The secrets to raising a well-behaved toddler
Want a calm and cooperative child? This is what you need to do…
Do you dream of being the mum whose toddler doesn’t have a tantrum when it’s time to leave the playground? Do you wish she could be reasonable when you suggest that one biscuit is enough? And do you hope that she doesn’t throw a wobbly in the supermarket? Then read on…
Employ these nine parenting secrets and you’ll diffuse much of your toddler’s negative behaviour and encourage her to be calmer and more cooperative.
Many parents feel indulging their little one’s moans and groans will lead to more of the same attention-seeking behaviour. When your child takes a not-so-serious tumble and cries seemingly unnecessarily, do you react by saying ‘You’re okay, stop crying’? If she’s whining because someone has taken the toy she was playing with, do you soothe, ‘Oh, it’s not that bad’?
Parenting expert Carole Saad, one of the co-authors of Kids Don’t Come with a Manual (Best of Parenting Publishing, available from www.bestofparenting.com), suggests taking a different approach of tuning in to your child’s feelings. “This problem is real to your child. So empathise with her. Say ‘Oh dear, I suspect that hurts’, or ‘You seem frustrated someone else is playing with that toy’,” Carole says. If your child is very young, she suggests you use sympathetic facial expressions and the tone of your voice to show you understand she’s upset. “Empathy allows her to get over the issue quicker as she feels understood.”
REPLACE COMMANDS with choices
Around the age of two, children want to have some control in their lives. The other co-author, Nadim Saad, says at this stage your commands seem like a red rag to a bull. “If she doesn’t get what she wants, she screams, which normally gets a reaction, and wrenches control from the parent,” Nadim says. To avoid this, replace a command with two limited choices, both of which you find acceptable. So you might say: ‘I have cereal or porridge, which would you like?’ or ‘ Would you like to wear your red or blue dress?’
Giving choices might feel like hard work, but in the long term it will save hours of tantrums. “Give her these limited choices all the time, and your child will feel that she has a voice and an element of control,” Nadim says. “And there’s an added benefit that she’ll know how to make a decision.”
the ‘no’ word
Children need boundaries to behave well, so it’s important to set them. They need to know what’s expected and how to stay safe. Nadim says there are ways to get your child to respect these boundaries. For example, most parents use the words ‘no’, ‘can’t’ and ‘mustn’t’, which immediately raise a toddler’s hackles – and her curiosity. Saying ‘No, don’t go near the road!’ just makes it more tempting. Instead, Nadim says you should give a clear explanation instead: “Roads are for cars, not people. Paths are for people so we stay safe.”
Putting a positive spin on it in this way removes opposition. “If your toddler asks for an ice-cream half an hour before dinner, don’t say ‘No, it’s nearly dinner time’, say ‘Yes, you can have an ice-cream, but after we’ve had dinner’,” Nadim suggests.
AVOID an argument
There will be times when your toddler wants something now, and won’t take no for an answer.