You may feel like tearing your hair out on occasions when your toddler throws a tantrum - as the majority of two year-olds do. But how do you deal with them?
If you look out for some simple signs a tantrum is about to occur, you may be able to divert them, or at least find them easier to deal with.
- Look out for times when your child starts to get cross and divert their attention elsewhere, such as by reading a book with them.
- Sleep - make sure your child gets plenty of it! Sleep deprivation is one of the main causes of tantrums in toddlers.
- Don't let your child get too hungry - establish meal and snack times so your child is fed regularly. Cut back on sugary foods and drinks as this can lead to mood swings and, you guessed it, more tantrums.
- Offer your child choices to make them feel like they have a say. "I let my daughter Alaya choose out of two outfits to wear in the morning and decide between cereal or boiled eggs for breakfast," says Katy, 22. "They're only small decisions but it gives her a little bit of independence and that makes her happier."
- Give lots of praise when they are good, to encourage good behaviour.
- Set a good example - if a toddler sees you getting angry it will be harder for them to control their own feelings.
Coping with tantrums
Most importantly, keep calm. If a child sees you reacting to their tantrum it could make it worse. If you can, distract your child before things get out of hand. "If you're out on a shopping trip make sure you're stocked up with snacks and drinks as this can provide a useful distraction," recommends Angela Ferguson from Parentline Plus.
If the tantrum is in full swing you can ignore your toddler. Although this may sound harsh, if you walk away or pretend not to notice the tantrum then it will make your child's efforts seem worthless. Hopefully they will then forget about why they're angry in the first place. Another approach is to hold your child really close and talk them out of the tantrum. Some parents find a 'time out' or 'naughty step' really helps. By putting them somewhere safe for a two-minute break it can let them know their behaviour is unacceptable and give them time to calm down.
Mealtimes can be hard work for even the most experienced of mums. You know the drill: sit your child down, put something in front of them, only to have it thrown back at you - literally in some cases. According to child dietician Judy Moore, most toddlers go through a phase of only eating a narrow range of foods. "This is a normal part of toddler development called food neophobia, meaning being frightened of new foods," she says. "Your toddler needs time to learn that these foods are safe to eat and enjoy."
- Eating with your child as often as possible;
- Making positive comments about the food they are eating;
- Developing a daily routine of three small meals and two snacks;
- Limiting mealtimes to 20-to-30-minutes;
- Praising them for finishing their food.
Is everything normal?
If you are seriously worried about your child's behaviour, or worried about conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism, then speak to your doctor (GP). This will mean that your child be seen by the most relevant health professional, such as a paediatrician or psychiatrist. However, it's important to remember that autism only affects one in 100 people and your toddler is more than likely going to grow out of any bad behaviour.
Smacking your child so hard it leaves a mark could mean you face up to five years in jail. 'Mild smacking' is allowed, but any smacking which causes "visible bruising, grazes, scratches, minor swellings or cuts" is banned.
Follow the same rules
It's easier for your child to keep to one message rather than two conflicting ones. "Agree with your partner any ground rules you're considering," says Angela Ferguson from Parentline Plus. "This will help you support each other in dealing with their behaviour." Parents who live away from their children can also help in keeping boundaries. "Get them involved with decisions otherwise they may undermine your plans unintentionally," Angela adds.
When a new baby arrives
This can be a difficult time for your child. Explain and reassure them that a new baby is coming but they will always be loved. When the new baby arrives involve your child wherever possible in its routine.
It's not all bad...
- By the age of two your child should be sleeping more - earlier bedtimes mean you get more quality time to yourself in the evenings;
- You'll soon be living a nappy-free life - most parents find their child is physically and emotionally ready to start potty training between two and two-and-a-half;
- Your child will interact more so they can start to understand basic rules and commands;
- Your child can do things for themselves, such as tidying up their toys and climbing into their buggy - all time-savers for you.
Written by Sam Nichols
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