Imagine what it must be like to be 2-feet-tall, constantly tripping over your own feet, quickly vacillating between having too much energy and feeling so tired you can't stay awake and being unable to effectively communicate your needs. It's no wonder toddlers misbehave! Dealing with a toddler's misbehavior is daunting, but several tactics can help you manage your toddler's behaviors while you preserve your sanity.
1. Provide Structure
Make your toddler's day as predictable as possible. Create a schedule and hang it on the fridge to help keep nap times, meal times and play times as consistent as possible. Your toddler will appreciate the routine and his body will be tired, hungry and energetic at more predictable times. Plan your errands and trips to the grocery store at times when your toddler is likely to be in the best mood. A well-fed, well-rested toddler is likely to be easier to manage in public compared to a tired, hungry one.
2. Provide Lots of Attention
Although playing with the same toy over and over isn't likely to be the highlight of your day, providing praise and positive attention to your child is key to managing their behaviors. Play time can help thwart attention-seeking behaviors such as tantrums while building a positive relationship that will motivate him to follow the rules. Get down on the floor, press buttons on a toy, and clap and praise your toddler while you play.
3. Provide Safe Ways to Help Him Explore
Toddlers want nothing more than to copy adults. So give them opportunities to push, pull, climb and explore safely. Provide your child with his own drawer in the kitchen filled with plastic measuring cups or teaspoons that will allow him to pretend he's cooking. Provide a child-size vacuum that will allow him to help you clean the house. Create a safe place where he can climb on something without injuring himself. These efforts are likely to be much more effective rather than trying to curb his desire to be active.
4. Provide Consequences
Sometimes, you'll need to provide a consequence. A time-out can be an excellent teaching tool that discourages misbehavior. The Mayo Clinic recommends one minute of time-out for each year of age. If your child hits you when you tell him to pick up his toys, calmly say to him, "I know you are angry but hitting is not OK. You have a time-out for hitting." This helps him begin to learn empathy and recognize that aggression leads to an immediate consequence.
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