The mischief a toddler can get into when we turn our backs for 2-seconds can force us to run the gamut of emotions.
Sometimes, it can be irritating, like dumping out the diaper pail. Hey, it’s messy, but easy to fix.
Sometimes it can be frightening but they didn’t fall or break anything, like raiding the refrigerator to get something you thought they would never reach. You just have to make sure they aren’t watching when you’re trying to tuck their favorite treats out of sight.
Sometimes, it can be infuriating, like tossing your smartphones down the stairs (or out a car window). Incidentally, you should look into Samsung Galaxy screen protectors if this one hasn’t happened to you yet.
Sometimes, it can make you just want to break down and cry, like using a permanent marker to draw on the walls.
Sometimes it can be just cute, like making a jailbreak from their crib at nap time. Perhaps it shows ingenuity and rugged independence?
And sometimes it can be plain hilarious when putting lipstick on the family dog. Your friends on Facebook loved the pix and you may never have got that many “likes” before.
The question is what should you do about it? Do you act out on the emotion their action stirred in you? Should you shout and scream when someone gets hurt or something gets destroyed and laugh it off if no harm was done and nothing got broken?
Here are some parenting tips to help you manage the terrible twos and beyond without traumatizing your child or losing your sanity:
- Evaluate the issue to understand the motives behind it.
It’s important to evaluate the possible cause behind the behavior. Here are two examples. It’s a behavior problem if your child breaks a family value, like lying, stealing from a sibling, hurting a pet. Meanwhile, it’s a discovery issue if your child didn’t know any better, like the proverbial one about touching a hot stove. Understanding why they did something helps you choose the most appropriate response. For instance, yelling at your child for getting burned in the kitchen is not an appropriate response even if it freaked you out. It’s not appropriate because your child will be confused by the pain of the burn followed by your total lack of compassion. You know you’re a Mom when you can act rationally on the outside while freaking out on the inside
- Avoid acting on impulse.
Sometimes your child can do something so outrageous that your first impulse is to completely lose your temper and even hit your child. For instance, if they key your car with a message about how much they love you. They would be confused because they don’t know about money and think you’re upset because of the message. In highly volatile situations like this, you have to take time out to calm down enough to see things from their point of view.
- Tailor discipline to match personality.
How you respond to your child’s behavior depends on two things: their personality and what they have done. A high-energy child may need to be calmed down before you can point out why their behavior needs to change. A shy child might be so frightened by the sudden loss of approval that any punishment is seen as shocking rather than corrective.
- Understand when to use physical intervention.
Physical intervention is sometimes necessary if you need to act quickly because your child has put themselves in some kind of danger like running across the road, approaching a fierce dog, playing with a sharp knife, or trying to touch an electric socket. In such cases, it’s appropriate to snatch them out of harm’s way. Once they are safe (and you’ve calmed down) you can explain why what they were doing should not be repeated.
- Choose appropriate disciplinary methods.
The purpose of discipline should be to correct a child’s behavior. It’s important to understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate discipline. Appropriate discipline does not traumatize a child but corrects the behavior. This includes talking about it long enough to make the point clear, using time-outs when your child loses control, or taking away toys when a child uses it to hit another child. Inappropriate discipline is spanking, yelling and screaming, or acting in any way that causes psychological trauma.