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Troubles – understanding and dealing with
- understanding and dealing with common problems
Are you the parent of a toddler? If so, chances
are you understand the many ways these youngsters
can get themselves into trouble. Are you looking
for ways to keep your toddler's outbursts at bay
but don't know where to start? Here are some of
the more common toddler troubles, with information
on why these behaviours happen and what you can
do to stop them.
Refusing to Sleep
Toddlers are just learning how to do things on
their own. Now they can walk, talk, and eat by
themselves-and they love to express their newfound
independence. So when your little one doesn't
want to go to bed, he will probably let you know!
"Many toddlers refuse sleep because of separation
anxiety," says Dr. Mary Muscari, professor of
pediatric nursing at the University of Scranton
in Pennsylvania, and author of the Not My Kid
parenting books. Children of this age are just
getting used to sleeping alone, so it's important
to make a ritual of bedtime. For example, develop
a set before-bed routine: Your child takes a bath,
puts on his pajamas and brushes his teeth, you
then read him a story, and so on. Once these rituals
are in place, bedtime usually becomes much easier.
A self-soothing transitional object may also be
in order, says Dr. Muscari. This can be a blanket,
teddy bear, or another soft object your child
Refusing to Eat
Toddlers often refuse to eat because they aren't
growing as quickly as they did during infancy;
they are hungry less and eat smaller portions.
Many toddlers are also picky eaters, says Dr.
Muscari. As a result, you may find the need to
provide more mealtime encouragement. "Don't make
it a battle because it's no contest," advises
Dr. Muscari. "Toddlers always win." Instead, try
to make your foods more toddler-friendly. Serve
finger foods and put meals in sectioned plates.
Instead of giving your child three large meals,
give her several smaller ones, suggests Dr. Muscari.
And every time she tries a new food, "heap on
the praise," adds Dr. Kenneth Haller, assistant
professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University
School of Medicine. And don't forget to always
reward your child's positive behaviour.
Most sibling rivalry is caused by jealousy. Your
toddler may believe that a younger sibling is
receiving more attention than he or she really
is, and consequently act out to gain more of your
attention. To avoid this common trap, ensure that
all of your children receive equal time and attention.
Dr. Muscari suggests that if your toddler is the
eldest in your family, give him praise for being
the big brother and try to ignore negative behaviour.
Dr. Haller explains, "Your child soon will figure
out that he gets more attention from you when
he sits quietly reading a book than when he throws
it at his little sister."
They come as if from nowhere-and often at the
most inopportune times, such as in the middle
of the grocery store or at a friend's house. For
many toddlers, the world seems to end when they
don't get their way. How should you deal with
these outbursts? "Ignore them," says Dr. Muscari.
Your child is screaming and yelling because he
or she wants your attention. You're only encouraging
more tantrums in the future if you react to them
now. Try distracting your toddler-mentioning that
it is almost mealtime or asking her where a favourite
toy is can take her out of a difficult situation
and help her move on.
Children typically cry for a reason, whether they're
seeking attention or experiencing legitimate fears
or worries. But excessive crying is something
parents must address. "Figure out why the child
is crying and deal with the underlying cause,"
says Dr. Muscari. You can do this by simply asking,
adds Dr. Haller. Even if it sounds silly, their
reasons are very real. If your little one is afraid
of being alone in her room at night, or is afraid
of "monsters" under the bed, talk with her about
her feelings. Make these emotionally-charged situations
fun-get out the flashlight and search in the closets
and under the bed together. If you suspect your
child is genuinely feeling sad or scared, try
to empathize with her. "Acknowledge that your
child is upset, and that it makes you upset, too,"
says Dr. Haller. But if your little one is in
a defiant mood, you may just have to let her calm
down on her own. If an answer still doesn't come,
look for signs of injury or illness, says Dr.
Haller. Is your child holding his stomach or head?
If so, maybe his tears are a result of not feeling
well. Remember, confronting why your child is
crying is much more important than putting a stop
to the crying.
Biting and Hitting
Toddlerhood is a time of often uncontrollable
emotions. If you little one suddenly has an aggressive
outburst resulting in biting or hitting, make
it absolutely clear that you do not approve of
this behaviour. Be firm, but don't display violence
of your own. "This undercuts your message that
violence is bad," says Dr. Haller. Try a time
out when your toddler acts this way. Be sure to
discuss with him why he had to take time out and
always reinforce positive behaviour. Don't forget
to tell him you love him after his quiet time,
and that it makes you extremely proud when he
doesn't act out or behave violently.
What can you do when your toddler suddenly wants
to do everything on her own? "Use your judgment,"
says Dr. Haller. "You know what your child can
handle safely and what she can't." Be around when
she wants to try new things and offer a guiding
hand. Strive to help your child to refine her
motor and mental skills, while giving her an overall
feeling of accomplishment. Think of it this way:
your toddler is going to try to do things on her
own anyway, so why not be there to help? The key
is to try and prevent possible injuries or bruised
egos. Of course, if your toddler is trying to
do something dangerous, a firm "no" is in order.
Safety first! Toddlerhood is undoubtedly challenging,
but with a little perseverance and a lot of patience,
your child will grow up and out of these common
toddler troubles. It's a bumpy journey, but before
you know it, she'll be starting kindergarten.
So, try to enjoy this time while it lasts-the
teenage years are right around the corner!
Author: Brenda Stokes (parenting.kaboose.com)