Most parents would probably agree that no toddler is easy. After all, this is the age group notorious for big messes, big energy, and big emotions (hello, tantrums!). While this may be true, personalities can vary greatly even at this young age. If you’ve noticed your little one is more rebellious or emotional than others, here are some tips for getting through the difficult moments in a productive and healthy way.
1. Rule Out a Medical Issue
Each kid is an individual and sometimes behaviors have underlying psychological or physical causes. Before you dive into discipline, it can be helpful to know if these factors are affecting your child. Speak with his or her pediatrician about any symptoms or odd behaviors you notice. If your toddler is having health issues or is diagnosed with a mental/behavioral disorder, you may need additional treatment to address the problems you’re having. It may be something as simple as an irregular sleep schedule that is causing your child’s meltdowns.
2. Be Consistent
If disciplining your child once was enough to correct the behavior, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article. Small children are still learning the appropriate way to behave and will likely need repeated corrections before they understand. Consistency is key. If you put your kid in time out the first time they refuse to stop hitting the dog, but let it slide the next time, you’re sending mixed signals. The more consistent you are, the sooner they will understand that no means no.
3. Offer Choices
Do you often find yourself in battles over the silliest things with your toddler (if so, you may find 3 “Battles” You Absolutely Should Pick with Your Kids (and 3 You Can Skip) helpful). Maybe he or she refuses to put on shoes or eat anything besides applesauce. This is because toddlers like to be in control and being told to do something makes them feel like they don’t have any. Instead of, “Can you please put your shoes on?”, try “Would you like to wear your blue sneakers or black sneakers today?”. If you offer choices, you can make him or her feel like the ball is in their court.
4. Stay Calm
I know, easier said than done, right? Repeating yourself constantly to a toddler that just doesn’t want to listen can be infuriating. However, having a tantrum yourself isn’t exactly setting a great example, especially considering toddlers learn so much from watching others. Just remember, you are the adult and you are in charge. There may be times when a more severe tone of voice is needed, but this should be a decision based on the behavior, not a loss of emotional control.
5. Tantrums are Temporary
Although it may feel like you’ve been dealing with bad behavior for a long time, remember that they don’t stay little forever. Some day your child will put pants on without being asked. Keep working on it, and eventually your toddler will grow out of this stage. The next stage will come with challenges of its own, but until then, hang in there. You got this!
I recently read a book that was a game changer for my parenting. It’s called The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.
The books covers parenting tips and techniques that consider the parts of our brain. The left (logical, rational) brain and the right (creative, emotional) brain; the upper (higher reasoning) brain and the lower (instinctive) brain. Healthy adults have these parts of their brains working together. Children have to learn this ability, and it is part of our job as parents to help them figure out how to react to situations using our “whole” brain.
I highly recommend giving this book a read!