Though kids are wonderful little blessings, toddlers and preschoolers do things every day that make you want to pull your hair out. If you are having trouble dealing with your little one’s behavior, follow these tips to become a more patient parent.
Step 1: Stop thinking like a grown-up
Most of the time when young kids are acting “bad,” it isn’t deliberate. Many of the behaviors you see are from one of two things — innocence or frustration. Toddlers have plenty of accidents and mistakes, but if they’re truly innocent, you can’t scold them for it. You have to use this time as a teaching moment, and then move on. Also, because this is the age when your wee one is learning how to talk, some poor behaviors are out of frustration from not being able to communicate. If children can’t express what they want or need, they tend to act out. While your kids are learning to speak, teach them some basic baby signs so they can communicate with you.
Step 2: Give them choices
Your kids don’t want to be told what to do all day. And they don’t want to be told “no” every time they ask for something (or to do something). If your child is being difficult about getting dressed in the morning, start giving him/her options on what to wear, instead of forcing your child into whatever outfit you want. You’ll find saying, “Do you want the red shirt or the yellow one?” works better than struggling to get him/her into the yellow shirt. This even works for bedtime, bathtime and other activities. “Do you want to get in the car now, or in five minutes?” By providing choices for your toddlers, you give them some power — which is just what they need when they are starting to learn about independence.
Step 3: Watch your own behavior
Do you raise your voice when you are upset? Do you veg out in front of the TV in the evening? Do you eat all your vegetables that are on your plate? Don’t expect your child to have perfect behavior if you’ve fallen into some bad habits of your own. Toddlers model their actions after their parents, so you need to be mindful of your own behavior in front of your kids.
Step 4: Don’t sweat the small stuff
If they throw Cheerios on the floor, does it really matter in the big picture? Though you want your kids to behave in a proper manner, they are kids. Expect there to be spills, mistakes and some not-so-appropriate behaviors. Don’t waste an incredible amount of negative energy on the small stuff. Simply correct what needs correcting and move on. Give your toddler a lot of praise — concentrate on what they are doing right every single day instead of what they are doing wrong.