Mother and Baby

It Is Possible! How To Get The Best Behaviour From Your Toddler

As a baby, he won best in show. As a toddler, his behaviour is very firmly in the ‘must do better’ camp. But how do you respond when your little angel’s answer to everything is a big, fat NO!? We show you how to swap the devil horns for a halo…

Picture the scene. It’s Saturday morning in Waitrose and what started as a pleasant meander along the biscuit aisle has turned into a full-on red-faced battle. All you did was say no to a packet of bourbon creams and now your toddler is writhing around on the floor refusing to move for even the angriest of trolley steerers.

Been there, done that, cried the embarrassed tears to prove it. But what is the best way to cope with unruly toddler tantrums? And how do you respond when the only words in their tiny tot vocabulary seem to be No, Don’t want to, and No again!?

The truth is, when your toddler is saying ‘No’ they are just beginning to realise that they have a voice and can make decisions for themselves.

‘This is a new stage in your child’s development and they want to practice this hence the number of times you hear it in a day,’ says Claire Burgess, early years consultant at Norland College. ‘Try to think about the questions you are asking your child throughout the day. Are you asking a lot of “yes” “no” questions? Can they be replaced with questions which offer choices instead?’

According to Claire, by giving these choices your child will feel like he has some control and the number of “no”s you hear will drop. So that’s the No’s sorted, but how about their other favourite toddler talk?

Toddler talk: ‘I want’

Many toddler tantrums are caused by frustration in not being able to have something they want. As an adult we learn to cope with the disappointment of not getting everything – (Can’t afford those new Zara Biker boots? Life sucks, huh?) But for a little one, not being able to have the sweet/ice cream/toy/dummy is a difficult concept to grasp.

Overcome it: If you sense your child starting to become upset or angry, compromise – perhaps you can swap the toys he wants you to buy for a rare (OK, maybe not that rare) chance to play with your phone? But try to avoid biscuit bribery because they’ll think bad behaviour = treat and that’s a difficult association to break.

Many toddler tantrums are caused by frustration in not being able to have something they want

Toddler talk: ‘I don’t want to’

We’ve all been there – you have to be at work/nursery/your best friend’s wedding in 15 minutes flat and your little devil is refusing to put on his shoes/ pants/brush his teeth.

Overcome it: The more you tell a tantruming toddler to do something the less he is likely to do it. It’s like toddler law or something! So what do you do? Try not to react at all. In fact, ignore his behaviour completely.

Ultimately, he’s looking for attention so shouting at him is a complete waste of time (have you ever tried reasoning with a puce-faced toddler? Exactly!) Literally the best thing you can do is calmly tell him you’re leaving his shoes for him to put on and if he’s not ready in five minutes you’ll be leaving without him. No one’s suggesting you actually do leave him behind, though we bet you’re tempted, but the threat should be enough to spur him into action. 

Toddler talk: ‘But WHY do I have to…’

This is effectively a delay tactic. Your little one is hoping if he asks enough questions, you’ll change your mind about asking him to do the very thing he doesn’t want to do. Smart these toddlers, aren’t they?

Overcome it: Resist the urge to shout ‘because you do’ or ‘because I said so’ no matter how tempting. Instead in a calm/rational way, explain why you’d like him to go to bed/switch off the television/eat dinner in simple language he can understand. A reasonable explanation will help arm him with enough information so that he can then do what you’d like him to do. Well, that’s the idea anyway. Best laid plans and all that....

Toddler talk: ‘Mine!’

Believe it or not children don’t learn to share until they’re around three years old. Up until then you can expect full blown battle over favourite toys/sweets/pretty much anything!

Overcome it: Try to limit the damage by praising your tot when they do share (no matter how few and far between an event it is). When other children come round to play, make sure there are enough toys/sweets/biscuits to go round and keep an eye out in case of bloodshed.

Toddler talk: ‘Carry?’

Sometimes this can be a mild form of separation anxiety, sometimes just another attention seeking tactic. Toddlers can react to change by suddenly returning to baby behaviour, because back in the baby years they felt safe and reassured.

Overcome it: There are times when you can’t swoop them up for a cuddle whenever they want, but saying no can result in the mother of all tantrums.

Try offering them a choice. ‘Mummy can’t carry you at the moment, but you can sit in the buggy if you’re tired.’ Or ‘If you walk like a big boy now, I’ll pick you up for a cuddle when we get home.’ 

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