It’s a basic parenting fact that toddlers behave the best when they are given limits that they can understand. For example, a 2/3 year old may understand that drawing on paper and colouring books is a good thing, but that if they take that pen to the nearest wall they’re likely to witness a vein popping out of their parents’ head while they try not to yell. Rules provide stability and predictability and when if you have ever done a set of Childcare courses for Nannies, you will know that you are often told to establish rules very early on. Before you have children it’s natural to make castles in the sky and imagine all the things your child will do and who they will be. It is natural to think that your toddler will be a well behaved, Mozart playing angel and it is natural to believe that it will be your child who wins all the prizes for good manners.
Unfortunately it’s a basic parenting fact that the angelic child you believe you will have will inevitably stick crayons up their nose, smear Crayola on the walls and have mega meltdowns in Tesco at least once. One thing you should know is that you are not alone! While toddlers are very cute, they can also be very demanding and sometimes very misbehaved. Of course, toddlers haven’t been a part of the world for very long and they are consistently and constantly learning so behaviour isn’t always defined as good and bad and every toddler is different in how they behave. The biggest question you want to ask yourself as a parent is whether you want to set boundaries for your child from a young age or if you want to allow your children to be a little more ‘free’ and learn for themselves natural consequences of their actions. This can be referred to as free-range parenting. We go through life knowing our actions have consequences and the younger a child learns this, the easier enforcing those consequences can be. Sometimes, and it’s to be expected really, toddlers do not behave as we expect. Of course they don’t! They are small versions of us who have no understanding of danger and only understand what they want and that they must get it.
Even if what they want is to stick tiny fingers into open plug sockets. If you raise a voice and say ‘no’ then that is essentially taking from them the thing they want to do. The chain reaction from this is crying, screaming and a wonderful toddler tantrum. The best thing to do with tantrums is let them burn out and perhaps sit the child in a safe space they can kick and scream. Oh, and ignore them. By reacting to the tantrum you are essentially giving them attention and bad behaviour should not attract any attention. By allowing the tantrum to burn itself down into a calm, you can then talk to your child in a calm voice and use that time to gently explain the dangers of sticking fingers into plug holes.
Of course, this won’t always work, but the only way to communicate to a toddler is with rationality and calm. Yes they should react angrily, you’ve just taken from them what they want, if it was the other way around you’d be angry too! But that doesn’t mean a tantrum is acceptable and learning that at a young age will always stand them in good stead.