Understanding your Toddler
The toddler years may be a challenging time for parents. As toddlers mature and begin to explore the world they will experience a whole new range of emotions which may be difficult for them to manage. Your toddler may need your support to help manage some of these behaviours.
Things to know about toddlers
• They are finding out how exciting the world is and how everything works
• They are inquisitive and curious
• They can’t see that their actions will have an effect on others or themselves
• They are learning to regulate their emotions and feelings.
• They want to try and test everything
• Have rapid mood changes
• Have a short attention span
• They are striving for independence
• They will test their limits and capabilities
• A common response from toddlers is “No". This can give the impression that they don’t want to cooperate. Be reassured this is a normal part of learning about life e.g. negotiating, discipline, safety and rules
How parents and carers respond to toddlers can influence how they progress through life.
Understanding your Toddlers Emotions
How to encourage the behaviour you want in your toddler
• Be a positive role model
• Celebrate their successes and achievements
• Get down to their eye level
• Look for the opportunities to let them know when they are doing the right thing
• Offer labelled praise – describe what they have done well eg: Bella, well done, you picked up all your toys when I asked
• Pick your battles – allow them to explore unless it is dangerous to themselves or others
• Divert and distract from potential harm or unwanted behaviour
• Give clear simple instructions
• Allow opportunities to problem solve. Be available to help if needed
• Engage with your Toddler by spending time reading and playing.
• Encourage your toddler to help pack away after play
• Allow toddlers a sense of independence, offering limited choices. e.g. Red shirt or blue shirt rather than entire contents of wardrobe
• If they refuse to cooperate, it may be best to remove them from the situation. If there is immediate danger with what they are doing, (pulling on an electrical cord), calmly remove them from the danger. Explain after the risk of danger has passed
• Help language development by encouraging toddlers to say words of things they are asking for. Remember this is prime time for learning language so talking and repeating words will help build their language
What toddlers need from you:
• To be safe
• Your time
• Play, have fun and be active together
• Lots of support and understanding to enable them to learn social skills
Karitane respects each family has their own culture and parenting practices. This guide is an evidence based resource you may use in your parenting. Relationship building is essential and recognising what triggers the tantrum may allow you to step in before they occur.
What is a tantrum
A challenging behaviour is a toddler’s way of expressing and coping with feelings they cannot control or understand. Here are some reasons they occur:
• Family conflict
• Feeling insecure
• Trouble with expressing themselves
Strategies that may Help
• Use distraction to redirect their attention
• Limit use of the word ‘no’. If you must say ‘no’ give them a simple reason why in a gentle, calm tone
• Kneel down to the Toddlers level to talk to them
• Avoid further explanations
• Stay with your toddler while the challenging behaviour is happening may help them feel safe and secure
• If you feel you are becoming frustrated, take a deep breath, step away from the situation to calm yourself or ask for help
• Once the behaviour is over give your child a cuddle to reassure them. This can be frightening for a toddler
• Acknowledge, name and talk about their feelings (e.g. “I understand you’re sad that you can’t have mum’ s keys")
Try to understand your child in terms of what your child is feeling and thinking, not in terms of what he/she is doing. Your child’s emotions can be intense from being over excited to feelings of anger or disappointment. Negative emotions such as anger or disappointment are real and painful for your child.
What to do about Biting
Biting is a common developmental behaviour. Toddlers may bite as a reaction to feeling stressed, helpless, frustrated or wanting attention. It is usually a short term behaviour if managed appropriately.
It may take several episodes of biting, but your patience and persistence will be rewarded!
Outings with Toddlers
If you are going out with your toddler, for example shopping, plan ahead. To help make your outing as fun and productive as possible, here are some suggestions that may help:
• Ensure your toddler is not tired and it’s not time for a sleep
• Ensure your toddler is not hungry and it’s not time for a meal
• Give your toddler a healthy meal or snack before you go out
• Make some healthy snacks and a drink to take with you
• Take some activities along for your toddler
• Where possible let your toddler help with the tasks of your outing, for example by getting items from the shopping list from the shelf
• Try to have a routine where you finish with a small healthy treat or fun activity when they behave well. This gives them something to look forward to and rewards behaviours to be encouraged
If tantrums increase while you are out, take your toddler somewhere quiet until have calmed down.
The addition of another family member is a big change for everybody, including your toddler. Your toddler is adjusting from having you available whenever they need, to sharing you with another, perhaps more demanding person! Toddlers may notice changes before the new baby arrives and you find that he or she is misbehaving more to get your attention. In the end stages of your pregnancy, start talking to your toddler about the new baby and their role as the big sibling. When you bring the new baby home, your toddler may begin to have baby-like or challenging behaviours. It is important to acknowledge to the toddler that you understand their feelings.
Get your toddler involved with the new baby, by helping with tasks (such as getting a nappy), and doing things together, like reading books, telling stories and singing songs. Have some one-on-one time with your toddler each day to make them feel special.
Conflict between a toddler and their older siblings can be difficult. Children like to feel that mum and dad are treating all their children equally and the rules are fair and consistent. You might need to remind children frequently of the rules, eg. “no hurting", even if the rule only applies to one child. Try and spend quality time with each child, these activities may be quite different for each child depending on their age and gender. When stepping in to manage conflict, try and remain calm and avoid blaming a particular child.
What About Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity is a growing problem in Australia. In 2007-08, one-quarter of all Australian children, or around 600,000 children aged 5-17, were overweight or obese, up four percentage points from 1995 (Australian Bureau of Statistics Year Book Australia, 2009–10).
Key tips to prevent childhood obesity
How do I introduce healthy eating habits?
If food choices are restricted for special diets and medical reasons like allergies, the advice of a dietitian or appropriate health professional might be necessary to make sure your toddler is getting the right nutrients.