Dos and don’ts to cope with this de­vel­op­men­tal stage

To Cope With The Ter­ri­ble Twos

Mother & Baby - - CONTENTS - BY SI­MONA TERRON

Tod­dlers who turn two or three can switch per­son­al­i­ties faster than you can say “pick up your toys”! You’ve rel­ished the joys of hav­ing your child do what­ever you ask, en­joy­ing cud­dles and ac­cept­ing what­ever you tell them as the gospel truth. So, it can be rough to sud­denly face a tiny hu­man who is now the op­po­site of all those things. And food can be a par­tic­u­larly con­tentious is­sue. Here’s how to cope with­out los­ing your mind

Your child is ei­ther two or three years old and un­recog­nis­able with her tantrums, new de­mands and sud­denly, so many food pref­er­ences! Your an­gelic baby now re­fuses items she used to love, throws a fit if you choose the wrong coloured plate and in­sists on an end­less sup­ply of any one item that she never liked be­fore, for ev­ery sin­gle meal. If this seems like your tod­dler, fear not as we have some help­ful tip for how to cope with this de­vel­op­men­tal stage. Here are sim­ple sug­ges­tions of dos and don’ts:

1. DON’T FUEL THE DRAMA BY RE­ACT­ING TO IT:

Your child is ex­tremely cued into your emo­tional state and the slight­est vari­a­tion in it will have ad­verse counter re­ac­tions. If she’s an­gry, your get­ting an­gry might frighten

her. If she’s cranky and tired, your dis­ap­point­ment will likely make her burst into tears. If she gets ex­cited and hy­per­ac­tive, your frus­tra­tion and ir­ri­ta­tion might set off her anx­i­ety. Be aware of your be­hav­iour around her at this cru­cial time. If she doesn’t want to eat, it’s not the end of the world. Put her to bed and keep a small bag­gie of some­thing she likes on her bed­side, in case she wakes up hungry. Don’t make this a habit, though.

2. DON’T GIVE IN TO HER RAGE OR YOU WILL RE­IN­FORCE THAT BE­HAV­IOUR:

Try­ing to avoid a con­fronta­tion by giv­ing in to her de­mands will re­in­force neg­a­tive be­havioural traits even fur­ther. Ig­nore her out­burst un­til she calms down or runs out of steam. Don’t say stuff like, “Are you fi­nally done?” or “Now are you ready to eat what’s on your plate?” as this will sound judge­men­tal and pre­vent her from calm­ing down sooner next time.

3. DON’T IS­SUE ULTIMATUMS, SUG­GEST OP­TIONS IN­STEAD:

If your child wants to eat French fries for break­fast, lunch and din­ner, don’t refuse outright as this will only make them more de­ter­mined and also un­der­line the feel­ing that no one lis­tens to them. In­stead, sug­gest that if she wants French fries, she can eat them for lunch as long as she also eats her soup, sand­wich, vegetable or pasta with it. Don’t make the op­tions too easy; tempt her with some­thing she likes just as much, if not more than, the fries.

4. DO STAY CALM AND ENCOURAGE HER TO AR­TIC­U­LATE:

Tod­dlers are of­ten strug­gling with their abil­ity to ar­tic­u­late how they are feel­ing. While their vo­cab­u­lary is ex­pand­ing rapidly, it takes time for them to as­so­ciate things with the words for them when emo­tions are run­ning high. So like adults some­times go nuts if they can’t get the word for some­thing or can’t re­mem­ber the name of a restau­rant or movie star that’s part of a story they’re shar­ing, kids too, get frus­trated. And the only way they know to vent that frus­tra­tion is by throw­ing a tantrum.

5. CRE­ATE EDI­BLE VER­SIONS OF A TIME­OUT:

Sulk­ing? Not talk­ing? Star­ing you down? Talk­ing back? Scream­ing? Rolling on the floor while howl­ing? This can be po­ten­tially em­bar­rass­ing in pub­lic or even down­right dan­ger­ous if you’re driv­ing or cross­ing the street with your child. Keep age-ap­pro­pri­ate snacks in your bag for these ex­act mo­ments and give your child a time­out with that snack. Make sure it is some­thing colour­ful and nu­tri­tious – car­rot sticks are a good bet. You can dye them pink with beet­root juice or green with spinach juice so they find it un­usual. A bag of mixed nuts and raisins also trav­els well and of­fers va­ri­ety. The trick is to turn what would be a pun­ish­ment into an op­por­tu­nity to treat them to some­thing healthy in­stead. And to give them time to cool down.

6. PICK YOUR BAT­TLES WELL TO CON­SERVE YOUR EN­ERGY:

If your child is throw­ing her food on the floor or re­fus­ing to eat any­thing with the colour green, don’t freak out. Fol­low the points men­tioned above and stay cool. She is go­ing through a tough time emo­tion­ally, phys­i­cally and men­tally, so it’s okay to let her have her way when there is not much at stake. Ice cream for break­fast is fine if it’s a hot day. Per­haps make pop­si­cles at home so she’s not in­gest­ing just sugar and you can sneak in some vegetable juice with the fruit pulp so she gets her vi­ta­mins too. Fig­ure whether that mo­ment needs you to be a par­ent or just the lov­ing pro­tec­tor of that tiny hu­man who doesn’t know bet­ter.

7. PAY AT­TEN­TION TO NON-VER­BAL CUES:

Chil­dren who are sleep-deprived, tired, in pain or some sort of phys­i­cal dis­com­fort are more likely to throw tantrums at meal times. Make a note of their rou­tines and see if they are be­ing dis­rupted in any way, and then work around that in­stead of try­ing to grab the bull by the horns and shove food in their mouths when they least want to eat.

Deal­ing with the ter­ri­ble twos can be a har­row­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for any par­ent. Per­haps the hard­est part, though, is re­al­is­ing that your lov­able baby sud­denly has a mind of her own. But what is harder is when she be­gins flex­ing those brand new de­ci­sion-mak­ing mus­cles over what she will and will not eat. En­sur­ing she re­ceives the ap­pro­pri­ate amount of nutri­tion can be chal­leng­ing in this con­text, which is why our tips should be able to guide you in the right di­rec­tion.

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