Toddler Behaviour – Where has your baby gone? Where did this toddling, curious, playful, loud creature come from?
Toddlers are fascinated by everything – they are fun, active, fiery, excited, determined, stubborn, impulsive, messy and pretty non-stop. When your baby turns into toddler, this is when the challenges with behaviour can start because their brains are still very immature and they only want to do what they want, with no consideration or understanding of rules and restrictions.
The key to enjoying it and staying sane is patience, patience and more patience. Toddlers usually feel safest with you – mum and dad – so you will probably experience most of their tantrums. When your toddler is being challenging, he is not intentionally wanting to hurt or upset you – he just wants what he wants and he can’t understand why he can’t!
Boundaries and discipline
When setting boundaries it can be beneficial to:
- Make them clear, realistic and enforceable
- Remove dangers and temptations from your toddler
- Make your house fit your child
- Be consistent
- When you communicate with your toddler about their behaviour – be firm but clear but keep your language simple
- Rather than shouting, clap your hands to get their attention
With any unacceptable or dangerous behaviour, you may need to react swiftly with a louder voice and maybe some time out (if this features as part of your parenting). You may also be angry – clapping your hands together can be more beneficial than smacking and time out can work because it can actually give you time to calm down, rather than shouting.
Once any ‘telling off’ or time out is finished then it is finished, don’t keep bringing it up.
No parent wants to shout at their toddler but it happens – forgive yourself a slip-up if you lose your temper. Breathe, reflect and, if you feel like you over-reacted, try to understand why – you could be over doing it and maybe you need a break. I am a big fan of leaving the room, and doing shouty, sweary things in another room!
A guide for praise and rewards
According to The Happiest Toddler:
12-18 months – give smiles, applause, repeat happy words , cheer. Be enthusiastic and a little over the top
18-36 months – still use smiles, nods, happy words but you might need to tone it down a bit
36-48 months – your older toddler might not want alot of fuss so starcharts and rewards might work better
Common tantrum triggers
Hunger, thirst, tiredness, illness, been inside the house for too long, being ignored for too long – sometimes there are really valid reasons for a meltdown, being aware of these may prevent unnecessary tantrums.
Is it possible to avoid tantrums?
The simple answer is no, not all of them but you might be able to distract your toddler or just simply ignore them!
With tantrums at home you may be able to distract your toddler – I lost count of the number of times we went hunting for a fairy around the house – or you can just ignore the tantrum until it passes. However, it is always worth going through the common triggers to see if it may have been caused by something simple.
But when you are out and about, it can be tougher. Distraction can still work, also known as bribery, but you may need to be organised and plan ahead for hunger, boredom and a need to wander off, especially if you are going to the supermarket or a cafe – the causes of some of my most stressful experiences with toddlers!
A toddler needs to be able to…
play, explore, create, run, talk, share, make a mess, shout, cry
A toddler may be unable to…
sit still, be quiet, wait, understand, be reasoned with
As the parent of a toddler you may need to be…
consistent, loving, calm, reassuring, fun, patient, patient and did I mention patient?
As the parent of a toddler you may feel…
happy, fulfilled, knackered, confused, frustrated, mad, responsible, a failure, playful, fun
As the parent of a toddler you may need…
to share the load, get some help, sleep, get some me time, see other mums, visit to toddler groups, to let go of your serious side and play, get messy and have some fun
- pushing boundaries
- control over themselves and their activities
- fear and jealousy
- pushing and hitting
- praise and reinforce positive behaviour
- gentle boundaries
- smiles and laughter
- encourage language and explanations
- freedom to play and explore
- at times you might be feeling challenged, frustrated and tired so get some support
- remind yourself that it won’t last forever
- take some time for you to rest and recharge
Janine Smith | A specialist in pregnancy, birth and early parenting