Having a toddler can be one of life’s most wonderful experiences as they are learning about the world and find enjoyment in simple pleasures. Often as they are learning about the world they are also working out how to have their needs met and how to express these needs to their families. This issue of Offshoot deals with some of the common issues that families may experience and provides some practical tips on how to deal with them.
How to manage unwanted behaviours?
Tantrums are a normal manifestation of children feeling frustrated about a situation where they are unable to communicate their needs and wants. It’s important to realise that children throwing tantrums are not naughty, nor does it necessarily reflect bad parenting skills. Most children will grow out of tantrums as they are able to express their needs and become more resilient.
When dealing with unwanted behaviours it’s a good idea to break the situation down to consider all the factors that have contributed to the current situation. A useful way to think about this includes:
Other tactics to deal with unwanted behaviours:
Distraction – this can be very useful to divert a toddlers attention. Using a favourite toy or reading a book can be useful strategies for biding time.
Explanation – this technique can work if your toddler has sufficient speech and language skills. Acknowledge what they want and provide an explanation of why they can’t have it because you have an alternative that is better for them. I know you want bikkies, but remember how we discussed that bikkies are a sometimes food? We have some strawberries for your snack today and you love eating strawberries because they are yummy.
Be calm. All you need to do is to stay calm and talk to your child in a calm and controlled voice and say you know that they are unhappy about the situation and you want to discuss it with them when they have stopped their tantrum. With provocative behaviour it is important that your toddler doesn’t elicit an emotional response from you because your response is the reward they seek.
Ignore. If your child is having a tantrum ignore the responses from other people.. Tantrums are normal behaviour and do not reflect that you are a bad parent or that your child is badly behaved.
Discuss. For behaviours that hurt other children such as biting or scratching, it is a good idea to start to teach your child empathy by explaining how the recipient of their behaviour feels. This is best done in a calm voice. Encouraging your child to apologise is an important skill to learn.
Praise and reward good behaviours. If your child handles a situation well that would have previously resulted in a tantrum, then tell them that you are impressed that they are doing so well. For more tips and multilingual resources for dealing with toddler behaviour visit:
All children mature at different rates, but if your child is able to express that they need to go to the toilet or they have a soiled nappy then they may be ready for toilet training. Like any skill they will learn at their own pace and respond to your cues and encouragement. Using narrative stories can be very useful for helping to shape your child’s expectations about potty training. These stories set out a routine that your child could reasonably expect to follow with steps such as:
- Identifying they need to go to the toilet
- Asking for assistance in taking off their pants/nappy or taking off their pants themselves
- Sitting on the toilet or potty to do their wees or poos
- Wiping their bottom with toilet paper
- Pulling up their pants
- Washing and drying their hands
Other useful strategies for enabling potty training include placing your child on the potty at times of the day when they may use their bowels and placing them on the toilet when they are interested. Children often learn by modelling behaviour so this is why they are interested in watching other people go to the toilet. You can incorporate this into your potty training by discussing the steps that you are doing. Children like to be praised when they have success, so it is important to praise them when they have a success with their potty training. It is also very important to accept that accidents do happen in the potty training process and to try and frame failure positively e.g., It’s ok that we didn’t quite may it to the toilet in time, we were very close, I’m sure you can do it next time!
Improving speech and literacy
All toddlers develop their speech at different rates and pick up different phrases that their family use in conversation. Modelling desirable speech, such as manners, in everyday conversation at home will make it more likely for your toddler to pick up on this behaviour.
Other strategies for developing speech in your toddler include reading books and giving your toddler the opportunity to mix with other toddlers so that they can model language for each other. Most toddlers should be using at least two word combinations by the age of two. If they are not doing this then it is worth having a hearing test. If you have concerns that your toddler is not using language and seems less socially aware than other children of the same age then your paediatri- cian may be interested in looking at their difficulties carefully to consider if the difficulties may place them on the Autism Spectrum.
If you want to extend your toddler then consider teaching them a second language.
There are many language schools that cater to toddlers. If attending a language school is not for your then there are online courses such as Rosetta Stone (www.therosettastone.com.au) or babbel (www.babbel.com) that give you an opportunity to listen to words and practice them. There are also foreign language books by Usborne books that can be purchased in bookshops and foreign language bookshops where you can purchase foreign language books and DVD’s to reinforce learning.
Encouraging toddlers to eat
Toddlers are notoriously fussy eaters. There are a lot of changes from babyhood to toddlerhood and it is normal to find that your toddler doesn’t want to eat as much as they did when they were younger. When eating at home, toddlers should eat the same food as they rest of their family. This means they only need a portion of meat that is the size of the palm of their hand and a couple of tablespoons of vegetables. Generally toddler meals are 1⁄4 of an adult meal size. Toddlers like familiarity of food so it is a good idea to introduce new foods accompanied by unfamiliar food. It is not uncommon for toddlers to need to try food a few times before they will eat it. It is important that you don’t short order cook to try and cater to your toddler and that you resist letting them snack just before meal times so they will be hungry. Toddlers love learning about and naming foods. You can take advantage of this by discussing nutrition with your toddler and learning about sometimes food (food that you should only eat sometimes) and all the time food (food that is nutritious and fresh). This is a good way to educate your toddler about nutrition and encourage them to eat fresh food and discourage them from eating highly processed food with less nutritional benefit.