A funny thing can happen when your child hits 18 months. Gone is your sweet, giggling bundle of joy. Here to stay it seems is a whining, tantrum-throwing menace. If you’re nearing the end of your rope, here are a few ways to cope with even the most difficult toddlers, with a little help from Jo Frost, TV’s Supernanny, parenting expert and author of
Jo Frost’s Toddler Rules.
With the mention of one little word, usually “no”, your tot launches into full hysterics. “Tantrums are a way for toddlers to communicate,” says Jo. “It’s up to you to guide their behaviour.”
To stop a tantrum you must first identify the type. “As parents, we need to learn how to identify and then correctly respond to a particular tantrum,” she says. If you know a particular situation will set your child off, outline expectations to them beforehand. For example, if you know that leaving a playdate is your toddler’s undoing, help them to understand time with a speaking clock. Ten minutes before you plan to leave, let your child know you will be going soon. Five minutes later, say, “shoes on”. In five more minutes, tell your child that it’s time to go. “This helps children learn how to let go and creates an emotional maturity,” Jo explains.
Separation-related anxiousness is a natural step in your toddler’s development. “Between 18 months and three years, your child will experience the anxiety of independence,” says Jo. “At this age your toddler is craving independence but, in fact, they really need you to be there for them.”
If your child hasn’t spent much time with friends and family outside of your core family unit, you may find their anxiety to be stronger. “Those who have not weaned their children to others will have a different time than those who have,” Jo says. “It’s important for the child to recognize that you go, then come back.”
First, be honest with yourself about the source of your child’s anxiety. Is it your need or the child’s need for attachment? The source of your toddler’s stress could be related to your own. If this is the case, confidently explain to your child what’s happening and remain positive as you leave. Once out the door, sneak around to a back window where you can see your child with their caregiver. Chances are they will be playing happily. If the need is your child’s, try leaving a piece of your clothing behind, like a hat or scarf, and ask your child to hold it for you until you return. This reassures them that you will be back.
Just when you thought you had your sleep routine down, your toddler throws you for a loop and is up every night. Lack of a solid routine, sickness, diet change, too-early bedtimes, late naps and a general curiosity could all be contributing factors.
To get your toddler back in bed, Jo advises parents to be really honest with themselves about routines and what is actually happening each day. For example, your toddler may be waking in the night because that is the only time they get your undivided attention. If this is the case, consider that consistent time is better than sporadic. “If you only have 30 minutes each day to spend with your toddler, then spend that 30 minutes each day with the child,” says Jo.
Where to turn
“For parents who feel that they are struggling, any issue can become magnified,” says Jo. “It’s important for them to take responsibility for what’s happening and recognize that they have support.” Here are a few of Jo’s suggestions.
- Educate yourself. Read parenting books, talk to your GP and share with other parents who have kids in the same age bracket. You can even get in touch with Jo on Twitter at @Jo_Frost. It helps to be able to talk.
- Have realistic goals and expectations. Look inward and recognize what you can commit to doing. Know what will work for your family and follow through.
- Be proactive, willing to change and willing to learn from your experiences. When you’re ready, persistence, repetition and a desire for change will help you achieve success.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, April 2014.