boredom, frustration, hunger or tiredness. The last two are easy to deal with. If your child is hungry, feed him and if he's tired let him sleep or change the activity to one which is less demanding. Frustration often occurs when a child is trying to do something beyond their ability. By supporting them with the task or making the task more manageable a full blown tantrum will be avoided. Equally if a child is bored, encourage them to move to a different activity. Distraction can also be very powerful. If you think your child is about to have a tantrum divert their attention with an activity that you know your child will enjoy.
Avoiding food Fights
As already established, toddlers are a law unto themselves and it is difficult to understand how they can go from eating everything that you've put in front of them to picky eaters, seemingly overnight. It is another way of establishing their independence and something that they can easily have some control over - but it doesn't need to be complete control.
Provide your toddler with healthy meals which they enjoy. Present them in a fun way and allow them to eat them independently. Put a cloth under their chair / highchair if you're worried about the mess. Toddlers can be encouraged to use cutlery but using fingers too is not a crime; as your toddler becomes more dexterous, using cutlery can be further encouraged. As parents we can become concerned that our child will not eat enough and will become malnourished. Reassure yourself a healthy toddler will not starve themselves and they will quickly learn that feelings of hunger are unpleasant. Encourage your child to eat with the promise of a healthy treat but do not make the mistake of making only unhealthy foods a treat. Praise your toddler when they eat their meals but try not to get angry or anxious when they do not. Calmly remove the meal and allow your child to leave the table.
In order to avoid battles at bedtime it is essential to have a regular routine which is calming and enjoyable. Make sure the bedroom is somewhere your toddler feels happy and safe, not as an Ensure that your Toddler has had an active day so that they are tired and ready to go to sleep. Start the bedtime routine at the same time each day and if possible avoid screens and sugary snacks, which will hype your child up before bed. Be firm but calm with your toddler, you are the adult. If they say they're not tired, reassure them that that's okay but it's still bedtime. The bedtime routine I've used is bath, a drink of milk / water, teeth, story, night-time but choose what works for you. After you've said goodnight quiet calming music can encourage them to be less upset about you saying Goodnight. If your child worries about darkness let them have a night light or leave a light on outside their room.
It is essential to remember you are in charge. Make sure when following the routine you give clear instructions not choices. We're going to not shall we. Battles such as cleaning teeth can be overcome by sharing the responsibility; e.g. your turn, Daddy's / Mummy's turn.
If your toddler is waking at night it's a habit that can be broken. Firstly it's important to ascertain if there is a reason why your child is waking. Toddlers have a vivid imagination and can experience nightmares which they are convinced are real. Reassure your child that it isn't real and allow them to talk about them if they want to. Reassure your child and then leave them to go back to sleep.
If waking has become a habit; again it is essential to remain consistent and calm. When your child cries out, don't go in immediately, wait and see if they settle again. If they don't, go to them but encourage them to lie back down and return to sleep. It's so hard when you're exhausted from a busy day to just gather them up and take them into bed with you or take them downstairs but this will just encourage your toddler to wake in the night and will be a much harder habit to break.
The most important thing to remember is that you are the expert on your toddler and you must parent your child in a way that feels right for you. When reflecting on your experiences it will be important to feel that you were the parent you wanted to be. Make sure that when shopping there are no time pressures. Sit your toddler in the trolley and chat about the process as you move from isle to isle. Include your toddler in simple decisions where the outcome is of no importance to you, e.g. shall we buy red apples or green apples? Have toys / books available which are suitable for use in the trolley so that your toddler is less likely to get bored. A healthy snack and drink might be a good idea too. Most importantly complete the task as quickly as is feasibly possible.
Remember the supermarket is full of temptation. We as adults often give into temptation and put something into the trolley, which we never intended to buy. Toddlers use tantrums to let you know exactly what they want to put in the trolley. They have no interest in how much sugar or how many additives there are, they're living in the moment and they want it NOW! When this happens, stay calm and consistent. The last thing you want to happen is for your toddler to learn that throwing a tantrum gets him /her their own way. Explain why you are saying No and distract them with an alternative which you are happy to buy or something to look forward to later.
Like adults some toddlers find it easy to be sociable whilst others find it more difficult. Attending places where your child can learn social skills is vital. If your child finds socialising tricky and can exhibit anti-social habits such as hurting other children or snatching it can be tempting to stay at home. If you give in and stay at home - how will your child learn how to socialise in an acceptable way? When entering a social environment make sure you are acting as a role model, allow your child to see you interacting with others and enjoying the experience.
If your child finds it difficult to share give them opportunities to practise. Play games at home where you take it in turns. Invite other parents wIth toddlers around to play and when your child tries to snatch a toy calmly explain that the other child was playing with it and use a visual timer to time the other child's turn explaining that it will be their turn next. If your child has a particular favourite toy, don't expect them to share that but help your child to put that toy into a 'safe place' before the guests arrive. When in more public places, such as a toddler group, and your child takes a toy from another child; intervene quickly and calmly. Explain that they can play with the toy when the other child has finished and distract them with another toy which you know they enjoy.
If your child hits out or bites other children it is important to remain consistent. Ensure that other adults know how you deal with these behaviours and ensure that they respond in the same way. Remain vigilant and look for signs which demonstrate that your child maybe about to behave in an aggressive way and intervene by distracting their attention with another toy / activity. If your child does behave in an aggressive way, this is perfectly natural although it can obviously be an embarrassment too. Remove your child firmly from the situation and explain that we do not bite / kick/ hit because it's unkind then give your toddler timeout. Don't worry about what other parents are thinking, they will probably be impressed by your calm and firm approach. if you did not have the chance to apologise at the time of the event, seek the adult and make your apologies then, this will help you to draw a line under this event.
Finally remember that in the toddler world everything is black and white therefore do not allow anything to happen at home that you will be mortified by if happens in public. If you want your toddler to know how to behave and to have good manners, it's down to you setting a good example. You are the centre of your toddler's world and therefore you are the person they will want to emulate.
Having a toddler in the house can be a very frustrating time but it can also be enjoyable and fun. Your son or daughter is learning to be an individual. Staying calm and consistent whilst enjoying spending time playing and exploring with them can be one of the most rewarding parts of being a parent.
# be the parent you want to be.
# build the relationship now that you want to share in the future