They are cute. They are fast. They only want what they want. Yes… I am talking about toddlers.
You may have noticed that your toddler is very quick on his feet. He is also very quick on the uptake. Unnoticed to you, he makes many connections in his mind. He realizes that when he climbs the fireplace or the stairs, you stop what you are doing, run to him, and pick him up. When he throws all the shoes off the shelf in the shoe store, he gets you to stop eyeing all the pretty shoes and look at him instead. If he bites you or hits his head on the wall, he gets even more attention including some “Noo!! Don’t that” type of reaction.
Needless-to-say, toddlers are attention-seeking smart-alecs who can’t express themselves. They define all attention as good attention, even if it means you are angry. They can’t communicate well enough, so they throw themselves backwards or stiffen up their body or cry interminably. Always remember that this is normal behavior for toddlers. They don’t call it “Terrible two” for nothing.
Your understanding of toddler psychology will make the terrible two easier for you and set your child up for good behavior for the rest of his life. Next time a tantrum is about to unfold, this is what you can do.
1. First, make sure he is safe.
2. Second, don’t turn around from what you are doing or frown or yell “No.” Act like you don’t care about what he is doing. Without looking at him, use a soft voice and say “We don’t do that.”
3. Next, distract him and take him to a different location or to a favorite toy or picture. If you are in a store, then leave the store. If you are driving, then you can pull over safely into a parking lot.
Ignoring undesirable behavior will not work unless desirable behavior is rewarded. The reward in this age group is attention. When he listens well and does not throw a tantrum, he is giving you a golden opportunity. This is your cue to reinforce his good behavior. Give him a ton of attention, lot of praise, and playtime with you. His toddler brain will quickly make connection that “Mommy plays with me when I listen to her.” Wouldn’t that be serendipitous?
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