If you're a mum of a toddler, you'll know by now that parenting a two to three year old isn't always smooth sailing. There's a reason the term Terrible Two's exists, and while tantrums are an expected part of toddlerhood, it doesn't mean you've got to go through them everyday. For everything. Convincing an opinionated, determined, stubborn toddler to do or not do something is almost as futile as telling a dog not to chase a cat! (Not that I'm comparing our munchkins to dogs…but you get the point). But by tweaking things a little bit in their favour, you can get the job done. With the help of other mums, childcare experts and stuff I've read on the Internet, I've put together some tips n' tricks to help navigate the Terrible Twos.
Eliminating Toddler Fears: Monster Spray
Toddlerhood is when the word and concept of fear sneaks into their innocent minds. Our little beings are now making sense of the world, and although in a limited capacity, do have an understanding of what's good and bad. And the bad often becomes 'scary'. People, random objects, toys, even their once-favourite TV shows are suddenly a no-no because they feel scared of them. Fear of the dark/ night-time fears also start manifesting themselves at this age.
Enter the Monster Spray. Tell your toddler it's a magic potion that scares away the monsters/ dark/ bad person or object or whatever else their insecurities are. So whenever toddler feels afraid, all they need to do is spray their fear away. The physical act of doing so along with the belief that they are shoo-ing X away, gives them a sense of power and security.
How to make your own Monster Spray
Get a spray bottle. Involve your toddler in decorating it with stickers/ wordings (My Monster Spray or Boo To You or whatever he chooses) and fill it with water. To make toddler feel that it is a special spray, add some food colouring and a few drops of essential oil for that magic fragrance. Your home-made Monster Spray is ready!
While toddlers enjoy their time at nursery, most (Little Man included) don't like the idea of going there (i.e. leaving mummy and my toys). Which results in sulks, protests and tears during nursery drop-offs. But if your toddler knows what he is going to be doing the next day, it could make the process easier. A marked-out calendar helps toddlers know what to expect beforehand. Take a felt pen and colour the days your toddler attends nursery, Then show it to him the evening before. Soon he will know that on red days, for example, he has to go to nursery, while he is at home with mummy on blue days.
To make it a little more exciting, add a third colour to days on which special activities are planned, such as a visit to the zoo/ farm/ a special class. That way toddler will know that after two red days of school comes a yellow day of zoo-time! Something to look forward to. (Where possible, let your toddler choose the special activity so he feels more in control).
Fact: Toddlers don't like to listen. Especially when they are playing/ watching telly/ doing something more interesting than listening to mummy! I picked this little tip from Little Man's nursery, and it works wonders. When I want him to listen to me, I tell him to put on his 'Listening Ears' or ask 'Where are your Listening Ears?'. That turns his attention towards me, as he points to his ears. It also gets the message across that he now has to 'listen' to something mummy has to say. Half the battle won.
Thinking Corner, not Naughty Corner
I openly stole this one from Little Man's nursery too. Every toddler has gone into a 'Naughty Corner' at some point (part of growing up, eh) but what I like about the term (and reasoning behind it) 'Thinking Corner' as opposed to 'Naughty Corner' is that the toddler is supposed to 'think' about what wrong/ bad he's done, realise his mistake and figure out how to better handle a similar situation in future. More importantly (and I've read this in child rearing articles as well), it's important to let toddler know that what he's done is naughty as opposed to making him feel that he, as a person, is naughty. It's the behaviour that needs to be in the spotlight – and rectified – not the child.
Sticker /Reward Charts
This is a gem for when you want your toddler to do something (for the long-term, such as potty training, sleeping in his own bed or room/ not waking before 7 am). Every child likes rewards and will go the distance for it. You can buy fancy, sparkling reward charts in stores, but all you need is a paper, a pen and stickers to make your own!
Tell your child that whenever he does a pee/poo on the potty/ toilet (or sleeps an entire night in his own bed or room) he will get a sticker. If he gets five (choose a number that suits you) stickers, he will get a small reward (a chocolate/ new book/ day at the zoo). And if he continues to do so and reaches ten stickers, he will get a bigger reward (the toy he's been wanting for a while now). To drive the point home, remove a sticker every time he doesn't pee in the potty/ comes into your bed.
If your child is diligently getting stickers, rest assured he has learnt the skill you wanted him to. You can gradually decrease or stop the rewards… it won't matter to him now.
Note: The sticker/reward charts do the trick more often than not, however, using them on toddlers who are too small to understand the concept of rewards will be futile. They work best for over three-year-olds.
PS: Every toddler is different, and understands and learns at his own pace. So what works for one might not work for another. Sadly, there isn't a one-size-fits-all manual for motherhood. Nonetheless, do give these tricks a shot and see how successful you are!
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