There are few things in life more challenging than being the parent of a toddler. While you know intellectually that it’s all part of the growing up process, it’s not easy at all to cope with your sweet, adorable baby turning into a temperamental, stubborn toddler almost overnight. While it’s completely normal for children to be uncooperative, throw tantrums and have random mood changes between the ages of 1-3, parents can and should try positive discipline techniques to help their little ones learn to manage their emotions and gain self control.
Here are three easy and fun techniques to try to help your toddler learn positive ways to self-regulate.
Encourage Language Development
Learning how to “use your words” goes a long way towards eliminating toddler tantrums. Even infants who aren’t ready to learn to speak can be taught simple sign language so that they have a way to ask for what they want.
Imaginative play goes a long way towards helping your child learn to develop language skills. You can encourage this by helping your child learn how to narrate his or her actions as they play. Talk to them about what they are doing as they play and ask them plenty of questions.
Singing songs, reading and telling stories and playing pretend games are all fun ways to improve your child’s vocabulary and teach them to use words to express themselves and work out conflicts.
Make Cooperation Fun
There is no reason why you can’t have some fun while asking your child to follow your instructions. Taking a light-hearted approach is more likely to yield positive results and prevent power struggles and meltdowns.
Make a game out of getting dressed, tidying up and getting ready for bed. You can try using a timer or enlist the aid of a puppet helper to give your child instructions. Many children will be delighted by getting the chance to show a clueless puppet or parent what comes next or the right way to put on a shirt or pick up toys.
Older toddlers can be motivated by simple rewards charts. These are particularly useful during potty training or helping them give up a pacifier or bottle. Don’t worry too much about “bribing”; after all rewards for positive behavior and hard work are a part of normal everyday life, even for adults.
Give them Opportunities to be Independent
Most toddlers are very eager to leave behind the baby stage and want the chance to explore the world as a big kid who doesn’t need mom and dad so much anymore. Although your toddlers safety and well-being is paramount, do look for opportunities to let them express their autonomy.
Do your best to allow time in your schedule so that your child can feed and dress themselves. Offer them simple choices – perhaps let them choose between two shirts or which shoe they’d like to put on first. Be mindful that too many choices can cause a meltdown, so narrow it down to two acceptable alternatives.
Find safe ways for your child to explore their physical world, such as nature walks in places where it’s okay for them to run a bit ahead and poke around or trips to playgrounds with lots of structures to climb in and around. Give them play dough and finger-paints and let them get messy as they experiment with different ways to use these materials. Let them help you as you do chores and yard work, even if it means a bit more work for you.
The more opportunities your child has to assert their independence in safe ways, the more confident they will become and they will be less compelled towards asserting themselves through stubbornness, tantrums and willful behavior. It can be bittersweet to watch your sweet baby turn into an independent big kid, but you’ll be able to enjoy the toddler years more if you give them the chance to stretch and grow.