Posts made in September 2010

You and Your Willful Toddler

Your little one just won’t listen.

She gets upset at changes.

She will not follow routines.

It feels like she is sabotaging you and the whole family.

Everything revolves around her and her potential to explode.

You are just plain worn out, and you are beginning to not like you.  You should love and adore this child, and somehow it has become an adversarial relationship; not at all the one you envisioned with her when she was a baby.

Well, you do love and adore her. But daily routine has become more about control than nurturing and you both have to get back on track.

What could possibly be the matter?  How to spin what seems like a negative spiral into a positive trajectory?

Toddlers are by nature defiant.  So first off, DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY.

Think how you would feel, if you knew what you wanted but could not say it right, could not move as quickly as you wanted and felt constantly frustrated.  How would you act?

Mmmmm….bet not too different.  Early on it is best to let your “budding” individuals “own” their own feelings and behaviors.

Natural consequences seem to be an automatic teacher, but so do consistent limits and boundaries.  Those boundaries when consistently applied provide the structure that gives rise to feelings of both security and safety.

Nothing trumps love, attention, praise and ROUTINE.  So first off if you say you are counting to 3 and then the toy disappears for example, then it disappears. Not doing so teaches the child that crying gets the toy back.  By going back on the limit you set, you are just letting yourself in for a more forceful exhibition the next time.

The Mayo Clinic stresses love and acceptance and structure that is constant is key for helping toddlers mature.  However their research does address tantrums and behaviors that may indicate developmental issues.

“….Sometimes, however, temper tantrums can indicate an underlying issue, such as:

Developmental delay

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Rarely, temper tantrums may indicate a more serious condition, such as Asperger’s syndrome.

To determine whether your son’s temper tantrums are cause for concern or simply an age-appropriate response to frustration, ask yourself these questions:

How often and in what settings do the temper tantrums occur?

Is your son’s speech development on track?

Are your son’s motor abilities and curiosity normal for his age?

Are you able to manage the tantrums?

Has your son ever injured himself or others during a tantrum?….”

Here are some parenting tips for raising toddlers:

  1. Love and accept your child for who she or he is
  2. Limit rules at first and keep it to those that are for protection and safety and then add others later.
  3. Childproof your home and try to remove temptations
  4. A strong willed child has perseverance, give the child challenging toys, let them learn problem solving but not to the point of frustration.
  5. Understand your child’s limits and as much as possible do not push it. 
  6. Make sure your child understands what you asking him or her to do and be sure they can do it.  Asking them to do something beyond their skills is a fodder for an outburst due to frustration.
  7. Do not command but use a friendly tone.
  8. Do not over-react when your toddler says “no”—just repeat the request—friendly but firmly.
  9. PICK YOUR BATTLES—say no because you have to –do not make it a power play, toddlers do not think about that, they just want what they want when they want it.  It is not about you.
  10. Do not make “deals” it teaches your child that there are ways they can break rules and that is not what you want.
  11. Stick to schedules and pre-set—known—limits –“no you may not run in the parking lot –ever”
  12. Offer choices when possible, if helps with the child learning self-control and decision making skills.  Keep the choices to 2, not an array of items.  i.e. the blue or the green pajamas?
  13. Try to find “alone time” when it is just the two of you and let your toddler plan the time—we have a whole afternoon, what should we do first?
  14. Encourage using words, baby talk is cute but it can be a real deterrent to effective communication.
  15. Enforce consequences—neither you or your child is a “saint” and sometimes rules get broken and limits must be enforced.  So if it is a time out, withholding privileges, etc. follow through on that consequence.
  16. After the consequence has been given engage your child in a positive activity and reinforce that he is “good” but the choice was not.

Nobody said parenting was easy, however, my willful daughter now 36 called me long-distance the other day to complain about her ‘adorable son’ who just would not listen and was being totally ‘contrary’.  “This parenting thing is harder than it looks”, she said. 

“Mmmmmmm”, I said, smiling.