For parents, the toddler years can be a troubling time in many respects. Toddlers are old enough to have some awareness of themselves, and they understand that they are capable of making things happen and eliciting responses from those around them. Yet at the same time, their rational thinking skills are not well developed, and they cannot
reason through their problems and come up with solutions. As a result, a toddler’s default response to upset feelings is to throw a tantrum.
Tantrums come in many different forms, and they are never pleasant. They are frustrating when they happen in the home, but they can be mortifying when they happen in public places, especially inescapable places such as airplanes or public transportation. Minimizing these situations involves preparing your child for success by taking certain steps ahead of time, and then knowing how to handle them when they happen. Here are some things you can do.
Young children thrive within routine, and when they know what to expect, they are less likely to respond to things in negative ways. Lay the foundation for this consistency in your home by making an effort to follow a fairly regular schedule with meals, naps, bedtime, and so on. Also enforce consistency in your disciplinary practices. If you do not want your child to do something, stop her and say “no” every time she does it. If you do not do so every time, she will continue to think it is okay.
2. Limit new experiences to active times:
Your toddler will likely develop times of day when he is most comfortable doing things that are not part of the daily routine. For instance, if your child takes a short nap in the morning and another in the late afternoon, then the best times for new activities are probably early morning and early afternoon. Of course, when you plan for new experiences, it is also important to plan around meal times—and always have snacks on hand for when your child’s hunger flares up.
When your child continues to do something that you do not want her to do, take advantage of your toddler’s natural tendency to be drawn toward new sights and sensations. Keep a few novel toys hidden near her play area so that you can bring them out and show them to her when you want her to stop doing something. And when you are out in public, bring this to a new level. Have not just new unusual toys but also snacks on hand for when a tantrum or other bad behavior starts. Sometimes the quickest way to put an end to a public tantrum is to hold out a snack.
4. Use positive reinforcement:
At the toddler stage, children are still too young to understand conventional forms of punishment. Brief timeouts can be effective, but when you treat them as a very negative thing, they are liable to send negative messages. Instead, focus on rewarding your child when he is good. As soon as he is capable of understanding speech (and this begins to happen earlier than you may know), start telling him when he is good, and give him rewards for doing certain things especially well.
5. Remain calm:
When your toddler is throwing a tantrum, the last thing you want to do is allow yourself to be distraught by the behavior. This might only escalate the situation. Sure, when you are in a public place and your child starts to wail and cry, it is very difficult not to get upset yourself. Just remember that a few strangers getting temporarily annoyed is not a big deal, and that your primary responsibility is to your child. When you are calm, you are a better parent.
By Jamell Williams