How to decode junior’s bad behaviour, so that you’ll be able to diffuse the situation and restore calm.

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Mum Sri Astika was on the telephone when her toddler wanted some attention.

“When I shushed him, he bit my arm!” exclaims the 27-year-old mother to Yusof, 2. Yup, toddlers hit, kick and even bite — all without displaying the slightest remorse!

Indeed, since some 90 per cent of children between the ages 1 and 4 throw the occasional tantrum, you should understand why they are acting that way, so that you can better manage your tot’s behavioural issues. More than one-third of toddlers want to end their tantrum with a hug, known as “post-tantrum affiliation”. So, give your sweetie one! Here are five toddler behaviours to look out for.

1. AGGRESSION

Shocking as it sounds, aggressive behaviour is a normal part of a toddler’s development. Although this doesn’t mean parents should ignore it. Your child is developing a sense of self and may not have the verbal skills to communicate his feelings.
WHAT TO DO:
* Stay calm Don’t yell at bubba. Show that you can control your temper — this will help him learn to control his.
* Discipline consistently Remind your child constantly it’s not okay to hit others. If he’s able to talk, encourage him to use words to express himself — and to apologise when he lashes out.
* Model good behaviour Your tot loves mimicking you, so mind your actions.
* Discourage aggressive play Calmly intervene if junior plays in a violent way, like destroying Gor Gor’s Lego sets. Limit his screen time, too.
* Anticipate potentially aggressive behaviour Tots act out when they’re overstimulated or hungry, so prevent it before it starts.

Tots act out when they’re overstimulated or hungry, so prevent it before it starts.

2. SCREAMING

Does your child let it rip whenever he can’t have something he wants?

“When I told my daughter she couldn’t have the Dora water bottle, she began screaming. I wanted to dig a hole right there and disappear!” chuckles Francesca Ng, 29, mum to Hui Yan, 3.
WHAT TO DO:
* Avoid yelling at your child This only sends the message that whoever is loudest prevails.
* Acknowledge his feelings Ensure bubba’s well-rested before leaving the house. If he’s genuinely overwhelmed in a crowded place, leave quickly.
* Teach volume control Teach sweetie to use his “indoor and outdoor voice”. Play a game. Come up with quiet animals he can imitate.
* Divert his attention Avoid situations that might tempt bubba to raise his voice.
* Keep him occupied “I’d ask my daughter to pick things off the shelves or give her a snack when I go shopping,” says Beverly Chia, 25, mum to Jacey, 2.
* Don’t give in Giving junior what he wants only reinforces the bad behaviour.
 

3. WHINING

This low-grade form of crying occurs because bubba is tired, bored or simply told “no”. How long junior whines depends on your reaction — the more often he gets what he wants after whining, the more likely he is to whine again.
WHAT TO DO:
* Record it When bubba whines, record him. Do the same when he uses his normal voice. Replay the videos to show that whining sounds unpleasant.
* Remain cool Don’t snap. Avoid labelling junior a “whiner”. Labels have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies!
* Don’t give in Tell junior you’ll listen only if he uses his “regular” voice. Compliment him when he does. Try to respond immediately and consistently.

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4. LYING

Toddlers won’t be able to distinguish reality from fantasy until they are 3 or 4 years old. When toddlers fib, it may stem from an active imagination, forgetfulness or think they can do no wrong in their parents’ eyes.
WHAT TO DO:
* Encourage truth-telling Don’t get mad when junior lies. Research shows that young children who think their honesty is going to be met with a positive reaction, even if they will still be punished, are more likely to tell the truth. So, praise bubba when he tells the truth.
* Don’t accuse Couch your comments, so they invite confession, not denial. Say, “I wonder who drew on the wall? I wish someone would help me clean it up.”
* Avoid giving too many rules Junior won’t be able to follow them. He may feel compelled to lie to avoid disappointing you.

Do you know that tattling has a plus side? It demonstrates that your child understands rules, knows right from wrong, and can alert you to a dangerous situation.

5. TELLING TALES

Children tattle to get attention, to make other kids look bad, so they can be favoured, to exert power or
to boost self-esteem. But do you know that tattling has a plus side? It demonstrates that your child understands rules, knows right from wrong, and can alert you to a dangerous situation.
WHAT TO DO:
* Point out tattling If you and bubba catch another child tattling, treat it as a teachable moment. Explain what tattling is and why it’s wrong.
* Discuss fairness Don’t take the tattler’s side. This only reinforces the behaviour — positive attention for them and negative attention for the other child. Explain to junior that they can’t change how other children behave and they need to keep their own actions fair and just.
* Explain your expectations While tattling on small actions is bad, it’s important to let junior know when to alert you to a dangerous situation, like when their baby sister is crawling towards an electrical outlet.

Ways to deal with different temper tantrums

THE DRAMA QUEEN Most likely to… Fling himself onto the pavement and cry inconsolably because he’s not allowed any candy. When you think it’s over, he gives an encore!
FIX IT: Your kiddo doesn’t have the skills to rationalise what is and isn’t possible. Calmly explain why he can’t have the thing he asked for and offer an attractive alternative.

THE THROWER Most likely to… Hurl yoghurt to the ground because you didn’t serve him cereal.
FIX IT: He may be tired. Ignore this behaviour, so it doesn’t get the reaction he wants. Then quickly put him down for a nap.

THE SHRIEKER Most likely to… Pick the quietest of places to exercise his vocal chords!
FIX IT: He’s unhappy about the situation. Use your soothing voice to calm him or rock her as you would a baby.

THE COMBATANT Most likely to… Strike you with a toy of choice, if you suggest switching off the TV.
FIX IT: Bubba’s frustrated and is unable to articulate how he feels. Remove any dangerous objects and distract him with a calm activity, like blowing bubbles.

THE SILENT PROTESTER Most likely to… Glare at you for as long as it takes to get his way.
FIX IT: Ignore him. Continue whatever you were doing — he’ll learn that nothing good comes from sulking.

THE PLANK Most likely to… Perform a total movement strike five minutes before leaving the house.
FIX IT: He’s emotionally overloaded. Turn it into a game. Say, “You look rigid. Will your fingers move first or is it your wiggly toe?”, and you’ll likely get results.

Photos: iStock

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