Deal with your tot’s difficult behaviour like an expert.

4 tips for surviving the Terrible Twos

The first year of your child’s life is a really exciting time. Your little one blossoms from a helpless baby into a walking and talking toddler in just 12 short months, but just when you thought you’d survived babyhood unscathed, you realise that toddlerhood has its own challenges. We help you tackle four of the most common toddler gripes.

1. Fussy feeder

Countless parents have, at some point, reached the end of their tether trying to get their finicky feeders to finish their food.
“Food refusal and pickiness is a normal phase that most toddlers go through,” explains consultant nutritionist Clement Gan. “Just like adults, toddlers have their good and bad days.”
Most tots going through this phase will often consume just enough to keep them going, assures Dr Wendy Sinnathamby, a paediatric specialist at the Raffles Children’s Centre. The key is to not panic and get through this stage without making meal times a battle zone. Using coercion or force-feeding your child often backfires and could result in food refusal.

“Set an example by eating foods you want your toddler to eat.”

Sit down and eat together as a family It gives your mini-muncher a chance to observe what and how everyone is eating, while encouraging him to expand his palate. “Set an example by eating foods you want your toddler to eat,” Dr Sinnathamby advises. “Children learn to like foods by trying them, but will often only try new foods that they see other people eating.”
Pique your peewee’s interest Make positive comments like “mmmm, this is so tasty!”
Avoid distractions This includes the TV, books and toys during mealtimes. Instead, encourage your little one to feed himself — it’s fun, he gets to hone his gross motor skills and discover different textures along the way.
Offer new foods When your child is at his hungriest, so he is more likely to try it.
Make food look appetizing Cut carrots and cucumbers into different shapes and arrange bite-sized pieces in fun and attractive patterns to draw junior’s attention.
Remember to praise him Do this when he eats well or if his self-feeding skills show progress. “Otherwise, maintain a neutral attitude,” says Dr Sinnathamby. “Don’t scold if he doesn’t finish his meal.”

2. Tantrums

Some toddlers start asserting their wants and needs as early as 18 months. Meltdowns are part of childhood as kids below the age of 4 haven’t developed good emotional coping skills yet. Also, his motor skills are developing faster than his language skills, so he’s showing you how he feels instead of articulating his emotions.
Pretty much anything can set off a tantrum — from hunger or wanting to play on the swing longer to simply being bored by mummy taking too long to change a diaper. According to baby sleep expert Zoe Chu, who is also a parenting coach, common tantrum triggers include frustration from not being able to communicate, wanting to assert power, needing attention and overtiredness, which often lead
to crankiness.

Distract your tyke if he starts throwing a fit Redirect him to his favourite toy, activity or even a snack. If you are outside, such as the supermarket, have several pre-planned activities on hand. Ask your tot to help you find a particular product or if he’s older and able to read, hand him the shopping list, so he can help you strike the name off the item once it’s in the cart.
Walk away This helps when your patience is ebbing and you need a time out. “Even negative reaction is a reward on itself for the toddler,” points out Chu, a mother of three boys, a 4-year-old, plus a set of twins aged 9. “Don’t react to it and your child might calm down much faster if he realises you’re not paying him any attention.”
Implement a “naughty” or “time out” corner Do this if all else fails. Let him know such behaviour is not acceptable, and that he’ll need to learn to better deal with his frustration. Also remind him to apologise. Once he has calmed down, have a good long talk about how better he could have handled the situation. And do some role playing, so the message sinks in better.

Meltdowns are part of childhood as kids below the age of 4 haven’t developed good emotional coping skills yet.

3. Defiance

Don’t be shocked if your little one starts talking back to you as early as when he is 2 years old and challenges you at every turn. “He is probably modelling similar behaviour of an older sibling, or perhaps, what he has seen on television,” Chu notes.
Defiant and disruptive behaviour also stems from the lack of verbal skills and is a way for strong personalities to lash out at their parents’ control.

Teach consequences of misbehaviour Tell your child coolly (curb your own anger) what you didn’t like about his behaviour, and how he could have better dealt with it. You are his best role model, so being calm shows your tyke to also behave the same way the next time frustration sets in.
Praise him when he is doing well This helps raise responsible and well-behaved children. Chu explains, “Give your child attention — the more time you spend getting to know him better and letting him get to know you, the chances of him being defiant will be kept to a minimum.”
Follow through if the bad behaviour continues Chu says, “If you say you’re going to give them a time out, give them one.” If you don’t, he’ll know that it’s just empty threats. Remember, actions speak louder than words!

4. Potty-training

Most kids start to show an interest in using the toilet or potty when they are between 18 and 24 months old. However, some children are not ready until they are 2½ years. Also, if your child is not able to communicate when he needs to go to the toilet, it’s probably too early. Boys also tend to toilet train later than girls.
“The earlier you choose to train, the more time and effort will be required in terms of helping your child to understand the concepts, and ‘perform’ consistently,” points out Dr Natalie Epton, a paediatric and neonatology specialist at International Paediatric Clinic. “If the process becomes too pressured, children can react adversely and problems may arise with stool holding and constipation as a result.”

Start in a gentle, no-fuss manner If your little one seems happy and is keen about learning how to use the potty. Keep the bathroom door open, so that he observes your example. You can also read him stories about toilet-training and picture books that describe the process. “Get him involved in the process — take him shopping and get him to pick out his potty or toilet seat,” Dr Epton adds.
Time it right Choose a weekend when you are ready and have nothing else on, remove his diaper and set a reminder to encourage him to try the potty every 10 minutes. Don’t ask him if he wants to use the toilet because he will say no. Instead, say “it’s time for a pee.”
Use small rewards to celebrate his successes Try stickers and don’t make a big deal about the inevitable accidents.
Stop for a while and try again in a month If significant progress hasn’t been made by two weeks and it is causing too much stress for you and your mini-me.

Photo: iStock

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