Before I had children of my own I used to look on with disgust as moms ‘let’ their kids have tantrums in the shops.
I vowed that if I ever had kids I would ‘raise them properly’ and they would never bite, kick, scream, cry, or throw a public wobbly, lie to me or leave a mess, and to top that, they would eat all their veggies and I would never bribe them with sweets…
…And then I had kids, and I realized just what a challenge parenting can be.
For the most part I do believe my two are rather well behaved and well adjusted little humans, but I have to admit that many a tomato has been spat out, public tantrums have occurred, and there is a stash of lollipops in the kitchen cupboard reserved solely for toddler bribery emergencies.
The idea that toddlers will automatically comply when told what to do, shouted at or disciplined is flawed. These are little people who are just discovering that the things they do, think, feel or say can mould their environments, and when they cannot express what it is they want to do or say, tantrums are their way of expressing their feelings.
Imagine you are watching your favourite episode of Greys and someone comes along and tells you to turn it off as it is time to go wash the dishes. Personally I might shout, lash out or even throw a tantrum of my own! However if someone were to ask if I can watch til the end of that scene and then do the dishes because we have some cockroaches in the kitchen and if we leave the the dishes for the morning we might have a full blown infestation, I would be a lot more happy to comply.
It’s the same thing with toddlers! If indeed the TV needs to be turned off so that they can go to bed, tell them in advance that this is the last episode they can watch before it is bedtime. Explain that they need to climb into bed early enough or they cannot also get a story. Tell them getting enough sleep is very important or they wont have enough energy to play with their friends in the morning at school. Talk about the great things that tomorrow holds. Do this all in language they can understand, and do it on their level (eye to eye). Love, hug and encourage them and praise them when they do as you ask. It’s not a perfect science but it definitely helps.
Remember that when a toddler challenges you they are learning to challenge their world, to ask questions, to negotiate, to understand that there is a reason why certain things are done and that actions have reactions. They are shaping into the adults they will one day become. You can either help mould them and show the how to do this in a wonderful way or you can shout, hit and moan – and get shouting, hitting and moaning in return.
One way to help your toddler is to follow a routine. In an ever changing world where they are learning new things every day and where their understanding of the things around them is constantly changing and developing a routine is safe and reliable. They know what to expect and how to handle that part of their world. A good bedtime routine (bath, tea, brushing teeth, story time and bed – that’s ours for example) helps keep everyone sane – and allows for mommy to pour a nice glass of wine at an acceptable hour once the kids are asleep!
This blog post might seem like a bit of a lecture, but it is through lots of trial and error, many parenting books, tears and a few episodes too many of Super Nanny and other such ‘parenting fodder’ that I have found this to be what works best for me and our little ones.
Last night my son brushed his teeth, ran to his room, tidied up all his toys, and then chose a story to read in bed. When we finished the story he proudly announced “end of the story Mommy, now go away!” Needless to say I tickled a goodnight kiss out of him, as any mom would, and then went away as requested, and when I checked back in on him at 8pm he was fast asleep, no doubt dreaming about tomorrows adventures!