What motivates toddler behavior? How can your sweet, dimpled, darling toddler turn into a screaming, demanding, red-faced creature in a matter of moments? More importantly, why does he act this way, and what can you do about it?
Toddler Behavior: Tantrums
It never fails. You have planned a nice family dinner at a local restaurant. Everyone has received his or her meals, and it's time to enjoy a peaceful meal together. All at once, your toddler lets out a blood-curdling scream and begins swinging his whole body to and fro in his high chair. What's the deal?!
Well, it may be something as insignificant as too much meat sauce on his spaghetti. Maybe he didn't get French fries, and his sibling did, or maybe he wanted a soft drink, and you ordered him milk. Minor problems, right? Not to a toddler! Frustrated may be your child's middle name, at least through the toddler years anyway,,LOL
What's the Problem?
Why this type of toddler behavior? Frustration plays a key role in these tantrums. Why is he frustrated, though? As your toddler grows and matures, he is learning new skills everyday. While this is an exciting time for him and everyone around him, it is also a frustrating time. He is gaining more independence, but often, he isn't allowed to express that independence.
Think about it this way. He has matured enough to know what he wants, but he isn't mature enough to realize what is good and what is bad for him. When he doesn't get his way, his reaction can be quite volatile.
Head Off the Fits
You can't always prevent these tantrums from occurring, but there are some things you can do to head off some of your toddler's fits.
- Take Rest Breaks-One of the reasons that your toddler has meltdowns may simply be because she is overly tired. If you have planned a big shopping excursion for the day, try to plan it around your child's naptimes, if at all possible. If this isn't possible, look for a quiet place to sit with your toddler, so that she can rest for a while. She may lose control because she is exhausted and just can't cope anymore.
- Snack Time-If you are on an all day outing, your toddler may get hungrier earlier or more often than usual. Be sure you've packed plenty of nutritious snacks to take along. You might want to find a quiet area to sit with your child and let her eat a snack before moving on.
- Talk to Your Toddler-Sometimes toddlers have meltdowns because they don't know what to expect next. If you are away from home and not able to stick to your child's normal routine, it might be a good idea to remind your child what you are going to do next before you do it. Sometimes just letting your child know what she can expect from her day can head off potential problems.
- Snuggle Time-If you notice that your toddler is starting to become fussy and whiney, take some time for physical contact with him. Sit quietly on the couch or the floor with your toddler in your lap. Hold him, hug him, and kiss him. Sing some songs softly in his ear, and maybe read him a favorite book. The key is to head off a tantrum before it hits full force.
Don't React, Act
When your toddler does have a tantrum, your first instinct may be to react to his behavior. Instead, try acting in a calm, positive way. It is your responsibility to teach your child how to handle problems the right way, not the wrong way. One of the best ways you can do this is by example.
Instead of "losing it" along with your child, try to keep your voice and actions calm. You will need to be consistent in your responses to your child's actions, but you should also be a steadying influence. If you have to pick your toddler up and leave a situation, such as a party, department store, or Sunday school class, then do so. After you have left with your child, you will need to explain to him in a no-nonsense tone of voice exactly why you had to take him out. He may not get it the first time, but eventually he'll begin to realize that he is not getting the results he wants with the tantrums he throws.