I think when I tell people what I do, more often than not it is these sorts of questions that parents fire away most desperately. In search of that magical answer that will return to their arms that precious bundle of compliance and chubby cuteness to replace the obstinate temper tantrum throwing little minx that they need to go and watch sleeping, just to remind themselves how much they really do love them.
The answers are not always easy, otherwise there would be no tantrums at the supermarket, or wails of “no” when told to go to bed or stubborn refusals to wear a jacket despite the arctic like temperatures. Each child is different, each family situation is unique and the interactions and communication between parents and child is an intricate battle of emotions that sometimes means we are unable to remove ourselves from the situation and engage in any rational thought. But as I am in the middle of toddlerhood with my 4th son, I have managed to learn a thing or two about toddler behaviour and I stress that whilst nothing is full proof nor comes with any guarantees, I have come up with my 3 best tips to tame a toddler and get back to enjoying their charm.
By far one of the most widely used of my tools for tantrum prevention, the simple art of distraction has been known to stave off the fiercest of explosions. You know your child better than anyone, so use that knowledge to keep one step ahead. When you feel the pressure mounting or see something you know they will ask for, (cry, scream or stamp their feet for) think quick to divert attention, change the topic, point out a dog/bird/spider, sing a song or remind them of a past experience that they enjoyed, divert their pathway, keep them talking and hopefully they will soon forget that there was ever even a brewing storm (and singing kooky songs with silly actions is also a great way to get a baby to eat and changing the nappy of a baby with the escape artist skills of Houdini can be made somewhat easier with some crazy blurts and sneezes).
Give them a Job
Kids love to feel like they are helping so put them to work. We often don’t give them enough credit and find we are doing things for them that they are perfectly capable of doing themselves. Make good use of this eager to please stage whilst they are young as the novelty does somewhat dissipate with time and other pursuits. But again if you start early it becomes more routine rather than chore. When I go to the supermarket I remind my 2 year old that I will need some help with the groceries, that he will have to help make the baby laugh if he gets restless, that I need help lifting the items out of the trolley. I get him to pick out the apples, carry the bread and help me decide what flavour yoghurt. If you are cooking get them to sort out some tupperware, when washing get them to count the pegs or put them in colour groups…….anything to make them feel like you really need them there!
Give them power but retain control
Let them make the choices for the little things so that they recognise that they have some say in the proceedings. Focus on these things but be sure to take control of the bigger decisions. For example, give them a choice of 2 options, both of which are agreeable to you. “Do you think we should put all the blocks away first or should we put the books back on the shelf? Shall you wear the blue coat or the red coat today? Obviously there are times when they are not going to like either choice and in these times of non-negotiable enforcement, it is all about standing firm and putting up with the short term pain of a tantrum for the long term understanding of knowing who is ultimately in charge.
Again there is no full proof answer and certainly there are different behaviours that require different tacts, but I am certainly able to enjoy many more good moments than bad, (and probably more so than with previous children) by implementing these simple elements to help us all get through the grind and have more time for the fun stuff.
What have you found works well with your kids?
Click here for some more tips on getting your children to cooperate that focuses on our language, tone and choice of words.