Advice and Tips

How to prevent toddler tantrums !

The words 'terrible twos' can strike fear into the hearts of even the hardiest parents

Yet react to toddler tantrums with a little understanding, consistency and patience, says relationship coach and mum-of-three, Ali McCloskey, and the terrible twos could soon become the tremendous twos

As a parenting coach, I'm often approached for advice by parents trying to cope with dreaded toddler tantrums. Most people think these fits of temper automatically kick-in around the age of two but, in reality, they can begin any time from one onwards, depending on the maturity and temperament of your child.

Tiny Tempers

So what causes even the sweetest of babies to transform, however briefly, into a terrible tot?

One of the most common mistakes that parents make in dealing with a toddler tantrum is over-reacting themselves; in effect almost having your own tantrum or meltdown

Many experts agree that there are four major triggers for toddler tantrums. By far the biggest is attention-seeking - which can happen anytime and anywhere. The second major cause is the sheer frustration that many small children feel at not being able to 'do' or communicate what they want or how they feel.

Jealously can also make a toddler lose his or her temper. This could be related to sibling envy, or the simple fact that a parent is giving their attention to something or someone else. To a parent, this can seem insane given the amount of attention you probably give them - but it helps to remember that, unlike older children, a small child is not rational at this age.

The final major cause of toddler outbursts is a reaction to basic physical complaints such as hunger, tiredness or illness. Again, the child has not yet developed the necessary maturity needed to understand why they feel the way that they do and so they simply react - loudly!

Avoid falling into the toddler-trap

One of the most common mistakes that parents make in dealing with a toddler tantrum is over-reacting themselves; in effect almost having your own tantrum or meltdown. Trying to reason with a small child logically can also back-fire; remember that they don't have the ability yet to be rational and act purely on the emotions they're feeling at the time.

Another very common reaction parents have is to threatening to do something but not actually doing it there and then. A toddler will have no recollection of something that happened four or even two hours previously, so if you punish or attempt to deal with the situation when you get home, the lesson will fall on deaf ears. Simply giving in should also be avoided at all costs as, essentially, it teaches the child that what they did worked.

Don't get mad - get better!

No matter how frustrating, the key to preventing toddler tantrums is to follow some simple rules. While these may sound straightforward, be warned that success will require continual effort on your part. And remember - your toddler will learn quickly if you are consistent and persistent.

1.      Stay calm: How your child behaves as they grow and mature is largely based on the behaviour they witness in their parents. If you're at home and have reached the end of your tether, make sure they are safe and walk away until you calm down. Tell yourself that the calmer you stay, the quicker you will guide them out of these tantrums. The benefit of this is enormous. If you stay calm you teach them what you do want, if you react...you teach them what you don't want. By watching you get irrational they learn that it's okay to behave this way because Mummy or Daddy are doing it!

2.      Say what you do want - and not what you don't: Language is so important in dealing with toddlers. Instead of "Don't touch that!" say "Leave that where it is and move your hands away," or rather than "Stop eating with your mouth open" try "Eat with your mouth closed." Similarly, rather than "Stop rolling around on the floor, you'll get filthy!" say "Stand up and play here". This sounds simple enough, but many of us are conditioned by our own upbringing when a parent would automatically communicate using negative commands

3.      Punish and praise in the moment: Develop a habit of praising your child for good behaviour - and do it often. Tell them how well they behaved and that they should be proud of themselves. You could even offer to do something with them occasionally by way of a reward. The more you encourage good behaviour and ignore or deal quickly and effectively with unwanted behaviour, the quicker the toddler will move out of this stage

4.      Enter your child's world (also known as 'building rapport'). Before you try prizing them away from something they're really enjoying, whether it's a favourite TV show or time with their friends, make time for a little conversation. If they're watching TV, try asking them what they're watching, who's in it, what's it about and then tell them their tea is ready. The rapport you have created will make them much more open to hearing and doing what you're saying

5.      Use distraction tactics: Toddlers can very easily have their attention moved from one thing to another. When you're in a crowded supermarket and they're kicking off because you haven't given them what they want, or they're tired , talk enthusiastically about where you're going next - or better still something already planned that you know they are looking forward to. Even simple things as pointing to something else in a very animated voice, will distract them. Getting out a favorite toy can also do the trick. At this age they're simple creatures that move from one emotion to another in a millisecond; just be creative and have fun with it

As parents know all too well, children don't come with a manual.  Remember, parenting can be an especially hard task even for the smartest of mums and dads. Yet, no matter what the age - from twos to teens - all parenting can get easier with good communication.

 To find out more visit  Ali McCloskey and her range of online courses.

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