Your toddler lights up when you give her an ice cream cone and then dissolves in a screaming meltdown when it drips over her hand. She climbs the stairs joyfully for bedtime, and then bites you when she discovers that her giraffe pajamas are in the laundry. And who hasn't experienced the mortification of ducking out of a restaurant after their toddler tosses a handful of mashed potatoes at a fellow diner or something very similar? Welcome to the "Terrible Twos," which often linger well past a toddler's third birthday.
Here are some tips for dealing with the top five difficulties faced when raising toddlers.
Perhaps your toddler is a future opera singer testing out her lung capacity, but nothing pierces eardrums quite so thoroughly as the high-pitched shriek of a child. Try the age-old trick of distraction, by offering a snack, pointing out something interesting nearby, or asking your child to do something for you, like put a cereal box into the back of the shopping cart. If she continues to shriek, teach her the difference between an indoor and an outdoor voice by distracting her with a game. "You sounded like a dolphin. Can you make a sound like a goldfish?"
A certain amount of biting, hitting, and throwing things are normal behaviors for toddlers who are just beginning to learn the limits of physical aggression. Since they have not yet developed the cognitive empathy to put themselves in another child's place, a firm, consistent, and unwavering response from parents is vital. Use the word 'no,' step in immediately, and take them away from the environment where they are causing harm. A calm, firm, predictable, and consistent response goes a long way in modifying unacceptable behaviors.
Who hasn't witnessed a toddler being hauled out of a public place, flexing like a fish out of water in the throes of a full-blown meltdown? Though arming yourself with healthy snacks, making sure your toddler gets enough sleep, and being aware of the situations that set him off may help in avoiding tantrums, these tactics can never completely negate the possibility that frustration will arise. Your toddler is just learning how to communicate his feelings, and he's not doing as well as he would like. Removing your child from the situation to a quieter place is a good first move. Acknowledging his feelings may take the edge off the tantrum ("I know you're angry that we can't play right now...") Hugging him until he calms down shows that you still love him.
The high-pitched whining of a toddler can set the teeth of the most loving parent on edge. Toddlers usually whine when they feel they are failing to capture the attention of a parent, which is why whining happens when you're trying to concentrate on an important task, like making dinner or paying bills. Acknowledge their frustration ("I know you want me to play now, but I have to make dinner") and keep your cool. Whatever you do, don't give in to their demands or you'll reinforce the behavior.
Toddlers don't quite yet grasp the difference between fantasy and reality or lying and the truth. Rather than punish a toddler for lying about the missing chocolate, diplomatically encourage truth-telling by showing them their chocolatey faces in the mirror. ("Where did that chocolate go? Look! There it is! Next time, ask Mommy first, okay?")Like all growth phases, toddlerhood will pass. When it does, you'll remember nothing but sweet smiles, the warm weight of her as she sleeps on your lap, and how cute she looked in her patent leather shoes. With patience and consistent discipline, you'll grow a delightful, well-behaved child.