You are walking in the grocery store with your toddler, and out of the blue, she starts fussing, crying and wanting to walk on her own, even though you really can’t allow her to do this because even the trolleys pose a big threat to her safety. The issue of how to discipline your toddler and what works can be very challenging for new parents.
Below are some tried and tested techniques on strategies that have been known to work, turn bad behaviour into good behaviour.
The best way to deal with toddler tantrums is to avoid them in the first place. As you know this is not always possible, but there are strategies that you can implement, which can minimize the scale or possibility of such a meltdown.
Cover the basics: A well fed, rested toddler is less likely to get out of control. Make sure you implement structure and a predictable routine from day one in order to avoid discipline problems. Always remember children thrive on routine.
Be constant: You need to remain calm and make sure you are clear with your child on boundaries. Every child needs to know what is expected, what acceptable behaviour is and what the consequences are for bad behaviour. Don’t say No! and then change to a yes.
Make being good easy: Don’t fill your house with expensive items that your child can’t touch. This strategy works throughout your child’s life. When he is at school, make sure he does his homework in a room where there is little distraction so that she can do her homework quickly and well.
Instead of saying give me that pencil, you are drawing on the walls, get some paper and start drawing on the paper and encourage your child to do the same.
Reward good behaviour
Focus on the positive, rather than the negative. Reward good behaviour by introducing the star chart system. Below is how it works.
Set a goal with your child such as to make a wee in the potty. If you add to many elements to the goal it will become confusing for your little one.
Reward your child’s good behaviour with a prize, such as an outing to the park.
Set a target that your child can achieve. For example in order to get the trip to the zoo your child will need to earn 15 gold stars for example. Make sure that the target gives your child enough time to get used to the behaviour, but doesn’t take too long, otherwise they will lose interest.
Follow progress constantly and make sure that your child gets rewarded every time she makes a wee in the potty. She can even put up the gold stars on the chart herself. If she makes a mistake every now and then, don’t make a big deal out of it.
Use constant praise, even after your child has achieved the goal. Continue to reward the behaviour for example: “We are all going to the zoo this weekend because you made a wee in the potty 15 times, well done!”
Yes, sometimes ignoring bad behaviour is the best strategy, but this depends largely on whether it is a small whine, or the start of a serious meltdown. If it is the former, than you can afford to ignore it, but if it’s the latter, than you may want to interject before it becomes a full scale meltdown.
It’s really all about knowing your toddler, and predicting her next likely move. Sometimes your child acts badly to get attention, and in this instance, ignoring the bad behaviour denies your child the attention that she is looking for.
If your children are having an argument and no-one is getting hurt, it is probably best to ignore the fight, and let them solve it themselves. Getting involved might make the situation worse. If your child doesn’t want to get lotion put on his body after a bath, you can say, “we are not going to the shop until you put your lotion on, find me when you are ready to have your lotion put on”, and then walk away.
Redirection and distraction are useful ways to divert your child’s attention from possible trouble. While redirection directs your toddlers attention to a similar yet less troublesome activity, distraction takes your child’s attention somewhere else.
Redirect: if your toddler is throwing his Sippy cup around, you could give him a ball to throw around instead. Perhaps your toddler is biting you lately. Give him his toothbrush to bite instead, and tell him it hurts when he bites mommy.
Distract: Your toddler can sometimes to be distracted from their current bad behaviour. Perhaps he keeps switching off the TV while everyone is trying to watch the news. You could give her the remote control with no batteries inside to distract her. You could also change the scenery. If your one year old demands to walk on her own in the grocery store and starts screaming, you could take a walk outside or even go to the car where she can walk around as much as she wants in a safer space.
Managing a tantrum
Keep calm: Tantrums often occur in the most inconvenient places, such as in public spaces. Shouting and stomping will only make the situation worse, don’t let your child control your emotions at this point, even though it will mostly be difficult. Speak in a calm, clear voice. Give your child a firm No! And a quick explanation why, such as, “this is not a toy, it is dangerous and will burn you.”
Make eye contact: Make sure you make eye contact with your child. Get down to her level.
Time-out: This is an opportunity for your child to calm down. The aim is not to scare or humiliate your child, but gives her a chance to stop the bad behaviour, and learn a lesson. Author Ann Richardson suggests that for children under 2, you should take a time-out together, going somewhere quiet so that she can cool off. Children over two can go to their room, where she feels safe and secure, rather than the garage for example. Some experts suggest a step, or a chair. The important thing is that time-out should be quiet and boring, no TV.
Don’t give long explanations: A simple, “it’s not nice to spit,” should do. “Sit here until you feel better”. Don’t leave your child in time-out for long. Experts recommend a minute per age. A two year old for example will get a two minute time-out. When the time-out is over, invite your child over for a hug.
Experts say it is important to acknowledge your child’s feelings and to let them know why they were sent to time-out in the first place.