Decoding your toddler's behavior may seem like a task for a detective, but strategy is key. Implementing simple techniques for redirecting undesirable behavior, along with teaching social skills, can help you both breeze past these tough years. Remember that every child is different. While you may not feel like Parent of the Year as your child throws an epic tantrum in the supermarket, getting to the bottom of your kiddo's needs, acknowledging his feelings and helping him redirect his energy and behavior gives him a sense of security and builds strong self-esteem.
1. Model Behavior
It might be one of the hardest things you do in your lifetime: maintaining your cool while your kiddo drops to the floor and screams at the top of his lungs in the middle of the store. But remaining cool, calm and collected shows your toddler that everything is okay and provides him behavior to model after. If you are not calm, he won't be either. Keep saying to yourself, "This too shall pass!" and take a deep breath. Try to focus on your tot and figure out what need isn't being met. Perhaps his epic breakdown is due to the fact that he is hungry and all he sees is food. Believe it or not, sometimes the answer is right in front of you.
2. Address the Need
Get down on your child's level and address his needs. Talk in a calm voice and figure out what the issue actually is. Always be sure to address the behavior, not the child. If he is doing something undesirable, be sure to communicate that you want to help him and you love him. "I am so sorry that you are so upset, but I can't understand you when you scream. Can you please use your nice voice? Are you hungry? Would you like a snack or a drink?" Your even tone should not only calm your kiddo down but also help him to think about what the real issue is and try to articulate it.
3. Refocus Energy
Sometimes, all your little one's needs are met, but he is doing something that is undesirable or dangerous. For example, if your kiddo is jumping on the bed and you are concerned that he may fall off, refocus his energy on something less dangerous but just as active. "Hey! Your frog jumps are awesome! Can you show me how to do them in the backyard where you have more space? I bet you can jump higher out there!" This is much better than saying, "No jumping on the bed!" which would only lead to frustration and pent-up energy.
4. Offer Choices
Kids love choices, but they do not like limits. Providing them with options allows them to feel like they are making the decision, which builds confidence and self-esteem. Offer up two or three options. "It's your choice: you can brush your teeth first or put on your shoes." Making your tot a part of the decision-making helps the day go more smoothly and make transitions easier.