How often do you wake up feeling like Mary Poppins but go to bed convinced you’re Cruella de Vil? Your toddler threw a temper tantrum when it was time to switch off the TV. She refused to get into the trolley at the shop and everyone looked at you as though you were wearing a ‘Bad Mother of the Year’ sign. It’s these small battles that can escalate into major wars and place parents under a lot of pressure. The good news is that we have advice to help you defuse these common toddler struggles.
Take a look at our list of common toddler struggles and mark the ones that make life difficult for you. Which three are most difficult? Rank them in order and deal with one struggle at a time. A good way to measure your rate of success is to identify what you would like to see happen the next time you’re faced with this challenge. Then, using our guidelines, identify three things you can do to help you keep control. What will motivate your toddler to behave in the way that you want?
Common toddler struggles defused
Refusing to share toys
- Before the other kids arrive, remove any particular favourite playthings and put out toys that are suitable for two children to have fun with together.
- Write down a list of negative words, such as ‘don’t’ and ‘stop’, and avoid using them.
- Make a special effort of pointing out when your toddler shares her toys with another child. Reward her with praise or a cuddle.
Supermarket trolley rage
- Decide on a less stressful time to do your shopping. For example, if Saturday mornings are too busy, rather go in the afternoon.
- Let your child take her favourite soft toy with her and strap this toy in the trolley too. Encourage her to talk to the toy about what she can see as you go down the aisles.
- Let her help you shop by holding any non-fragile items, and praise her for doing this well.
Refusing to go to bed
- Choose a good week to establish your routine and be consistent over a minimum of seven evenings.
- Show your toddler that her bedroom is a great place in which to spend time, and join her there during the day when possible.
- Wake her earlier or reduce her sleeping time during the day. Do at least one physical activity a day that will tire her out.
- Have a clear idea of what you want to happen in an ideal bedtime routine. Write out a timetable and stick to it. Be consistent so that you both know what’s going to happen and you’re able to stay in control of the situation.
- Cut down on watching TV when your toddler is around. If she sees you paying attention to the TV instead of her, she’ll learn that it’s an important part of life.
- Decide how long you’re prepared to let your toddler watch TV and what you want her to watch. If possible, watch TV with her and talk about what she can see.
- Use the TV to motivate your child as a reward for behaving well, such as clearing up toys and/or getting dressed.
Sitting in the car seat
- Make life as easy as possible. Loosen the straps when you take your child out so that re-entry is quicker.
- Choose a special toy that’s only associated with the car. Give your toddler this once she’s settled and the seat straps are done up.
- Make sure other passengers are strapped in so she sees good examples.
- Have a clear mealtime routine. Sit and talk to your toddler or eat with her and she’ll learn that by eating she gets your attention.
- Praise your toddler for eating by using very specific comments about the food, such as “Well done for eating your slice of banana.”
- Make mealtimes fun. For example, let your child help with spaghetti snakes or make faces on the plate with raisins.
Refusing to sit still in the car
- Stimulate interest in the car before you attempt to strap her in.
- Encourage your toddler with a toy car of her own, and praise her if she straps her toys in to go for a ride around the house.
- Play ‘I spy’ games in the car to focus your child’s attention on her surroundings. Spot cats, trains and puddles and make noises as you go.
- Stimulate her interest by playing “teeth brushing” games inside and outside of the bathroom.
- Let your child copy you. Even let her squeeze the toothpaste if you’re feeling adventurous.
- Encourage your child to watch herself brushing her teeth in the mirror. Praise her for brushing well.
- Give your toddler time to enjoy getting dressed. Let her learn that it can be as much fun as dressing up. Then speed it up when necessary.
- Make the process as easy as you can. Go through her wardrobe and establish a system for her clothes.
- Talk to your child about her clothes and their colours.
- Encourage your toddler to help you dress or change her toys’ clothes. Praise her when she dresses herself.
Refusing to leave
- Give your child enough warning when you’ll be leaving. Let her know 10 minutes before going, and then five minutes, so that it doesn’t come as a shock.
- Have fun clearing up toys or whatever you need to do before you leave so that it’s enjoyable.
- Get your child excited about what you’re going to do next.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day.