25 June, 2009


Toddler Taming

sisters playingA psychiatrist once said that most toddlers fit the description of a psychopath. Most psychopaths would take exception to this! The toddler stage can be tough, but they can also be adorable. Here's how to control those tantrums - it will help in the long run.

When your baby gets on the move and becomes a toddler it is likely that he/she will begin to place even more demands on you and your time. Every child is different, however the toddler stage is often referred to as the "terrible twos", with many of your child's behaviours being labelled as naughty from the very first day.

You may find that your child's behaviour is often difficult to understand. What is actually quite normal behaviour can often be interpreted as naughty or disobedient. Refusing to go to bed, playing up at meal times, crying when you leave the room, biting or hitting siblings and other children, having tantrums, and all sorts of other disruptive behaviour are all common at this stage. Stressed parents are also common at this stage, and understandably so!!

Understanding Is The First Step
The first and main way of coping with this difficult behaviour is understanding, for both you and your toddler:

child on mothers shoulder

Understanding your Toddler -
If you can understand why your child is behaving like he or she is you are less likely to react negatively. The toddler stage is a time of exploration. Your child is exploring its world, learning to become independent, and testing their, and your, limits. You are likely to note that all children are different. You may have had one really "good" child, but your second is really "naughty". This is because each child is different, with different personalities and needs. Some need more or less sleep, and others are more sociable or confident.

Your Toddler Understanding You -
Don't just shout. All this does is frighten and confuse your child. Toddlers are generally reasoning human beings - reason with them. This may take some time and effort and requires a calm approach. Crouch down to their eye level, explain what they are doing wrong and why it makes you sad or angry.

Try to provide a positive rather than a negative - "please sit down", rather than "stop running around".

Make sure they know what you want - be generous with praise when they are "good" - "good girl, that was really good, you came straight away!"

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Tantrum Control
Research shows that the majority of children have a tantrum at least once a week. Conflict with parents is the major cause of tantrums, with eating coming in at number one, being put into the buggy, car seat or highchair second, and dressing coming a close third. Recognise anything here? There are also peak times when tantrums are more likely to occur - late morning and early evenings are more common, indicating the child being tired or hungry may contribute towards the tantrum. Lets face it, we all get grouchy when we're tired or hungry, and if someone tries to make us do something we don't want to do, well it's no surprise the phrase "throwing your toys out of the pram" was invented!

Prevention Is Better Than Cure...
If you can see a source of conflict coming, look at ways in which you can avoid or defuse it.

  • Try turning what you want them to do into an adventure, or game, i.e. "lets strap you into your rocket / jet", followed by encouraging your toddler to make jet / rocket noises as you push them, rather than just "get into your buggy".
  • Distraction is always a winner - I.e. "can you hold this book" (whilst you strap them into the car seat).

Bribery by any other name, "if you sit quietly in the shopping trolley, you can choose what biscuits we have".

child on mothers shoulder with sister in background

5 Fortified Sources Of Tantrums
Your toddler doesn't throw a tantrum for entertainment. He or she would rather be doing other things. In fact it is often the desire to do the other things that cause the tantrums. Here's some triggers...

  • Frustration - ever experienced frustration and wanted to really scream your head off? You probably have, especially if you are a parent! Your little darling is no different, except he or she does not have the advantage of life experience that helps them keep their temper. Toddlers are always trying to do new things, and often have to try frequently before succeeding. This is often a trigger for tantrums. You may actually be a source of frustration, especially if you don't listen to them.

  • Attention!!! - Not always the main cause, but a main contributor. Pay attention and you will save yourself a lot of headaches.

  • Wanting something - ever wanted something you can't have? BMW, Mercedes or Mini…PC, Laptop, or mobile…we can't have everything, and as adults we can logically understand this, although how many of us still feel frustrated? Try being two years old, two feet tall, with only limited understanding…not easy! Don't let it turn into a battle, try distraction.

  • Getting their way - Children continually try to prove their independence, and the toddler stage is only the beginning. Frustration can often turn to tantrums when they feel their independence is being impinged upon. Such as you, understandably, not letting them wear shorts to go out in sub-zero conditions.

  • Feeling overwhelmed - ever felt that life is just too complicated? Felt overloaded by life's demands at work and home? Two-year-olds often experience this very feeling, but with the perspective and coping abilities of a toddler. The world can be a scary and confusing place, and making sense of it all can leave little Billy ready to scream, understandably.

child with teddybear

If The Tantrum Starts
The three methods above can still, and often do, still work. However it's primarily about how you respond to your toddler that will govern how things go. Here are some more tips to managing you mini-maniac!

  • Count to Ten - if little Billy is throwing a wobbly, the worst thing you can do is join him. He's the child, you're the adult, therefore breath deeply, count to ten and try a different approach. Shouting, or worse smacking, will only frighten Billy and make things worse.

  • Chill - your toddler is trying to make sense of an adult world, but is unable to reason in an adult way. Some parents find seeing the funny side of things helps. Laughter can aid toddler discipline if used properly, and can defuse tense situations. A laugh and a tickle can prevent you all having to have an unwinnable battle over something that really isn't worth fighting over.

  • TLC - Tender Loving Care - Holding little Sally close and speaking calmly, reassuring her that you love her and that she's special, explaining that what she's done is naughty is mainly more effective than shouting, and is less likely to frighten Sally, and will also develop stronger parent / child bonds. A quiet word, whispered in the ear, is more likely to be listened to than repeated shouting.

  • Manic Mantras - Keep reminding yourself that little Tommy is not the son of Satan, and that it is perfectly normal for toddlers to test everything to destruction - especially your patience.

reading time

Terrific Twos
Forget the Terrible Twos - think positively, this is a time when your child develops, grows and learns so much - let's call it Terrific Twos!!

Points to note when considering what's terrible and what's terrific...

  • Children under 3 do not have the ability to share - as they do not understand concepts like mine, yours or ours. Therefore changing your expectations will stop you getting stressed and your child getting upset.

  • They see themselves as the very centre of the universe, their universe. To them, their needs are more important than anything you can come up with, including getting in the buggy.

  • When you are two feet tall and the world is full of giants, your own emotions can be huge. Toddlers feel their emotions more keenly than adults, responding to them and expressing more openly and dramatically than grown ups. This is quite normal.

  • The toddler stage is between the baby stage and the more independent stages, as the child gets older. This means they tend to swing from establishing independence to wanting to be "babied". This is somewhat unpredictable, but bear with them - this is normal.

It Doesn't Have To Be All Bad!
Sometimes it can feel like you are doing little more than crowd control - waiting for that moment when they are asleep and you can catch your breath. Don't let this feeling make you miss the pleasure of the simple things in life. Your toddler loves you, you are almost everything to them, be with them and enjoy the simple things. This can introduce a more positive cycle of events and behaviours into your home. Try these for size:

Get some empty cardboard boxes (the supermarket is a good source) and make cars, boats, houses and rockets. You don't have to be a Blue Peter presenter to be able to do this - often imagination is enough.

Prioritise - not all things really need ironing. Your toddler is far less likely to remember, or benefit from having freshly pressed pyjamas than they would having ten minutes extra play with you.

Be a child - sometimes it is difficult to really understand the joy of a balloon when you're grown up. Let the world go and be with your child, as a child, you will feel the benefit.

Don't forget the good points - there are far more than there are negatives - it just takes time to consider them.

sleep time

Looking After Yourself
This is likely to be a time when you experience tiredness, possibly exhaustion. Many parents, especially those who are alone, or whose partners are serving away, put their own needs aside and focus purely on the children. This is quite admirable, but is not so good in the long run. You need to look after yourself to be able to look after your child. After all if you make yourself unwell, how can you care for your child? Here's some self maintenance tips...

Take advantage of the support you have at hand - trusted, caring friends and relatives can be an ideal source of support. This may be a listening ear, adult conversation, or someone to keep an eye on your little treasure whilst you take a break.

Your GP, midwife and health visitor can offer advice on services and support in your area, don't be afraid to ask.

Local groups, such as parent & toddler groups, parent support groups, pre-schools and nurseries provide sources of support and contact, stimulation for your toddler, and a break for you.

Someone once said "Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like clearing your path before it stops snowing". Keeping on top of things is important, but be realistic.

Bite Size Routines - Break up your day into chunks, almost like a school timetable. Put aside time to do nothing but play with your toddler, read a book with him, or finger paint with her. Did you know that it is less work to do finger painting with a toddler than it is to try to hoover with your child hanging from your leg?

mother relax timeTry Team Work - If you want to dust, give your toddler a duster and encourage him or her to polish the table. Include them in what you want to do. This way they will feel included and important, and you can also get things done!

Take time off - schedule some time for yourself - everyday if possible. You are important and need to keep yourself healthy. A quiet cup of tea is an essential part of your day if you can squeeze it in.

Congratulations - recognise how well you are doing. If you have managed a tough situation and a difficult day, reward yourself, and feel proud of what you have achieved.

Who can help?
Discuss any problems with your GP or Health Visitor. In an emergency call 999. Additionally, NPFS or RM Welfare can offer support to families experiencing difficulties.

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