Is Your Toddler Out of Control?
Many of us have struggled with a toddler who seems to run the house. They have temper tantrums, defy parental requests, engage in aggressive behaviors, insist on sleeping with their parents, and may be difficult to toilet train as well. Some of these same children, however, attend preschool where they are cooperative and model children. How is this possible?
Raising children is complex. Each child has his or her own temperament and parents have their own parenting style. However, even the most difficult and willful children will respond when parental “presence” exists. What is “presence?” Actually, it encompasses many things. It includes projecting authority and confidence, being a good role model who is sensitive and respectful, communicating consistent limits and providing choices when appropriate, recognizing age appropriate behaviors and giving your child positive re-enforcement for those behaviors while ignoring unimportant misbehavior. It is a big job and often one is more successful when working with a partner (spouse or significant other). After your child is in bed for the night, spend a few minutes together to share your successes and problem solve when things are not going so well. Coach each other, but do not criticize or judge each other.
Here are some additional practical points to consider:
1. Save the lectures for the lecture hall. Research has demonstrated that in most situations verbal explanations and instructions do not result in effectively changing a child’s behavior. If you want to be effective, praise positive behavior-CATCH THEM BEING GOOD—and ignore most negative behavior as long as it is not injurious to your child or others.
2. Assess your family routines. Children respond best when their daily activities occur consistently. Adequate sleep is especially important so respect naps and bedtimes.
3. Set a good example. Children learn from us as role models. Our homes must provide warmth and respect for others. Take a deep breathe before reacting to a problem behavior.
4. Don’t be afraid to say NO. Children need to be safe and must learn to live with others. If you are unable to set limits when they are toddlers, good luck when they are in their teens (Little people, little problems. Big people, bigger problems).
5. Teach children how to express their feelings. Listen carefully to your child and help them to use words when angry, frustrated, or disappointed.
Please contact your pediatrician if:
1. Your child’s behavior is a problem at home and AT SCHOOL.
2. Your child’s behavior is dangerous to himself or others.
3. You find yourself increasingly frustrated and especially if you think you are depressed or might hurt your own child when frustrated.
By Dr. Richard Lazaroff, Esse Health Pediatrician
Creve Coeur Pediatrics
11630 Studt Avenue, Suite 200
Creve Coeur, MO 63141