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Updated: February 9, 2014 20:56 IST

Charge of the toddler brigade

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The Hindu

Tantrums might be a child’s way of dealing with frustration. Here’s how to deal with them

Life can be exciting and overwhelming for a toddler. By the time he is a year old, he is moving around, has acquired a substantial vocabulary and experiences a degree of frustration in his efforts to understand the world around him. But, he still lacks the communication and motor skills required to demand and get whatever he wants.

“Toddlers go through a speedy developmental process both physically and mentally. This puts them under tremendous stress as they are constantly facing new challenges,” says Dimple Shah, Pune-based psychotherapist and counsellor. This makes them cranky and aggressive, and they withdraw from food, people, sleep and play material. Many children often fall ill as a consequence of such stress.

“Toddlers experience frustration when their needs are not met. Most of the time they are unable to express their demands clearly as they do not realise what they actually want,” says Shweta Parekh, child psychologist and counsellor in Mumbai. For instance, the child may be frustrated and throw a tantrum wanting a toy, but he may just be hungry. Toddlers have fewer needs than adults; hence their frustration is easier to resolve.

Here are a few parenting tips.

Be Empathetic Toddlers might break into tears over the tiniest of things. This can be confusing and scary for parents. You can help your child get rid of his frustration and fear by empathising with him when he’s upset. “The tolerance level of parents increases due to their ability to empathise with the child who feels accepted. This helps a frustrated child calm down,” says Shweta. Teach children to verbalise their feelings. To begin with, the child needs to gradually learn to identify his feelings correctly. Parents can help them with charts, labelling different emotions and feelings, and use these in sentences for better understanding. “Another important step when the child is learning to verbalise his/her feelings is active listening on the part of parents,” says Shweta. “Parents reactions are very important in establishing emotional quotient, a better determinant of success than IQ,” feels Dimple.

Let your kid take charge Parents control almost every aspect of their children’s lives from the food they eat to the clothes they wear. As toddlers, kids start wanting to have more of a say. When your kids are not allowed to have the power they crave for, they get frustrated. “Letting children be in charge of their action helps as it makes them feel responsible for their actions and decisions, which in turn makes it easier for them to reason when things don’t work out as they wish,” says Shweta. Toddlers can do plenty of things if left on their own. This helps the child to become self-reliant. Parents can caution them about unwise decisions but should not insist that the child has to follow their advice.

Play therapy “Children communicate their feelings through play activities more effectively than words. Play is important to them and under no circumstance should parents prevent such activities,” says Dimple. Parents should devote at least 30 minutes everyday to unstructured play as it helps them understand their child better.

Switch gears Distraction is an age-old parenting technique. When your toddler is reaching for something he can’t have or saying something you don’t understand, redirect him. “Helping children seek information will enable them find answers to many questions,” says Shweta. Toddlers love to feel helpful. You can set your kids to fulfil a task. It gives them a sense of importance and they forget what was troubling them.

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