The “terrible-twos” are an all-too-familiar term for parents. Once your sweet baby hits the 24-month-old mark, it seems like she turns into a completely different, and defiant, little person. Gone are the days when a bottle of milk could make her perfectly happy. Now, she has her own thoughts, wants, and feelings – BIG feelings, at that. While your toddler is still learning how to express her feelings appropriately, some tantrums are inevitable while other tantrums can be prevented with a little help from you.
Here are a few tips and reminders to get you through the next couple of years with as few tantrums as possible:
Tantrums usually have a specific trigger and do not happen instantly
It might seem that your toddler just burst into tears for no reason at all, but upon closer inspection, there was one, or maybe even several, factors behind it. The usual suspects are – hunger, lack of sleep, being overtired, and over stimulation. When parents keep these four factors in mind, tantrums can be avoided.
For example, make sure your toddler is well-fed before heading out of the house or keep snacks handy. Ask yourself – “Is it time for her nap?”,
“Has she been out of the house the whole day?”, “Did she miss bedtime last night and stay up too late?” When we figure out what causes a tantrum, we can do our best to avoid it.
Remember to take your toddler’s perspective
Sometimes, we expect toddlers to think like us. In reality, their brains are simply not developed enough to understand and process information like an adult, or even like a 7-year-old. They’re still learning about feelings and they don’t know how to express these feelings appropriately. We need to look at everyday situations from their point of view to understand them better.
For example, you’ve spent the whole day at the mall, with your toddler strapped into her stroller. After a few hours, she starts to complain until it escalates into a full-blown tantrum. You’re thinking, “Why? She’s just sitting down. What happened?” Imagine that you are a 3-year-old strapped into a stroller and ask yourself – “What can you see?” “Nothing interesting, just legs of other shoppers and the bottoms of clothing racks.”; “Can you move around?” “Nope. I’m strapped into this stroller.” “Is this fun?” “Not at all. I need to move around and play!”
Always tell your toddler what to expect and what’s going to happen next
No one likes getting caught off-guard, most especially toddlers. They want to know what will happen next so they can prepare for it, and they hate being rushed. When they’re busy with an activity, their little hearts and minds are fully immersed in what they’re doing. You can’t suddenly say, “Okay stop playing, let’s go now!” You can definitely expect some, maybe even a lot, of resistance. A better way would be to give enough warnings and ample lead time – “Honey, we need to go soon. I’ll give you 3 more minutes to play then I’m going to ask you to pack away.” We need to make sure that we have enough time for whatever we’re going to do next, so we don’t need to rush out the door with a crying and flailing child in our arms. Less stress for all parties involved.
Remember, it’s our role as the parent to understand our toddler and not the other way around. Toddlers and tantrums are part of life, but these tips above can help you enjoy more of your toddler, less of the tantrum.