It's easy to have an opinion about parenting before you actually have children. But even the best parents in the world must sometimes deal with children who insist on getting their own way and who, when exhausted after a long day at preschool, might just lay down in the store and start kicking and screaming. The recipe is to try and remain calm and keep consistent. More help and advice below.
Further reading: Fun and games together and Safe toys
Choose your battles
Children usually learn the word "no" when they are about a year old, and try it out in various situations without always really meaning it. Between the age of 1 1/2 to 2 yrs, the word becomes a way for the child to demonstrate and develop their own wants and wishes. Be prepared for days when your two-year-old claims their bread is buttered on the wrong side, regardless of which side you butter it. When your child insists on wearing sandals, even though it's snowing outside. Or when your child refuses to sit at the dining table, for that matter.
Children often have a strong desire to decide for themselves, and the right to show strong emotions. It might seem like your two-year-old is provoking you, when he or she tests your, and their own, boundaries.
Choose your battles wisely. It doesn't matter if a child wears trousers or a skirt, but it is important, for example, that they are properly buckled into their car seat and don't run out into the street.
Try and explain why your child isn't allowed to do certain things. Divert, by all means, by switching focus to something more fun before the dispute turns into a power struggle. And sometimes the best thing is to simply hold and comfort a disappointed child when they don't get their own way, without trying to provide a rational explanation.
Let your child choose - sometimes
Being faced with too many choices and decisions can be difficult for children. It's easier if you make most of the everyday decisions yourself. Sometimes you might have to pretend to know what you're talking about more than you actually do.
But being a parent is of course more complicated than that. Sometimes you should, of course, be positive about your child's own ideas; it boosts their self esteem. You can say, "Yes, what a great idea!" if your child suggests something that actually ties in with your own plans, for example, reading a story or getting the building blocks out to play with.
Think about what your child can decide for his or herself. At this age, choosing from two options will suffice, otherwise it might get too complicated for the child. For example, "Do you want the blue or red sweater today?" or "Do you want to go to the store or stay at home with mom?" However, an expectation of too many choices and decisions can generate stress. Not only that, but your child may want to decide more, which could include things that you are not at all inclined to negotiate about.
Good advice on how to handle tantrums
• Be consistent - it makes life easier, for you and your child.
• Avoid negotiating about important stuff.
• Listen to your child, even if they're angry. Show that you understand and respect what your child wants - even if they don't get their own way, "I understand that you're mad because you didn't get to watch the cartoon, but it's past your bedtime now."
• Help your child to vocalize their feelings. "I understand that you're mad because you didn't get to choose your own clothes today, but I don't want you to get cold."
• Provide alternative ways to handle frustration. "No, you may not take your big sister's teddy from her, but you can ask to borrow it."
• Avoid saying things that blame the child or yourself, for example, "See what happens when you don't sit still in the stroller!"
• Physical contact can sometimes calm a very angry, upset child down.
• Tantrums are usually harder to handle in public. In situations like this, you might want to pick up your child and take them into another room. Not to scold them, but to go somewhere quiet to talk.
• Be understanding of other adults with exhausted or hysterical children, so that no one has to feel like a bad parent.
• Don't be too hard on yourself. Sure, bribes or negotiations might be a temporary emergency solution to calm a child – but all parents have probably done it at some point.
Anxious around 1 1/2 years old
A lot of children become more anxious around the age of one and a half, and it's a natural part of their development. Suddenly things don't work the way they used to, like waving goodbye when you drop them off at preschool. Show that you understand any unease your child may have, but that there's nothing to worry about.
Try to stick to established routines that could reduce their unease, it will pass. Aim to have respect for your child's feelings, consistent rules and large helping of patience - it will make your child feel more secure in the long run.
Tantrums and hysterics
When children are about a year and half old, they start testing the boundaries. And their mood can flip from happy to hysterical in a second. This is a natural part of their development, but it can really test a parent's patience.