Help! My toddler's driving me crazy!

12:0AM, Jun 6th 2012

Waking up one morning to find your placid cherub has turned into a stroppy little person with a mind of his own can come as quite a shock. But it's all part of growing up.

Image: Thinkstock

Waking up one morning to find your placid cherub has turned into a stroppy little person with a mind of his own can come as quite a shock. But it's all part of growing up.

Perhaps Dr Christopher Green, author ofToddler Taming, explains it best: "Between the ages of one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half is the time of minimum common sense and maximum mobility and militancy. At this age, children seem to have all the activity of an international airport, but their control tower doesn't work. And it doesn't take much to work out that this combination is going to be upsetting to someone &#151 and that someone is obviously going to be you."

So what should you do when your little terror is making your blood boil?

Distract him
"Stop a screaming fit before it starts by saying, 'Look, there's a dog outside! Oh, it's gone'," says Dr Green. "Diversion is your greatest weapon. It may be a little dishonest, but it can save your sanity."

Ignore sibling squabbles
"Turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to as much squabbling as you possibly can," advises Dr Green. "It's amazing how few fights take place without an audience!"

Lower your expectations
Toddlers are by nature noisy, dirty, messy and accident-prone. "I used to get really wound up by the way more of Nathan's dinner ends up on the floor than in his mouth," says Sue Price, mum to Nathan, two. "But then I realised he's not doing it on purpose. It's silly to expect a two-year-old to handle cutlery like an adult."

Limit the 'n' word
'No!' is an important word for all parents, but if you overuse it, it quickly loses its impact. A child can become bored by an endless stream of 'nos' &#151 and if he learns early on to ignore the word 'no', you'll have a much more difficult time establishing your authority. How can you turn it around? Swap the 'no' for a 'yes'. So, for example, change "No, you can't have a biscuit now" to "Yes, you can have a biscuit after lunch".

Don't sweat the small stuff
If you're stuck on picking up on every single thing your child does wrong, you'll create a child who has no faith in himself &#151 and if he can't ever please you, he'll stop trying.

Catch them being good
Sometimes we can be so focused on what our children are doing wrong, we don't notice when they do things right. "Praise your child when he co-operates and acts kindly, when he's quiet or when he plays on his own," says Tracy Hogg, author of Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers. "Make the good moments last by acknowledging them."

Offer choices
Offer options that produce the result you're after! So, suggests Tracy, instead of saying, "If you don't put on your coat, we won't go to the park", say, "Which coat do you want to wear to the park &#151 the red one or the blue one?"

Be a kid yourself
"It's easy to spend your days barking orders at your kids and forget to enjoy their amazing enthusiasm for life," says Emily White, mum to Ben, three, and Joe, two. "I ensure I spend at least 10 minutes a day being a kid with them."

Ignore the bad
If you ignore provocative behaviour, chances are it will go away. "Jack has been told many times not to pick the leaves off the shrubs in our yard," says Jenny, whose son is two. "But he keeps on doing it, looking over the whole time to check I'm watching. I take no notice now; he's just trying to get a reaction."

Do you have any advice to share to help tame a toddler? Please enter your comments below.

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