Are there any parents who haven't felt complete and utter love
for their toddler and, at the same time, frustration and anger?
Our beloved little ones test our nerves because they're testing boundaries all
around them. Every day, little by little, they're mastering new skills, and are anxious
and excited to use them.
Sometimes it's tough to reel in a toddler, but it can be done. And setting rules
and limits now — when your child is learning what behaviors are acceptable —
will help prevent bigger problems down the road.
Here are some ways to help you keep your youngster on the right track.
When it comes to discipline, it's important to be consistent. Parents who don't
stick to the rules and consequences they set up don't have kids who do either. For
example, if you tell your toddler that a timeout is the repercussion for bad behavior,
be sure to enforce it. Only issue warnings for things that you can follow through
on. Empty threats undermine your authority.
And don't forget that kids learn by watching adults, particularly their parents.
So make sure your own behavior is role-model material. When asking your child to pick
up toys, you'll make a much stronger impression if you've put away your own belongings
rather than leaving your stuff all around the room.
By now, you've figured out that your toddler wants to explore and investigate the
world. Toddlers are naturally curious, so it's wise to eliminate temptations whenever
possible. That means keeping things like TVs, phones, and electronics out of reach.
Also beware of choking hazards like jewelry, buttons, and small items that kids can
put in their mouths.
And always keep cleaning supplies and medicines stored safely away where kids can't
get to them.
If your roving toddler does head toward an unacceptable or dangerous play object,
calmly say "No" and either remove your child from the area or distract him or her
with another activity.
It's important to not spank, hit, or slap your child. At this age, kids are unlikely
to be able to make a connection between the behavior and physical punishment. The
message you send when you spank is that it's OK to hit someone when you're angry.
Experts say that spanking is no more effective than other forms of discipline, such
If you need to take a harder line with your child, timeouts can be an effective
form of discipline. A 2- or 3-year-old who has been hitting, biting, or throwing food,
for example, should be told why the behavior is unacceptable and taken to a designated
timeout area — a kitchen chair or bottom stair — for a minute or two to
As a general rule, about 1 minute per year of age is a good guide for timeouts.
Longer timeouts have no added benefit. And they could undermine your efforts if your
child gets up (and refuses to return) before you signal that the timeout has ended.
Be sure that the timeout area is away from distractions such as toys or TV, and
that you do not provide your child with any attention (talking, eye contact) while
they're sitting in timeout.
How to Avoid Temper Tantrums
Even the most well-behaved toddler can have a tantrum
from time to time. Tantrums are common during toddlerhood because kids can understand
more than they can express and this often leads to frustration.
Toddlers get frustrated in other ways too, like when they can't dress a doll or
keep up with an older sibling. Power struggles can come when your toddler wants more
independence and autonomy too soon.
The best way to deal with tantrums is to avoid them, whenever possible. Here are
some tips that may help:
Make sure your child isn't acting up to get attention. Establish a habit of catching
your child being good ("time-in"), which means rewarding your little one with attention
for positive behavior.
Give your toddler control over little things. This may fulfill the need for independence
and ward off tantrums. Offer minor choices that you can live with, such as "Would
you like an apple or banana with lunch?"
When kids are playing or trying to master a new task, offer age-appropriate toys
and games. Also, start with something easy before moving on to more challenging tasks. This
will build their confidence and motivation to try things that might be frustrating.
Consider the request carefully when your child wants something. Is it outrageous?
If not, try to be flexible.
Know your child's limits. If you know your toddler is tired, it's not the best
time to go grocery shopping or try to squeeze in one more errand.
When Tempers Flare
If your child does throw a tantrum, keep your cool. Don't complicate the problem
with your own frustration. Kids can sense when parents are becoming frazzled and this
can just make their frustration worse. Try to understand where your child is coming
from. For example, if your youngster has just had a great disappointment, you may
need to provide comfort.
Children seek attention from their parents, and an easy way to get a big reaction
is to misbehave. One of the best ways to reduce attention-seeking behavior is to ignore
it. Continue your activities, paying no attention to your child but remaining within
Keep in mind that when you do this, your child's behavior may get worse before
it gets better. This can be frustrating, but it means that ignoring the tantrum is
working. Your child will try harder to get your attention with misbehavior because
it has worked in the past. When your child learns that misbehaving won't get your
attention, the behavior will start to improve.
Note: Kids who are in danger of hurting themselves or others during a tantrum should
be taken to a quiet, safe place to calm down. Ignoring is not an appropriate way of
handling aggressive or dangerous behavior.
Some kids will have a hard time stopping a tantrum. In these cases, try saying,
"I'll help you settle down now." But whatever you do, don't reward your toddler by
giving in. This will only prove that tantrums are an effective way to get what he
or she wants. Instead, verbally praise your child for regaining self-control. Remember,
you want to teach your child that the best way to get what he or she wants is through
As their language skills improve and they mature, kids become better at handling
frustration, and tantrums are less likely. If you're having trouble handling temper
tantrums or have any questions about discipline, ask your child's doctor for advice.