If you’re reading this blog, you likely have a toddler, will have a toddler, or have a child who was recently a toddler. We all know that toddlers are adorable, chubby little cherubs, but they also have a side of them that is defiant, stubborn and moody at times. Between the ages of two and four, kids are learning their boundaries, manners and acceptable behaviors, and that time can be really challenging for parents and kids alike.
First, let’s understand why toddlers can be so challenging.
Zero to Three, a website dedicated to ensuring kids have a strong start in life, notes that toddlers don’t understand logic and have a difficult time with self-control. They want what they want, when they want it. Sounds pretty accurate to me! Additionally, in the year between 2 and 3, kids are learning about feelings like shame, guilt and embarrassment for the first time.It’s our job as parents to help them navigate through these big feelings, which can be frustrating and difficult.
What can you do when your toddler is being challenging? This article from Zero to Three offers the following tips:
Talk about feelings and how to cope. Share your own feelings when you are frustrated or upset, and help your child name his or her own feelings when you see them getting worked up. Talk through the situation and how to best handle it.
Offer ideas for how to manage their emotions. When your child is angry, offer solutions to help him get through it. Let them hit a pillow, jump up and down or spend time alone to work through their emotions.
Empathize with them. This is the most challenging one for me because I see the logical solution to the problem, and just want my kids to do the same, but I forget that logic doesn’t work with a 2 year old. Acknowledging that you know they are upset, but we must do XYZ now and can finish their puzzle later can go a long way in helping your child move on to the next activity.
Let your kids make age-appropriate choices. Giving your kids choices can help diffuse a challenging situation and make them feel they are in control. Examples include: choosing their own outfit (yes, even if it looks like a clown put it together), choosing their snack, or deciding what activity you are doing that day.
Frustration and tantrums are just part of raising a toddler. But if we work on helping them through the emotions and learn their individual signs of frustration, we can help them work through the feelings easier and faster.
For more tips on handling challenging behavior, see the full Zero to Three article here.