The term “terrible twos” definitely didn’t come out of a vacuum. It’s a time of tears galore and tantrums for almost everything. Little one can’t get rid of his shadow? The dog wagged its tail at him? Peeled a banana and couldn’t put the peel back on? What does he do? Throw a tantrum of course! The reasons why could remain a mystery forever. Thankfully, how to handle toddler tantrums isn’t.
So when the terrible twos are upon you, brace yourself for temper tantrums, shouting, occasional hitting and shockingly bad behavior. You might even find yourself hiding behind supermarket shelves in a desperate attempt to disassociate yourself from your screaming toddler. We’ve been there.
In a nutshell, life is difficult with a toddler.
Having said that, you can find comfort in the fact that all of these trials are actually a part of your child’s natural development. Here’s what doctors and parenting experts have to say about toddlers’ partly adorable and largely absurd behavior.
What is the reason behind bad behavior in my toddler?
At this stage, your toddler is going through massive intellectual, social and emotional changes. Their vocabulary and personality are both growing. And they are starting to discover that there are social conventions that they aren’t necessarily ready to conform to.
Toddlers are hit by a sudden realisation that they are no longer joined at the hip with mama. And to their horror, they learn that it’s true, they are separate individuals from their parents! But they don’t always know what to do with this independence and therein lies the problem.
Toddlers don’t act on logic for a simple reason: they have yet to understand it. This results in a shortage of self-control and acting on impulse.
Increased Motor Skills
Toddlers are no longer immobile infants and are now able to run, hop, jump and more. These newfound abilities have unlocked a new world for them. This, in turn, leads to their increased need to explore and experiment physically.
While their vocabulary is expanding, they are still unable to communicate their needs and cannot control their emotions. This can lead to frustration, tantrums and bad behaviour in general.
Now that you understand why your toddler would sometimes display absurd behaviours, maybe you can look at the terrible twos and threes (and fearsome fours) from a slightly different perspective. Remember that they are learning to handle strong feelings themselves.
But there’s no need to worry! Here’s a defensive arsenal of things to do when your toddler acts out and things get out of hand.
Stay Calm. This is the first and most important thing to do. If you react in anger or lose your composure, it will end up in a power struggle that’s certainly not pretty! Don’t resort to yelling or hitting. That will only exacerbate the problem.
Distraction Works Wonders. Toddlers have a rather short attention span and they easily swing from one extreme to another. If they start getting worked up over something, you don’t have to engage them in an argument. Quickly try to direct their attention elsewhere or just distract them with tickles!
Ignorance Is Bliss. When distraction fails to do the job, sometimes it’s best to ignore them. This comes in handy when you’re in public and wishing the ground would open up and swallow you to save you from the embarrassment. Just watch them from the corner of your eye to make sure they don’t hurt themselves.
An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure. Do not do anything that would put yourself or child in a compromising situation. Getting your child to sit through high tea in a fancy restaurant smack in the middle of their naptime is definitely a recipe for disaster.
Visual Aids. Toddlers and abstract ideas don’t quite go together. So if, for example, he’s throwing a tantrum because he can’t wait for the food to cool, point towards the steam and explain that he can only eat when the steam goes away.
The Power to Choose. Toddlers like to feel important, and it makes them feel oh-so-high-and-mighty when they get to choose. So instead of entering the mealtime battlefield and trying to force food down their throat with brute force, why not try offering them a choice between pasta, rice and a sandwich?
Empathy, lots of It. Sometimes, it is difficult for toddlers to accept “no” as a response, especially when they like things their way. Tell them and show them that you understand - but they don’t always have it their way. For example, “I know you don’t want to go off to daycare today, but if you don’t, there’s no one to look after you at home. When I pick you up, I’ll bring you to the playground alright? Now would you like to carry your bag or should I help you with it?”
Practice Makes Perfect. Remember, self-control doesn’t exist in a toddler’s vocabulary. There are many opportunities for you to teach this to him in daily life. Play games that involve taking turns, or engage in pretend play which also requires turn-taking and making decisions about how the story will unfold.
So mums, hopefully with these tips on how to deal with toddler tantrums, and an understanding of just why toddlers are the way they are, you will find yourself more forgiving of the difficult moments with your toddler. As much as it gets on your nerves, enjoy it while it lasts. Try to take a step back and gain some perspective. As hard as it is to admit, it is all indeed cute and charming. And most of all, remember, it’s a sign of healthy growth and development!