How to deal with a tricky toddler

It can be a demanding time when your little ones start wanting to make their own decisions. We asked the star of Channel 4’s ‘The Three Day Nanny’ Kathryn Mewes for her tips on coping with toddler issues…

When a child nears the age of 2, they start to become more aware of the world and people around them. They push boundaries and become fascinated by the word ‘No’ – yet tend to ignore it when you say it to them!

New tactics are needed and the trick is for your child to think they are making their own decisions … when in fact, you’re the one in control.

Problem: Your toddler has been a good sleeper but has started waking in the night demanding all manner of things.

Try creating a reward system to give her the incentive to return to sleep.

Let her know in advance that when she wakes you are not going to go to her.

If she comes out of her room you need to return her in silence.

She is likely to become cross before she eventually settles. Remain consistent.

She will have many reasons as to why you should interact – I need a drink, I’m scared, I don’t want to be on my own, I’m not tired…

Don’t buckle to one thing otherwise you’ll buckle to them all.

By explaining the system to her initially with a reward system and remaining consistent in returning her to her bed you should have this solved after 3 – 4 days. Continue the reward system for 5 – 7 days and end with a prize!

Problem: Your toddler strongly resists bedtime.

In this instance a routine is fundamentally important – Bath, Book, Bed. Ensure the bedroom is dark and there is no stimulation of light or music. This delays sleep. Have the door closed or pulled to. The landing needs to be dark, too. Create an incentive system and continue to return them to their room in silence when they come out of it. Don’t interact / speak to them when you return them. After 3 consecutive nights you should see dramatic change and by night 5 – 7 you will be in a great routine with your toddler settling to sleep without a battle.

Problem: Your toddler is becoming a fussy eater

All children between 2 – 5 go through the stage of becoming selective on what they want to eat. If you ‘give in’ and only give them what they demand they will slowly limit their diet and before you know it you could be down to only one hot meal they will eat! I suggest you devise a meal plan so that everyone in the house knows what the main meal of the day is. Aim to put a small amount on the plate, that you know your child will eat. They can have a further helping of that certain food if they eat something else on their plate first. Ideally you need to eat with your child and not to overly focus on them.

Have a relaxed approach and make your child aware that you do not mind whether they eat their meal or not. This is only 1 or the 3 meals offered to them a day. They will not waste away or wake hungry in the night. Meal times are about you providing the meal and the child choosing as to whether they want to eat it or not.

Problem: Your toddler throws their food.

Have an empty bowl in the middle of the table. You sit and eat with your child – that’s how they learn manners, by following your lead. Explain before the meal that when they have finished they put the food they don’t want in the bowl. Continue with the meal and each time you notice something is about to be thrown pass the bowl to your toddler. When they put some food in it say, “Thank you very much. Let’s keep the floor clean”. If the food does reach the floor don’t react. When the meal is finished, they help you put the bits of dropped food into the bowl. This is helping to tidy up rather than a punishment.

Problem: Your toddler has a good vocabulary but whines a lot.

This is when I explain to them that I will be turning my ears off. I tuck my hair behind my ears and twist each ear slightly, saying, ‘My ears do not like the ‘whining voice’ so they get turned off. I turn them on when your lovely grown up voice comes back.’ The moment you do this you have to then ignore them. The key is to wait until they speak nicely.

Problem: Your toddler is going through the tantrum stage.

It is not your job as a parent to ‘stop’ the tantrum. Let the child learn to calm themselves when they are ready. In every house I will let the family know where the ‘Shout spot’ is.

This is an area where anyone can go if they need to shout. When your child starts to tantrum simply take them to the spot and calmly say: ‘Get your shouts out and when you are quiet I will come and get you.’ Once they are quiet go to them and in an upbeat voice say ‘All the noise is finished let’s go and (state an activity).’

They might not want to come with you so you can walk away and say ‘Come when you are ready.’ The key is not to be cross. Let the tantrum play out.

Author of The Three Day Nanny Your Toddler Problems Solved. Published by Vermilion 4th June 2015, £12.99

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