SingaporeMotherhood | Baby & Toddler

January 2013

7 Toddler-Taming Tricks

Does your little rascal say “no” all the time, throw terrible tantrums, and insist on doing certain things his way?

Relax – you’re not alone. While each child is different, there are some common traits of toddlerhood that signal that your baby has grown into the tiny terror that’s also known as a toddler. According to Dr Low Kah Tzay, a consultant paediatrician and child development specialist at Anson International Paediatric & Child Development Clinic, this typically occurs when the child is between one and three years old.

Commonly called the “Terrible Twos”, this is the stage when junior starts to realise that he’s a separate entity from his parents, develops personal preferences, and learns to assert his independence. He may be driving you up the wall now, but rest assured that he will grow out of it some day.

Understanding Tantrums

From around 18 months, your tot is embarking on an adventure of self-discovery. You’ll notice extreme mood swings and troubling behaviour – from screaming, kicking, whining and bursting into tears, to defiance, aggression and head-banging. This trying phase may continue throughout his preschool years, but understanding the reasons behind your child’s actions can help you survive this tumultuous time.

“As your child becomes more mobile, he has a greater scope for exploration and a stronger wish to assert himself,” explains Dr Low. “However, at this young age, he is impulsive and cannot understand danger, restraints and limits. He still has limited language ability to communicate, so he expresses himself – especially when he’s stopped from doing the things he likes – in the only way he knows how, by throwing a tantrum.”

While such behaviour will test your patience, view his tantrums positively as they are a sign that your little one is trying to understand his place in the world. Just put yourself in his shoes – if you can’t express what you want or aren’t allowed to do something without understanding why, you’d be in a fit too! And think how frustrated you’d be if you want to do things for yourself but don’t have the ability.

Loving Attention Helps

So, it is very important to reassure your tot with lots of love and attention. Be warm and patient and set your expectations low. This way, you will probably get more cooperation than opposition from your tot. Be sure to show how happy and proud you are when he complies with your requests, but always be prepared to remove him from the situation when he can’t.

Most importantly, encourage him to communicate and try to understand him, highlights Dr Low. “Once a child feels understood and learns to express himself properly, the tantrums will ease.”

But until he reaches that stage, don’t just throw up your hands and give in when he acts up, experts caution. In fact, toddlerhood is an ideal time to start setting limits so your child learns that he can’t always have his own way. “Toddlers have notoriously poor memory as far as boundaries are concerned, so It’s important to keep reminding them of their limits and dangers,” stresses Dr Low.

So, the next time junior starts to throw a fit, continue to stand your ground and be firm. If you give in every time he has a meltdown, junior will learn to use tantrums as an effective means to get what he wants, since he’ll discover that when he screams or whines incessantly, mummy or daddy (or grandma, grandpa, or any other caregiver) will cave in. So remember, if you give in to tantrums, you’ll only see more of them! Fairy:  Pouting
Here are more secrets to managing your mini-monster’s bad behaviour:

1. Distract him

Diversion is your greatest weapon. Stop a screaming fit before it starts by saying, “Hey, look at that colourful insect! Oh, it’s gone.” It may be a little dishonest, but hey, a little white lie could save your sanity!

2. Pre-empt a meltdown

Most tantrums are caused by frustration (have you really listened to your toddler’s request?) and repeated attempts to get something he wants, but tiredness and hunger can also trigger them. Your toddler can easily become over-tired, hungry or restless, so prevent meltdowns by making sure he has regular rest, physical activity, and meal and snack times. If you go out, always pack healthy snacks and water with you.

3. Limit the “No”

“No!” is an all-important word for parents, but it quickly loses its impact if a child is faced with an endless stream of “no’s”. And if junior starts to ignore the word “no” from mummy and daddy, you’ll have a hard time establishing your authority in the future. One of the best ways to avoid this situation is to turn “no” into “yes”. For example, instead of saying, “No, you can’t have ice cream now”, say, “Yes, you may have ice cream after lunch.”

4. Offer choices

Toddlers love to make choices since it gives them a sense of control. The secret is to offer choices that produce the result you’re after or two alternatives where the outcome doesn’t really matter to you. So, don’t say, “If you don’t eat your veggies, we won’t go to the playground.” Instead, say, “What do you want to eat – carrots or spinach?” This way, they feel in control of their life, but either option is within your boundaries!

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Let the little things go. Life is too short to make an issue out of every single trivial thing your tot does wrong. Worse, you’ll create a child who has no faith in himself and his abilities, and if he feels he can’t ever please you, he’ll stop trying.

6. Praise good behaviour

Sometimes, we can be so focused on what our children are doing wrong, we forget to notice what they’re doing right. So give attention, praise and reward your toddler when he acts kindly, cooperates, shares, eats his greens or picks up his toys. Acknowledging good behaviour will make it last, and little rewards like stickers can work a treat on young ones.

7. Ignore bad behaviour (sometimes!)

Sometimes, it pays to turn a blind eye – or a deaf ear! – to junior’s attention-seeking behaviour. If you catch your child going into a kicking or screaming fit while checking that you’re watching him, he’s just doing it to get a reaction. Stay calm – by shouting at him, you’re still giving him attention, even if it’s negative, not to mention setting a bad example that it’s okay to raise your voice in stressful situations. Ignoring his provocative behaviour in such instances will usually make it disappear!

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7 Toddler-Taming Tricks