The five most common toddler problems and how to tackle them
Remember when you thought babies were difficult? This is a whole different ballpark.
When you’re parenting a toddler it can sometimes feel like you’ve jumped out of a plane without a parachute. Never fear, Dr Fiona Martin, a leading child psychologist is here to help with some of the most common problems parents will face. If you want to ask Fiona your own questions or just hear more great advice, you can catch her at the Mum’s Society Event on Wednesday in Sydney, tickets are available here or you can catch it live on the Kidspot Facebook page.
The N-word (not that one)
Remember when your agreeable little baby started growing up and learnt the worst possible word? There isn’t a parent alive who wishes their child could have avoided learning the word ‘no’ for just a little longer. If your little one answers every suggestion, command or question with a no, what should you do?
Fiona says: Oppositionality is really healthy and normal, the sorts of things that children say no to at this age range from food, right through to clothing, utensils they use, goodness me, the list goes on. It’s a very normal stage. In my work, I’ve always found that trying a distraction can be a very useful tactic in these situations. Narrative is powerful as well, using narratives like ‘when I was little, I liked…’ or ‘So and so likes…’ Maybe use the name of one of their favourite cartoon characters and say ‘cartoon character likes going to school’ to convince them. Like I said, it’s a very normal phase, the standoff occurs for lots of reasons and it might not be a straight out ‘no’, it’s avoidance, or it’s sitting in their room with their arms crossed.
Before we have kids we all think we’ll be the perfect parent. No television, no phones, no iPads. But, let’s get real. Screens are a part of everyday life and they do sneak in. Once your toddler has a taste for screen time, it can be hard to keep them off it. So what are some strategies you can try?
Fiona says: Boundaries. Boundaries are key here. And the other big thing is, role modelling because you need to be able to demonstrate behaviour to them. Children will watch and learn from observation more than they will follow any verbal instruction, so remember it’s “do as I do” and not really, “do as I say”. Be careful what message you’re sending when you’re sitting there next to your child on your phone. There’s a time and a place and that’s where those boundaries come into it. Keep phones and techs out of areas meant for sleep, keep your chargers and phones in the common areas. Be aware of the amount of time a child is on a screen and set down clear rules. The content your child is viewing because that’s just as important as the amount of time they are on their screens.
Toilet training terror
It might seem like every child in the world is out of nappies and peeing like a professional while your child is still refusing to even try the potty. If your little one isn’t willing to give it a go, is it worth trying to change their mind?
Fiona Says: They have to be ready for toilet training, it’s not something you can force. There’s a huge range of normal development with toilet training and I don’t think parents should feel any pressure to keep up with others when it comes to toilet training. When your child is ready, ideally you’d start in the spring, or summer months rather than winter, try positive reinforcement because it works a treat, and reading children’s books about toileting can be very helpful.
Overnight, your mild-mannered little angel has transformed into a screaming banshee who drops to the floor and shrieks at the slightest injustice. Heeeelp! What do you do?
Fiona says: At this age, children are still learning language and learning to communicate so tantrums are perfectly normal and they can escalate to the point where a child is kicking and screaming on the floor and that is not out of the ordinary either. They’re common because children are continually developing and sometimes it’s children’s inability to be able to communicate what it is that they’re after, or it could be children’s difficulties regulating their emotions and learning to understand the world around them. I guess one thing I would say is to be patient because if we’re stressed it’s very difficult to parent. So it’s important to be able to find a way to let off steam yourself at the appropriate time in the appropriate way.
I’ll do it myself!
They used to rely on you for everything, now your toddler is gaining their independence and it’s a double-edged sword. They don’t need you 24/7 like they used to, which gives you a break, on the other hand. letting them pour their own milk results in a lot of messes and letting them choose their own outfit can have you leaving the house with a child that looks like the wardrobe threw up on them. Is it worth letting them make messes and mistakes in order to learn? Or should you step in and guide them?
Fiona says: Developing a sense of autonomy is a critical part of development in a child so they absolutely have to be able to make mistakes to be able to learn a new skill, and we shouldn’t be reinforcing perfection either. Approximations towards a goal are great and depending on what the skill is, just reinforcing it as they start to engage in that behaviour independently. Fostering a sense of autonomy is critical in helping your child gain independence.