BEHAVIOUR

Toddlers & Preschoolers learn behaviour and social skills by testing and experimenting with everything around them. Good self-esteem helps them try new things without too much fear of failing. Constantly telling your toddler ‘no’ can pour cold water on this natural curiosity. You might want to try some other ways to change behaviour you don’t like.

•    Allow exploring. Try to create situations where your child can explore life without lots of ‘don’ts’ and ‘nos’. For example, if you don’t want her to blow bubbles in her milk while eating her lunch, maybe she can go outside to blow bubbles later. You can also put your favourite things out of reach so you don’t have to tell her not to touch them.

•    Let’s make a trade. For example, if your child is sucking on your favourite scarf, you can replace it with a less precious but equally tasty item.

•    Offer two choices. Most children like to have some control over their world. By offering your child two choices (either of which you’re happy with), you can guide him to the result you want. So if you think he needs to do a wee, you could say, ‘Would you like to go on the potty or the toilet now?’

•    Change the environment. For example, when your child wants to ‘help’ in the kitchen, move her away from the hot oven. Give her a wooden spoon and a pot to bang instead.

•    Show your child how you feel. If he happens to pull your hair, pull a sad face and say ‘ouch’. If he keeps doing it, stop looking at him and withdraw a little. Using ‘I’ statements helps. For example, ‘I don’t like it when you pull my hair’. This will help him start to develop empathy – the ability to see his feelings in you, and understand how you might be feeling.

•    Avoid rewarding bad behaviour. Your attention is a powerful reward for your child. Avoid giving it when your child is doing something you don’t like. Putting your child down (if you’re holding her) or walking away are good ways of not giving attention. You can use these strategies if your toddler keeps doing something you don’t like after you’ve asked her to stop.

•    Explain the consequences of your child’s behaviour so he can figure out why something is wrong. This helps give him a better understanding of the world around him. But sometimes it’s OK not to explain. For example, the most effective way to deal with the issue of your toddler swearing is to ignore it completely.

•    Manage transitions carefully. At this age, children can find it hard to change from one activity to another. Some extra time, sensitivity and planning can help. Children thrive on consistency and predictability in their day. They like a regular routine and knowing what’s coming up.

•    Effective instructions can help in situations when you just need your child to do what you ask. Effective instructions are clear, specific and reasonable.

•    Praise, encouragement and rewards go a long way towards making children feel good and encouraging the behaviour you want. Descriptive praise, where you tell your child exactly what it is that you like, works best of all. You can also use positive attention – where you really tune into what your child is saying and doing  – to encourage your child.

•    Most habits go away by themselves. But if your child’s habit is interfering with everyday activities, has become embarrassing, or is even causing some harm, you might want to take action.

•    Lies and lying are part of a child’s development – but so is learning about telling the truth. It’s usually better to teach children the value of honesty than to punish them for minor slip-ups with the truth.

•    Help your child make first friends by keeping playdates short at first, having similar toys for children to play with and stepping in to guide the play if necessary.

•    Some children are outgoing, and some aren’t. It’s important to consider how you talk about your child when she shows ‘shyness’.

•    Imaginary friends grow out of healthy active imaginations and give children a great way to express their feelings, as well as playmates to practise their social skills on.

•    Some fights are a fact of life when kids get together. A few factors affect fighting – temperament, environment, age and skills. You can work with these factors to reduce fighting in your family.