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It can be quite a shock when your placid cherub turns into a tantrum-throwing terror overnight. Here's how to help your toddler through the stroppy stage…
That's not my child
It's part of growing up and your toddler is now at the age where if they don't get what they want it can end in a screaming fit, most likely in a public place. Acceptalbe behaviour is taught using rules and guidelines and for toddlers there is no one better to do this than you. Here are some quick tips on developing boundaries and teaching that actions have consequences while giving your child the respect to build their self-esteem.
Pick your battles and don't sweat the small stuff
Let's face it there are going to be sometimes that you are not going to win the battle. So save your sanity and choose what is really important to you and your partner. Besides if you're stuck on picking up on every single thing your child does wrong, you'll create a child who has no faith in himself – and if he can't ever please you, he'll stop trying.
Lower your expectations
Toddlers are by nature noisy, dirty, messy and accident-prone. It's silly to expect a two-year-old to handle cutlery like an adult and playing in mud can be a favourite pastime of the toddler so dress them in clothes that suit their nature and get down to their level sometimes and understand their point of view.
Tell them what you want them to do
A toddler can usually only focus on one thing at a time, so when they are about to touch something dangerous it is hard not to scream Don't. They may stop or hesitate doing it but they need to be told at the same time what they are supposed to do instead. So instead of using the word don't: 'don't touch that', be positive and say 'play with this one instead as that one is dangerous' etc. Or simply instead of 'Don't put that in your mouth' say 'take that out of your mouth'.
Divert and Distract
The best way to stop a screaming fit before it starts is to start asking a question like; 'where has teddy bear gone'? Or 'Is that daddy outside?' Divert and distract sounds like a covert operation but it will be your greatest weapon.
Ignore sibling squabbles
Turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to as much squabbling as you possibly can as It's amazing how few fights take place without an audience!
Say NO to NO
If you use NO all the time, it quickly loses its impact. A child can become bored by an endless stream of 'nos' and if he learns early on to ignore the word 'no', you'll have a much more difficult time establishing your authority. How can you turn it around? Swap the 'no' for a 'yes'. So, for example, change 'No, you can't have that pen' to 'Yes, you can have that pen when your brother has finished with it'.
Confirm good behaviour
Sometimes we can be so focused on what our children are doing wrong, we don't notice when they do things right. Let them know all the time when there are behaving how you like them too by saying 'I really like it when you do that' or 'you make mummy very happy when you share like that'.
Always offer options that produce the result you're after! Only offer two options of which you wouldn't mind if they choose either. For example, 'do you want to wear the pink or the green dress?', or 'would you like an orange or an apple?'
Attention seeking behaviour
If you find you have to tell your child the same thing over and over, it may be because they enjoy the reaction they get from you. Toddlers trying to find what buttons to push will be watching your reaction as they continue to do something you have asked them not to. Turn 'their game' into asking them to do something else that will give them a positive reaction from you.
If getting ready in the mornings are your battleground, it is probably due to the fact that toddlers don't have much of a concept of time and your attention is possibly elsewhere. Before you start giving them a list of to-dos, make sure you are prepared – maybe you have to get up a littler earlier. Devote time to setting each task as part of a routine with them, praising them as they eat, wash and dress, they will get soon get the hang of doing it on their own later.
Companies pay big money for marketing in stores to attract kids to their products and it is one of the most common places when a child is frustrated being stuck in a trolley to have a tantrum over a toy or lolly. Avoid taking your child if they are tired, hungry or bored, and make sure you engage them in the shopping activities to help distract them. Better yet, shop without them or online.
From picking their nose to punching/biting other children, when it is not good behaviour, it is important to simply state the fact that 'it is not acceptable'. Be calm and clear and repeat as often as necessary and show them how they should behave (using a tissue, or how to be kind to others).
Just as you would say excuse me to a friend when answering the phone, acknowledge to your toddler that you are taking a call and will be back with them soon. Or if they come and ask you questions when you are on the phone, put a hand on them acknowledging that you are aware of their request and explain calmly that you will be with them shortly.
Lead by example
There is no point giving a toddler huge lectures as they are not going to follow everything you say, so the best way to teach a child behaviour is by example. To undertand what is is what is expected of them, don't let you child see you do the things you have asked them not to. Always follow through with your threats and if you say please and thank you as often as you ask them to, they will soon follow.