Some Common Toddler Tantrums & Ways to Cope

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Ordinarily, the great thing about having a toddler is watching them develop their own sense of self. That, however, includes the discovery that they have a fully functioning mind and a will of their own. And as they say, where there’s a ‘will’, there’s also a ‘won’t’! The good news: Resistance is not only normal, it’s healthy (it’s your child gaining confidence, learning independence, and figuring out who they are as a person in their own right). The better news: There are tricks for guiding them into a more co-operative attitude and mind-set. Hurray!!!
Here are five of the most frustrating but common toddler tussles you’re likely to face:

“My toddler won’t let me strap him/her into the car seat.”

Worth a battle? Absolutely. Car seats aren’t just the law, it’s a matter of life or death. Keep your toddler in a five-point-harness seat as long as possible. They’re safer, and harder to unfasten mid-journey.

Tactics to try: Keep it light.
Make a game out of things that need to be done. You can make it a race to see who can get buckled into their car seat first if you have more than one child in the car, or timing it aloud by counting to ten can keep the pace up if you just have one child with you. Distracting play, like silly songs or goofy faces, works, too.

Bribe them…… pure and simple.
If there is limited time (and that often proves the case for me!) You can try a simple bribe to encourage co-operation. A bag of sweet treats that you give one of if they get strapped in quickly. Or keep a toy in the front seat and pass it back to be held if they allow you to strap them in without a fuss.
“My child won’t kiss Grandma.”

Worth a battle? No says psychologist Debbie Glasser “I don’t recommend forcing toddlers to kiss relatives. That approach tends to backfire and make children less likely to greet their relatives and more likely to make a scene.” Anyway, a coaxed hug is seldom sincere — which misses the point in the first place.

Tactics to try: Forewarn your child about what’s going to happen.
A better way is to prepare them so they’re not put on the spot: “Aunt Linda is coming to dinner tonight. She’d love a big hello!” Then, before you answer the door, prompt your toddler again: “Aunt Linda loves hugs, but even if you just smile, she’ll be so happy to see you!”

Demonstate what’s expected yourself.
If friends or relatives ask for a kiss or hug from your child you can laugh and say, “She doesn’t give kisses, but I do” — and make a small show of planting a kiss on the person’s cheek, or giving them a short hug. Seeing you giving hugs and kisses may help your child become comfortable with the idea a little further down the road.

“My toddler won’t let me brush their teeth.”

Worth a battle? It depends on your feelings about dental hygiene. I personally gave my child a soft bristled toothbrush when she cut her first tooth and modeled the general idea over and over again whenever I brushed my teeth. I stopped short of forcing the issue or using timers to do the full two minute dentist recommended brushing. Perhaps I just got lucky, but I found that with enough praise and by emphasizing the fact that clean teeth are important and fresh breath is something that everyone likes, we’ve managed to get the job done. Dentists recommend twice-a-day brushing from infancy, and say you should lend a hand until at least age 5 or 6 and have six monthly check-ups every six months from around the age of two.

Tactics to try: Blame someone else.
You can try saying, “The dentist says you must brush your teeth.” This takes the pressure away from the parent from being ‘the bad one’. State it as a fact and move on.

Sidestep the “no.”
Being matter-of-fact can be useful. Instead of making a request that requires a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, try rewording what you say to elicit the response you’re actually looking for.” Don’t ask, “Ready to brush your teeth?” Instead, say, “It’s tooth-brushing time. Will this be a red-brush day or a yellow-brush day?”

“My child won’t eat vegetables.”

Worth a battle? A small one. Toddlerhood is often a period of strong preferences and weird food preferences (a.k.a. picky eating), and that’s fine — within reason. Even if your child is on a veggie boycott, there’s no need to panic. Most health visitors say that it’s likely any odd food choices will balance out over time. Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t keep (subtly) working on getting them to acquire a taste for green (and red, orange, and yellow) things.

Tactics to try: Make it a raw deal.
Most veggies taste stronger when they’re cooked, which is why most small children prefer their veggies straight from the fridge (or lightly steamed). Serve yogurt, houmous or salad dressing for dipping matchstick-cut carrots, peeled celery, edamame beans (soy beans), and broccoli “trees.”

Fall back on fruit.
To balance an overall diet, pick fruits, particularly those high in Vitamins A (melons, apricots, mangoes) and Vitamin C (oranges, strawberries, kiwis). An additional multivitamin supplement may also ease your mind as to whether your child is having the right balance of vitamins and minerals in their diet. Ask your health visitor or a pharmacist for advice as to which is a recommended product.

“My toddler is stubborn and won’t come when I call.”

Worth a battle? It’s not realistic to expect a 2-year-old to abandon whatever activity is currently enthralling them – from examining the tv remote control to watching a spider make a web. That said, you don’t want to be at the utter mercy of their whims either. “When you repeatedly call but your child doesn’t show up until he’s ready, you’re actually teaching him to ignore you,” says Elizabeth Pantley, author of ‘The No-Cry Discipline Solution’ and a mother of four herself.

Tactics to try: Make it sound worth the trip.
Try to pour as much excitement into your tone of voice as you can. Scoop them up or crouch down to them when they come to you so you’re showing that you’re so happy that they’re there with you. At home you could try the lure of waving a puppet or playing a musical toy and doing a silly dance to entice them. You may feel slightly foolish but it’s only you who’ll care about that and if it works, it’s worth it rather than repeating “Come on, please” to no avail.

Count down.
“Instead of calling ‘Come here now!’ give two warnings,” says Pantley. During a dreaded toy-shop visit you can try saying, “You’ll need to come in five minutes.” And then, in five minutes say, “Please come now.” Pantley suggests waiting a minute, and if your child still doesn’t respond, taking them by the hand and say, “When I call, I expect you to come.” A toddler can’t tell the time but will quickly catch on to your progression of warnings. You can also say something like “Two more trips down the slide.” When it’s time to leave the park. It helps, Pantley adds, to let your child know you understand their point of view: “I bet you wish you could stay in this toy shop forever, but it’s time to go now. Hug the toy doggy one more time. Now here are my keys to hold.” Warn, distract and hopefully have your way!

Of course, sometimes even your best efforts may still result in a full-on kicking, screaming, technicolour tantrum…….but a little creativity and some practice may spare us all a steady diet of them. Please let me know how you get on and do share any tried and tested strategies that have worked for you either now or in the past!