Spirited toddlers are full of energy, spunk, and opinions, which can make it difficult many of their parents to handle them. However, there are several strategies for dealing with inappropriate behavior that can work on even the most energetic of children. If you are having difficulties with your toddler’s behavior, try the following tips.
1. Be consistent about sticking to the rules.
Only set rules that you know that you can follow. Otherwise, what type of message are you sending to your child when you don’t follow rules yourself? One of the most important things about controlling behavior is setting up situations in which a toddler knows what to expect and how to act. For example, if you want your toddler to eat meals at the dinner table instead of on the couch in the family room, you need to help create the environment where meals are only eaten at the dinner table, with no exceptions.
Psychology helps us understand why consistency is so important. Take people who gamble at a slot machine. They know that the slot machine will most likely take their money, but they also know a potential reward may occur at any time. As a result, they keep gambling until they lose all of their money. This is known as a variable-ratio schedule, and it can help explain why inconsistent reinforcement strongly motivates your child to continue certain behaviors. In our example, even if you just allow eating dinner on the couch once a month, your child will learn that there’s always a possibility that eating on the couch is okay and will continue to test your limits.
2. Look for a child care center that respects your child’s differences.
It’s important for your toddler to begin to socialize with other children, but it has to be in the right environment that will lead to success. The best child care centers for your child will allow children to choose their own activities and to work independently or alone. Spirited toddlers often love certain activities and really dislike others, and that’s perfectly okay. If there is enough space in the child care center room, your toddler won’t feel like he or she has to participate in certain types of activities. Also, a child care center should provide a quiet corner or reflecting area to unwind after an intense experience, such as an argument with another child or being unhappy about something.
Along those lines, child care providers should avoid using the “Don’t cry” phrase with your child, or any child for that matter. The reality is that kids do cry, sometimes a lot, because they feel insecure, scared, angry, or disappointed. These are natural feelings that your child may feel very intensely. Instead of brushing aside the unhappiness and asking a toddler to stop crying, a quality child care provider will try talking with a child to understand the true cause of the feelings. They’ll also empathize with your toddler to make your child feel less alone in the situation, which can help stop the crying even more quickly. On your visit to a child care center, such Miniapple International Montessori School, spend enough time in the class to closely observe how providers deal with behavior challenges.
You spirited child needs to feel accepted and respected to improve any aspect of his or her behavior. When you choose the right child care center and consistently follow house rules yourself, you’ll set up the right environment in which your child can succeed.