Plus, he’s still a cuddly tot who has no qualms about piling on the PDA whenever and wherever he feels like it. Don’t we just love being on the receiving end of those sloppy kisses and spontaneous hugs!
Ahh…3 year olds. So fun, yet so nutty. As much as we love them, it’s time we accept a few things about our “threenagers” ― they are emotionally unbalanced, drama queens who hardly make sense.
There, we said it!
Now that we’ve accepted our fate, you need to find ways to survive it. The good news is that your little monster won’t stay that way forever. He’s at a vulnerable age where he’s no longer a baby, but not mature enough to act like a preschooler either.
Junior’s bound to make mistakes and exercise poor judgment while growing up and learning about himself. It’s your job as a parent to help him through it. Here are eight ways to weather the storm and turn the trying threes into a less terrifying time for everyone.
#1 Don’t make junior beg for your attention
Most of the time, all your tot wants is your undivided attention and starts asking for it in the most unpleasant ways when he doesn’t receive it. Junior wants to show you a neat trick he learnt in school or talk about what he saw in the playground earlier. As a busy parent, you deserve your “me time” as well, but don’t take that out from the limited hours you spend with your little one, especially on busy weekdays. Put your mobile phone away, turn off the TV and have that uninterrupted one-on-one time with your tyke. Or get him to help in your chores. All he wants is tocsdo is spend time with mummy and daddy.
You’ll be surprised just how quickly a tantrum dissolves once your child feels like his feelings have been heard and accepted.
#2 Rule out “hangriness” and lack of sleep
Some 80 per cent of toddler (and adult) tantrums can be resolved with food and rest. If junior is acting up, check if he’s hungry first. Even if he says no, offer some healthy snacks like sugar-free biscuits or fresh fruit. He might not know he’s hungry until he sees some food. Don’t ask your little one to make any big decisions or embark on a demanding DIY project if it’s nearing their nap or bed time or if you know junior didn’t sleep well the night before. You’re just asking for trouble!
#3 Label and acknowledge feelings
Your tyke is losing it because you gave him a pink cup instead of a green one. You can’t swap it because you’ve never had a green cup at home before. Yes, it sounds like an odd request, but if you know anything about a 3-year-old, you would know that they are all about the odd requests. Junior won’t stop screaming. What do you do? No, you don’t run out to buy him a green cup! You acknowledge that he’s feeling miserable about what has happened. It may sound insane to you, but in toddler world, it’s a big deal. So, tell him you’re sorry he’s feeling bummed about the fact that he doesn’t have a green cup, but maybe he could pick another colour that is in the cupboard? You’ll be surprised just how quickly a tantrum dissolves once your child feels like his feelings have been heard and accepted.
#4 Identify triggers
A toddler’s behaviour is erratic, so you never know when to expect an outburst. However, there are usually certain triggers as well. For Sandra Tan, she noticed her 3-year-old son Adam would erupt when it’s something that tested his independence. “Adam likes to be consulted when it comes to decisions pertaining to him, especially how he likes to have to pancakes or muffins,” says Tan. So, instead of filling the pancake with jam or cutting the muffin in half before serving it to Adam, Tan would make it a point to ask him how he’d liked it served, then followed through on his request. “It has saved us plenty of meltdowns!” Tan adds.
#5 Redirect junior’s attention
When things go south with a toddler ― distract, distract, distract. Point out a passing car in junior’s favourite colour or offer a snack you know he will jump at. Not every tantrum needs to be dealt with from beginning to end. If you feel like there’s a lesson to be learnt for your child, then by all means solve the tantrum with a talk. But if it’s junior’s tenth tantrum and it’s only 11 am, go ahead and play the distraction card. He could just be having a bad day ― we all have one of those, don’t we?
Junior wants to know he is loved unconditionally, and this reassurance will help him grow up into a well-adjusted adult.
#6 Cuddle and kiss them ― when they least deserve it
Yes, your toddler is being a pain in the behind. Nothing you do or say is helping the situation. In fact, it’s just making things worse. What’s a mum or dad to do? Simple ― love them. Your child has done nothing to deserve your cuddles and kisses, we know. But that’s when he needs it the most. At some point during his tantrum, your tyke would have figured out just how unreasonably he’s acting. Or maybe he’s feeling really misunderstood. All he needs at this point to calm down is to know that mummy and daddy still want to kiss and hug him. Junior wants to know he is loved unconditionally, and this reassurance will help him grow up into a well-adjusted adult. So, keep the love coming. You don’t need to forgive your child then. You can even still be angry with them. But never stop showing them how much you care for them.
#7 Have a sense of humour
Parenting can really kick your butt and handling back-to-back tantrums is probably accelerating your ageing process. Since you can’t resign from your parenting gig, it’s time to find some coping mechanisms. Seeing the humour in a befuddling situation does help ― and there will be many of those when it involves a toddler! So, the next time junior violently protests having to shower, strip and run towards the bathroom screaming, “last one into the shower won’t get pancakes for breakfast tomorrow!”.
#8 Take care of yourself
Allocating “me time” to yourself is not a privilege, it’s a necessity. Raising little ones is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. So, if you want to give your children the very best, find time to unwind. Having some time to yourself will refresh you, so that you return in top form and be a more present and patient parent. Remember, you have to fill your cup first before you can fill other cups. So, ditch the guilt that comes with taking time for yourself, then indulge, indulge, indulge!
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