We’ve all been there; locked in a battle of wills with a thirty pound toddler. We rarely, if ever, win that battle but we go for it, anyway, because someone has to stop this tiny tyrant from ruling the roost. Here are a few tips that just might outwit that little dictator and allow you some control over the situation.
There is nothing wrong with a little positive reinforcement now and then. It’s not like you’re offering toys for good behavior, right?! A promise of a preferred activity after a less desirable one can sometimes be all it takes to turn the toddler’s mood around. We call it the first/then strategy and therapists have been using it for years. First brush your teeth/then watch Spider-Man. Moreover, if this strategy works for you, you can be confident that your child is experience a tantrum and nothing more. When a child is demanding you can quickly turn the situation around by encouraging appropriate behavior with a moderate reward.
Use Fewer Words
If they have a vocabulary at all, is surely isn’t as expansive as your own and you are wasting precious words on a toddler who is likely not listening or understanding much of your argument. Model the behavior you are looking for. Visuals are always going to make a stronger impact on a little person. Does your little one have a fit every night at bedtime? Make sure they know what the expectations are by showing them a video or pictures of a proper bed time routine. Once they know what is expected they may have less desire to lash out. Bedtime can be especially hard on the family when a toddler decides he’s not going to bed. Getting this frustrating behavior under control will be at the top of your list.
It might seem counterproductive to give children a choice when you need them to do something. You are the parent, after all, and what you say goes, right? Not so fast. Children, no matter how little, would like to feel a little control over their situation. Children tend to spiral when they feel a loss of control. Offering a choice like, carrots or peas when your goal is just to get a veggie into them isn’t a bad idea. If you’re wearing the peas or carrots every day at supper time, things have already gone past the offering a gentle choice stage. This tactic is reserved for when the child is calm and coherent and we both know that tiny tornadoes are rarely either. If they have long since lost the ability to understand because of their anger and crying see tip number four.
There is no shame in giving in now and then. Allow the tantrum to play out. Allow the anger and tears to explode forth or give in and let them skip a bath, or the veggies, or whatever it is. Even our littlest ones need the release of a good scream or a cry now and then and sometimes they just need to get their way. Remember, a toddler is always willing to take it further than you are. Will they sit on the floor at the grocery store and scream until they get what they want? Of course. Will they pull your hair and bite you if you refuse a request? No doubt. These are normal toddler behaviors and while it should be discouraged most times, there are moments when giving in can offer both of you more peace than the alternative. We can’t be perfect all the time and no one expects it.
A battle of wills can be exhausting for you and your little one and forgiving a child for being a child now and then won’t hurt a thing. If you’re dealing with a tiny tornado you know too well how much you both need a little break from the chaos.