The job of the child is to explore the world and discover how he fits into it. To do this, he will test the limits of his environment and see what happens. Just as a scientist reproduces an experiment over and over again to ensure they have come to the correct conclusion, so too does the toddler.
As parents and educators, it is our role then to provide an environment that has consistent boundaries and expectations, as there is nothing quite so frustrating to these "young scientists" as experiments that provide different results with each trial.
With consistency in place, there are some key phrases that can help to ease the initial push-back that is sure to ensue when your toddler is met with a task they are less than eager to attend to. It's important to never ask a question that offers an unacceptable answer.
- Instead of, "Do you want peas?"
- Try, "Do you want one spoon of peas or two?"
- Instead of, "It's time to leave, okay?"
- Try, "We will be leaving in 5 minutes, so you have time to go on the slide three more times!"
Giving a direct "no" answer to a child or giving a direct order can have the effect of igniting a tantrum, so a quick change of subject with a question is a good way to avoid this.
- Instead of, "No, you can't have candy".
- Try, "We are not buying candy today, but should we have strawberries or popsicles for dessert tonight?
- Instead of, "It's time for bed. Let's go brush your teeth"
- Try, "It's time for bed. Should we brush teeth or put pajamas on first?"
And when tantrums do begin, they can often be calmed with reassurance that you understand their frustration.
- Instead of, "Stop crying. You have to clean up before playing."
- Try, "I understand you don't want to clean up. You can go play as soon as you put your toys away."
The true key is to respect that when a toddler is having a tantrum it is because she is feeling true frustration. By giving her clear boundaries, providing options, and keeping your cool you can help her to manage life's frustrations and learn from them.