Handling the Toddler and the Tantrums

By: Dr. Noel Swanson

2 year olds. Don't you just love 'em? Especially when they are rolling around the floor having a good old tantrum. So, are there any tips for making the terrible twos a little less terrible?

They look like angels just descended from heaven, but don’t get taken in by their innocent looks; they know exactly how to manipulate you to get their way. And, they have mastered the art of throwing a tantrum at the slightest pretext. They know what works for them and will do that at the most appropriate time, which may cause you severe embarrassment or drive you up the wall.

So, the best way to deal with such behavior is to treat them like an older child. If they know how to manipulate you, they aren’t that small, really. Here are some suggestions:

A. First, be very clear about what behaviors you will accept and what you won’t. Avoid the non-essentials and focus on the important issues.

B. Be clear about your instructions - say what you mean, and mean what you say. Say it once and don't repeat yourself.

C. However, make sure you do as you have said.

D. Yes, you can use time out with little ones: but instead of sending them to their room, how about using a "manners chair"? Here is how it works:

Place a small child's chair in a corner, facing into the room. Tell your child it is the ‘manners chair’ to teach manners when the child behaves badly. Whenever your child fails to do as told, just send him to the chair with words to the effect of: "Oh dear, you seem to have lost your good manners again. You had better go and sit in the chair until you find them again."

After some time when the child has ‘found his manners’, allow him to come off the chair. Till then, simply ignore him, especially if he is fussing or whining. Make sure you explain what he has done wrong so that he knows what to correct.

Some children are very sensitive. So, instead of making it sound like a punishment, you can make it light and playful by offering to help your child to find his manners again. Look under the chair, or in his pockets, or even in the shoes. This is a smart way of taking their attention away from whining to a more positive attitude. This also saves you the need to shout and be heard. Most children find the manners quite quickly.

Once they have found their manners, you can then tell them to do what they were originally supposed to do, or perhaps they need to apologize (eg to their sister for thumping her!).

The ‘manners chair’ is a positive way of telling your child what is expected of him. More often than not, children disobey instructions when they are not clearly given. Remember, manners are not taught in a day. You have to keep repeating and reinforcing them with awards and punishments. This is a fun way of doing it.

You will need to maintain a fine balance between fun and serious correction of behavior. Don’t let it become too much of a game by giving a lot of attention to find their manners. Watch your child intently and act accordingly. If it is getting serious, bring in the fun; if it’s becoming funny, drive home the purpose of the manners chair.

What is important is that you don't get into yelling mode, and they don't get away with inappropriate behavior. Keep it calm, keep it positive, keep showing that you still love them, but that the behavior is the problem - i.e. the child is not the problem, the problem is simply that she has lost her manners temporarily - once she has found them again, then all will be well again.

Now, what about when you are out in public? The key there, as everywhere else, is that you have to mean what you say, say what you mean, and follow up with action.

You can use one of these three options in public: 1. Take your child in a corner and do a kind of "manners chair" by saying that all activity will be suspended until he has found his manners.

2. Take them out and do a time out in the car. They are in the car, you are outside, looking AWAY from them. You stand there and you wait patiently until they are quiet. Do NOT respond or get into a "discussion" with them until the tie-out is up.

3. Abandon the shopping trip and go home and do the time out there.

The good news is that you will not have to do this too often. Children are quick to learn provided you are firm and consistent. Just remember to stay calm and in control. Losing your temper will only make matters worse.

You will find all this and much more in my book. Here is the link – you can get started today.

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Dr. Noel Swanson's website provides free expert parenting tips and advice - just sign up for his newsletter and get a free chapter of his book, The GOOD CHILD Guide. You can also meet with other parents on a parenting forum.

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