Coping with your frustrated toddler
We have all been there. Standing in a supermarket queue while a toddler lets his mum know (at the top of his voice!) how frustrating life can be. Monique Perusco for Good Beginnings, a families charity, has some tips to help cope with situations like this.
The toddler years are a challenging time. Competent, able parents can become really distressed at the signs of their toddler’s frustrations with the world. Their toddlers’ out of control behaviour sometimes makes them feel out of their depth. When toddlers are starting to socialise with the wider world, they are not always adept at managing it. They are unsophisticated at social niceties. Most of the time your toddler will have a very rudimentary way of letting you know their displeasure. Social graces are a learnt art and your toddler is an L plater.
Learning to share
Many parents are concerned that their child is not ‘a good sharer’ or has a ‘bad temper’. Labelling children will do them no favours and it’s really unfair to do so before they have had a chance to learn. This is what childhood is for - making mistakes. Instead these are golden learning opportunities for parents to seize.
Helping your toddler through a frustrating time is difficult territory for parents. Don’t despair. It is normal that a toddler doesn’t know how to share, and this will require best efforts at negotiation. These situations require a parent to step in and intervene by sensitively explaining and showing their child the best way to interact. Model good behaviour and demonstrate how to share by saying things like: “There are 3 trains here Jack, we can give one to Ben and he can play with us. You are sharing well Jack, well done!”
Many children get frustrated and display more signs of tantrums when they haven’t mastered a skill that at the time is very important to them. It’s not unusual to see crayons thrown when a child is frustrated and unable to master them. It’s this frustration that we learn to harness. It becomes a motivator to up improve skills. Sometimes tantrums and frustrations are more evident just before your child masters a new skill.
When frustrations like a tantrum, biting, pushing, or throwing arise its worth taking a moment to empathise with your toddler. The best way to empathise is to get on his eye level and talk him through how he could be feeling like that with as calm a voice as you can muster. Something like: “Sounds like you are having a hard time, here. How 'bout I help you?” It’s at these times parents need to be the grown up for our child.
Active listening is another way of helping young children manage their frustrations, especially if they can’t express themselves well enough verbally. Repeat back to them what you think they might be feeling: “It’s hard to share when you love trains so much” or “You can ask John to share that with you when he is finished using that train. In the mean time we will both play with the cars”. Keep it simple and positive. Say it once and move on. You don’t need to make it the biggest event of the day. Persisting to talk about the mistake can be counterproductive.
Be prepared for challenging situations
Of course it will help to stay one step ahead of your social learner. Prepare for challenging situations. If you have been going to playgroup and know your toddler will head straight for the trains where there could be troubles with sharing, prepare by bringing something that will help to distract him, such as another play toy to enjoy. Shadow him and be prepared to step in, should he need it. It does help to know your child and anticipate what he will want to do.
There are of course times it is appropriate to leave your child to sort problems out themselves. But when you can see he is getting frustrated and angry, it’s a good opportunity to step in and help him to learn and grow.
More articles on Solving Problems:
- Dealing with a breath-holder
- 10 tips to deal with tantrums
- Consequences and discipline
- Toddler socialisation
- Taming the terrible twos
- Understanding tantrums
- How to discipline an unruly tot
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- Recipes for toddlers
- Toddler nutrition
- Moving to a big bed for the first time
- Solving tantrums
- Toilet training tips and tricks
- Resolving problems
- Activities for toddlers
- Toddler grooming tips
- Toddler development
- Toddler first steps
- Toddler teeth and dental care
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