I love being a mum and I absolutely love the toddler stage. The constant communication attempts, the imagination they develop and also the things they start to understand and accept, such as bedtime, naptime or even chilling on the sofa watching a tv program. But (yes there is a but) one of the hardest things, for me, so far are the tantrums and whining. I know some parents have to deal with more tantrums than others, but I am sure there is not a single parent out there that has not dealt with toddler tantrums at least once before.
Toddlers have bad days too
It is really important to understand that as hard it is for us parents, it is as hard for our toddlers as well. They go through so many changes, physical, emotional and developmental, that it is more than normal for them to throw tantrums and whine from time to time. Moreover toddlers are ‘little people’ and they do have bad days just like we do and we need to keep that in mind when dealing with those tantrums. On their ‘bad days’ it is so hard to actually try and minimise the tantrums and the whining just because the only reason they are throwing them is that they have a bad day. On those days they just need your attention, love and of course your patience.
From my experience both tantrums and terrible twos can be minimise and I wanted to share my tips and the things that really helped us overcome some really bad whining and tantrums.
First of all we need to understand the basics, some of us already know them for experience and some of us are just hitting that point in motherhood.
Terrible twos – “characterized by defiant behavior, including saying “no,” hitting, kicking, biting or ignoring rules—can start as early as just after a first birthday or may not set in until a child is 3 years old”
Threenager – “Three year old child spouting attitude like a spoiled teenager”
Tantrums – “an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child.”
Whining – “give or make a long, high-pitched complaining cry or sound”
And now that we actually know the meaning of those three words let me share with you what worked for us and we managed to at least minimise tantrums and made our life easier (not every day but most days).
Pick your battles
One of the most important is to pick your battles. I will find my son an outfit the night before in order to make it easier for us to leave the house on time in the morning. Yet he somehow doesn’t like the trousers I chose, or the top and he wants to wear something I wouldn’t probably let him wear outside the house. But is it worth the fight? The whining? The tantrum? Definitely not! Wear whatever you want.
We have a collection of cups and each cup has its purpose, one is for milk, one is for water and so on. So I fill the “milk cup” with milk but he doesn’t want that cup anymore he wants the paw patrol one. Should I insist on telling him that this was the one he picked or just change the cup?
It all depends on you. But for things that he won’t hurt himself or that are not out of the boundaries you have set you can just skip the battle. Just think if it is really worth the battle and if yes then insist but if not just let them so what they want.
Toddlerproof your house
There will be a blog post coming up all about making your house toddler friendly.
Say “no” without saying it
I can go on about it all day long. The difference this makes is unbelievable. Of course I don’t mean that you have to say yes to everything, you just have to say no in a positive way. I have written a whole blog post about it here.
Set clear boundaries
Of course boundaries are sometimes meant to be broken but toddlers work better with what they know and are used to. Generally toddlers don’t really do well with changes, not blaming them though there is only so much they can take in and imagine if one day everything you knew changed! Be specific and persistent with your boundaries. Explain with clear instructions why they shouldn’t be doing that and give them other options to do instead. As I said boundaries can be broken if they are not putting the child in any sort of danger but still try and be persistent to most of your boundaries you have set.
Don’t give into the tantrum
You are out in the supermarket and your toddler starts throwing a tantrum and you immediately buy him or her the stuff they wanted in order for them to stop yelling. You stop yourself from being the center of attention for everyone around you for the next 20 minutes while you shop. The next time you go to the supermarket your toddler will throw the exact same tantrum. Is it worth going through the same tantrum over and over again because you felt embarrassed the first time? Definitely not!
First of all you shouldn’t be embarrassed because of the tantrum, most of the people around you have kids or siblings and they know how these works. Let them throw their tantrum. The second time they won’t ask and if they do they will not be throwing a tantrum as they have already unsuccessfully done that.
Know your toddler first
I think it is the most important thing you should do first. Don’t compare your little one with others, every child is different and that is how they should be treated. I myself have two little ones and they couldn’t be more different, one loves food and the other could go three days without asking for food. So what works for one kid doesn’t mean that will work for the other too.
Don’t try too much
Stop trying! Let them get bored, that’s when the magic will happen! Let them explore, let them get messy, let them rediscover old toys. Let them be little. You will be amazed by the games they come up with and their imagination!
Give them space
Toddlers hate being pushed and rushed to do things (yes, I learned this the hard way). I know sometimes it’s hard not to rush especially on mornings you have to go to work or have an appointment to go. But plan in advance, I will explain more below.
Also give them their space when they need it. My son is now 3 and sometimes need his space to breath, his space to play for a while.
Plan in advance
Here is a list of ten things you can do in advance to avoid over rushing and save time in the mornings.
Give them choices
Toddlers love being in charge, they love being the once making the choices so give them the option to make choices. This can be picking up their snack, their nursery meal, their clothes or shoes. I try to give my son the option to choose what he wants for dinner every once in a while or where he wants to go on the weekend. If you don’t like the choice try to make another choice seem really fun until they pick that one and you both win (mom hack over there).
Explanations & empathy
Explain their feelings. For example if they are angry you can tell them “I know you are angry, I would be too but we can do this or that to feel better”, if they are sad do the same and try doing this every time they show a different feeling. This way they will learn to talk to you about what they feel instead of just throwing a tantrum.
Say sorry/please/thank you
Toddlers are mirrors of ourselves. What I mean by that is that they learn better by mimicking instead of listening. Show them the right way. Say please when you ask them to do something, apologise when you do something wrong and say thank you when they do something you ask them. Be kind and be polite.
Praise good behaviour
When they behave nicely or they listen praise their good behaviour, make it clear that you are happy because of that. Give them a small treat, a kiss or a hug. Show them that when they are nice they get things.
In the same context you should “punish” bad behaviour. A punishment can be that they won’t be allowed to watch tv for the day or something they won’t have dessert after dinner. It should be immediate so they can make the connection between the bad behaviour and the punishment, and of course explain why they are not allowed to do this or that.
Talk to them
I know toddlers don’t understand everything we say but they do understand more than we think. Explain to them where you are going and why. For example we are going to the grocery store to buy milk you can pick something as well or we are only picking that because I only have money for milk with me. You will be amazed by how they will then behave. It’s so important to explain the where and why beforehand.
Show them love
You will be amazed by how much difference a cuddle can make in your toddler’s behaviour. Show them love every day and show them even more love when they are having a bad day. Show them that you are there for them, even when they are not allowed to watch tv as a punishment you should be there for them. They need to understand that you are there to explain to them and make things right. You shouldn’t be the punishment, you should be the one guiding them through and show them that you too are sad because they got a punishment for bad behaviour.
What is a tip you would give to a mom that is struggling with toddler tantrums?