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HOW TO UNDERSTAND TANTRUMS

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Heidi Skudder has some useful advice for dealing with toddler tantrums

For the first year of your child’s life, you were probably totally and utterly in awe of that cute little baby - who, with any luck, smiled and giggled on request. But, all of a sudden, this strong-willed little toddler bursts on to the scene and requires more energy and attention than you ever thought possible.

Sound familiar?

I often have clients telling me that they thought the sleep deprivation stage was the worst. Until they met their toddler…

Your toddler is constantly testing boundaries and trying to work out how the world works – so the first step is to realise that this is totally normal. It is not just your child who is difficult. Obviously personalities mean that some little people are more challenging than others, but generally speaking all children will go through stages that you find tricky to manage. Some of the most common toddler behaviours include the following:

  • Your child craves attention
  • Your child starts to get stubborn
  • Your child shows no sign of fear or danger and instead is impulsive and totally unpredictable.
  • The little person who used to eat beautifully has now started throwing food all over the place and is refusing to eat half of the food items  that they used to have no problem eating.
  • Sensitivity levels rise and not just yours – your little person becomes overly sensitive and emotional and you have to deal with tears on a regular basis.

It can be a big shock for many parents when some of these behaviours and characteristics start to show but rest assured there are ways of dealing with them! As with any parenting topic, the key to successfully surviving the toddler years is a combination of control and boundaries. Even as babies, children can understand what you are expecting of them and therefore will respond accordingly. If your child is not used to boundaries and you being in control, then once they hit toddlerhood it becomes even harder to claw back that control.

A well-rested little person has a much calmer temperament than one that does not sleep...

Setting up a routine for your little one before they hit their toddler years means that they are able to know what to expect every day, and a well-rested little person has a much calmer temperament than one that does not sleep or have daily rest – so take this into account when working out whether a routine is important for you. If your child knows what to expect next, there is far less questioning and children who have suitable routines always respond better to change and new environments. It is when your toddler has too much control of their own day that they become overwhelmed and try to test the boundaries even further.

That is not to say you should not give your child choices – learning to make decisions and choosing between one thing or another gives your toddler confidence and will in turn increase his self-esteem. However limiting those choices will help reduce the likelihood of things going wrong. For example, ‘Would you like to wear the blue or red dress today?’ means your toddler feels they have had an input into the decision, but without causing too much of a big thing. If you say to your toddler, ‘What would you like to wear today?’, you are opening up a whole new world of options, possibilities and consequences. Chances are they will want to wear the one thing that is in the wash and therefore you then have a battle on your hands.

Dealing with your toddler’s tantrums can be tiring and time-consuming, so pick and choose your battles and stick by your rules. If your child wants something that you have told them they can’t have, then be consistent. Consistency is my favourite word in parenting and really is the difference between a well-behaved child and a child who constantly pushes their parents. Establish house rules (even with young children) and make sure that you and your partner stick to these. ‘No’ means ‘no’ and, at first, this will be tough for your toddler to take on board, but if that ‘No’ is always a ‘No’, then they will soon find no reason to want to fight you to see if you will give in.

It is much easier as a parent to say yes to a child.

It is much easier as a parent to say yes to a child, and if you are out of the house working full time then it becomes even harder to say no as with that comes the guilt that you are not around for them in the week – however if you practice this skill and be consistent at it, you will have a much calmer child and a much happier and stable household during your weekend off. This is the biggest cause of bad behaviour I see at my clients’ houses – their child simply has too much control and is ruling the roost. Parents are not consistent, and therefore the toddler does not know what to expect….

:: The Parent and Baby Coach is available for one-to-one parent coaching support, on all areas of parenting children under four. To discuss your parenting dilemmas, call Heidi on 0330 6600 204.

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