Dos and don’ts to cope with this developmental stage
To Cope With The Terrible Twos
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.