Sometimes, despite our best efforts as parents, our children will behave badly. They might throw temper tantrums. They might act out against those around them. They might resist authority to the extent that you’ll wonder if “No!” is their favorite word. It can be frustrating. It can be humiliating. And yes, occasionally, it can even be terrifying. But as parents, it’s our job to love them–even when it seems like they’re more monster than child.
What causes this behavior? To start with, toddlers have limited ability to express themselves. Where you or your spouse might use our motor skills or language skills to explain that we are angry or disappointed in a situation, for a toddler these skills are still in development. That means instead of constructive use of language, he or she might react by screaming, crying or knocking things over. You can combat this by teaching your child how to comfortably express him or herself in alternate ways.
When a tantrum takes place, you’ll need to react appropriately to keep them from happening again. First, watch your own emotions because they can fuel your child’s. “Keep calm and carry on” strongly applies here. Ignore the behavior as it’s happening. This shows your child that throwing a tantrum is not the way to get attention. (If the tantrum takes place in public, reach down, pick up your child, and carry him or her into a more private space like the bathroom. Again, do this calmly. Do not display anger or strong emotions.) Then when the tantrum subsides, in a relaxed manner discuss it and the emotions that lead up to the tantrum. Finally, move on to the next activity.
One of the best keys for preventing giant, city-smashing, lizard-like behavior is to take careful notice of what’s happening before it occurs. How long has it been since your child has eaten? Gone to the bathroom? Slept? Is the environment too much for him or her, with bright lights and loud noises? Do certain people tend to bring out this behavior more than others? Does it occur after watching a specific show or doing a specific activity? Once you begin to pay attention to the behavior that surrounds this acting out, you can start to prevent it.
Remember that this phase of your child’s life requires patience, love and support from you as your child continues to grow and become who they are. They will be looking to you for guidance as they start making more decisions on their own and testing new waters. In those trying moments, remind yourself that you can do this. Your little one is counting on you.