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Friday, March 11, 2011

Getting Toddlers To Behave

Parents have found that toddlers often have a mind of their own as they accumulate new experiences. They are naturally curious, with a passion for enquiring, hence earning themselves the tittle, 'the why' generation.

When you ask your toddler to do something, he or she may actually do it, thus surprising you! At this age, many children begin to learn to control their urges, hence changing their behaviour accordingly. So they might do what mom or dad requests. Not all the time, of course. This ability is termed self-regulation and it marks one of life's most important milestones in a child's development.

There are ways to encourage good behaviour in children of any age plus a few extra tips that can help bring out the best in your toddler. Here are the tips:

  • Toddlers are naturally curious about their world. They learn by testing and experimenting with everything around them. Constantly telling them 'no' can dampen this natural curiousity. So, try some other ways to change their behaviour which you disapproved.
  • Allow exploring. Try to create situations where your child can explore life without long lists of 'don'ts' and 'nos'. For example, if it's not acceptable to blow bubles in milk during lunch, suggest that after lunch, he may have fun blowing bubbles in water outside the house. Put potentially harmful or breakable things out of reach so you don't have to instruct your child not to touch them.

  • Offer two choices. Most children like to have some control over their world. By offering them two choices (either of which you are happy with), you can guide them to the result you desire. So, if you think your child needs to do a wee, you could promp, 'Would you like to go on the potty or the toilet now?'
  • Change the environment. When your child wants to 'help' in the kitchen, make sure he's standing away from the  hot oven. Give him a simple task like counting the number of eggs (if you're baking) or give him a wooden spoon for stirring the flour mixture.
  • Show him how you feel. If he pulls your hair playfully, put on a sad face and say 'ouch'. If he keeps doing it, avert your eyes and withdraw a little. Saying something like 'it hurts when you pull my hair' will help him learn to empathise with the feelings of others.
  • Withdraw your attention. Your attention is a powerful reward for your child. Withdraw attention when he is doing something you don't like. Ignoring him for a while or walking away from him are good options if your toddler keeps doing something you don't like after you have asked him to stop.

  • Explain the consequences of his behaviour so he can figure out why something is wrong. This helps give him a better understanding of the world around him.
  • Manage transitions carefully. At this age, children can find it hard to change from one activity to another. Some extra time, sensitivity, and planning can help.
  • Introducing discipline. The word 'discipline' actually means 'to teach' and not necessarily 'to punish'. If you use the tips provided, you will probably never need to punish your child in the old-fashioned sense. Smacking is not an effective or acceptable punishment for a child, regardless of age because it doesn't change a child's behaviour for good. It might stop his behaviour momentarily while he tries to figure you out. Hitting a child doesn't give him the opportunity to learn about related consequences or solve his own problems. Instead, it can make him fearful, insecure and resentful. If a child persists in misbehaving and refues to listen, then parents might have to resot to appropriate action to discipline him.
  • When to say 'no'. Often, children behave 'badly' because they know it will get attention, and for toddlers negative attention is better than no attention at all. So paying too much attention to bad behaviour actually encourages it. If your toddler is aware of the 'right' behaviour, he will only respect you if you follow through with the matter-of-fact consequences that you have pre-agreed on. If he is not aware, then a firm 'no' or 'stop that now' is something your toddler should understand, but save those for situations when their obedience really counts.

Just remember that toddlers' behaviour is unpredictable. Though they stopped in their tracks the last time you said 'no', doesn't mean they will stop every time. So you still have to make sure you have a firm but comfortable grip of your toddler's hand when crossing the road, or in other potentially dangerous situations. (eg. near a pond in the park, at the swimming pool, etc.)

If you ever become concerned or very frustrated with your toddler's behaviour, seek professional advice.

Source: Susta Frens magazine by Susta Club


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