Terrible two, threenager, eff-ing four. Call it anything you want. One thing is for sure: It will happen.
Toddlers develop a sense of independence. They think they are superheros. But they lack the language, insight or motor skills to match it. How frustrating is that?!
While toddler tantrum is part of normal development, it is our job as parents to teach boundaries. That is discipline. Sow the seed of discipline early and you will reap the benefit of a well adjusted adult later.
Disciplining without breaking their spirit is a very fine line to walk. Some days you are going to lose your s**t. It happens to the best of us. Every child is different. Every parent is different. How you discipline your child is a very individual decision. This is what works for me.
- Routine, routine, routine. Toddlers crave routine. It is their safe place.
- A sleep deprived child is a cranky child. Respect nap time and bedtime. Plan your day around that.
- A hungry kid is a cranky kid too. Have snacks, always. It is a great distraction tool as well.
- If you anticipate tantrum, give ample warning before hand. For eg. 10 more minutes to diaper change, last run around the park and we go home etc.
- Toddlers want autonomy. If you want your toddler to do something, try to get his/her agreement. “I need to change your diaper, can we do that after you shove that last block under the TV stand?” If I get a yes, tantrums are far less likely to happen.
- Avoid triggers. If your toddler seems exhausted, call it an early night. Go to dinner early. Avoid crowd during nap time.
- Allow extra time to do virtually anything that involves your toddler. Rushing a toddler is like asking for tantrum.
RULE OF THUMB
- Consistency with whichever way you choose to discipline. And all caregivers need to be on board.
- Never give in to demands. Ever.
- Calm. Easier said than done. Show that YOU are in charge. Do not yell, but do change your tone.
- Always go to their eye level. Tell your child to look at you, so you know you have his/her attention. Sounds dramatic, but I swear it works!
- Keep any lecturing short and sweet. Toddlers have short attention span and limited language skills.
- Lead by example. I cannot stress this enough. Toddlers imitate us. If you want your child to not get frustrated easily, you have to stop cursing at every frustration too.
- No bribery. Good behavior is not conditional on a reward. Good behavior is expected.
- Never tell your toddler he/she is a bad kid. The behavior is bad, not the kid.
DEALING WITH FULL ON TANTRUM
- Do not reinforce the behavior. Do not get angry. Do not laugh. Be as neutral as possible.
- If it is safe, let your child act out his/her tantrum. Stay close but leave your child alone. It passes a lot quicker this way.
- If you are outside, or if your child is unsafe, remove swiftly from the situation, or distract, or redirect. Get to a quiet place where your toddler can calm down.
- Redirect. Instead of throwing my phone, let’s throw daddy’s phone! (I mean a ball!)
- When it is over, hug them. Keep your lecture short and sweet, and then move on. Tell him/her:
- I understand you are frustrated or angry (label the emotion).
- It is not okay to hit or kick or scream or bite.
- Do that again and I will (insert consequences). Or dole out your punishment if you have already given prior warning.
- I love you very much.
- When your toddler is in a good mood, teach him/her words to express themselves eg. help me please, this is mine, I am done etc.
- I believe in disciplining by showing consequences.
- Disciplining has to happen immediately. It cannot wait till you get home because your child would not remember it.
- Take away privileges. At that age, toddlers want food and toys. So that is what I take away. For eg. You will get your toys back in 5 minutes if you calm down. Make that toy visible the whole time. Another example: No brocolli = no dessert.
- Timeout. Pick a safe area. Do not do it in any sleep area as you do not want negative association. Timeout for a minute per year of age. A 2 year old would probably just throw a s**t fit. I just gently redirect him back to his time out spot and ignore him for that allotted time. Older kids will be expected to sit quietly.
- Pick your battles. Say no when it really matters. Otherwise, let it slide. It is defeating for your toddler to hear no all the time.
- Give your child a sense of power. Give your toddler choices by offering 2 good choices. Eg. black shoes or red shoes? (Not brocolli or donuts)
- Positive reinforcement for good behavior. Make a REALLY big deal out of it. I jump up and down and scream like a fan girl.
- Give your child responsibility. Toddlers love to help.
- Always end a disciplining session with hugs, kisses and I love yous.
Take a deep breath, this too shall pass. I constantly remind myself to have compassion as this stage is hard on my toddler too.