We have all been there! You are in the middle of the grocery store checkout line and your three- year-old wants a snack. You nicely explain to him that it is time for dinner and after dinner they can have a small snack. Queue the hysterical screaming three-year-old. Toddler tantrums are emotionally exhausting for you and your child. Don’t worry, the sisters of Forever Freckled have got you covered. Here is our “5 Minute” guide on how to deal with your threenager!
Take 5 minutes to evaluate the situation. Being a parent to a toddler can be an exhausting job. By the end of the day our patience grows thin and naturally we become less tolerant of their messy habits and stubborn ways. Unfortunately, this is also the time that our little ones become tired and start to act out. The majority of toddler breakdowns occur during the time we like to call the “witching hour”, between 4:30 and 7:30 pm. You have to remember it is a long day for them too. We like to compare it to those times you come home from a tough day at work completely exhausted, and your partner gives you a hard time because of the two dishes left in the sink. Do you take the criticism well? We are not saying it should be a free for all, but make sure it’s a battle worth fighting.
Give them a 5 minute warning. Trying to get your child to leave a play date or get into the bath is an almost guaranteed breakdown. We have to respect that they are in the middle of something they think is very important. We always suggest a timer. “Mason, you have 10 more minutes of play time. After the alarm goes off, we need to get into the bath.” Give them the consequence of not listening ahead of time. “If you decide not to get into the bath after the alarm goes off, we will lose our playtime after bath.” Again the most important thing is consistency. You have to stay true to your word. They need to understand that you mean business and that the consequences are real.
Give them 5 minutes to think about it. When you observe a behavior that needs modification, acknowledge it and allow them to make a better decision. For instance, when your child takes a toy away from another child, explain to them that we share with our friends and give them an opportunity to change their behavior by giving the toy back. “Charlee, we share with our friends. You can give Jayden back his toy and take turns using it or we are going to have to leave the park.” If they refuse to return the toy, you have to stay firm to your word and leave the park. After a few episodes of them making the wrong choice and seeing the consequences, they will start to make better choices. It is imperative that you follow through. Empty threats are just that, empty. They will eventually work against you as your child begins to realize you really won’t leave the park.
Positive feedback within 5 minutes. Behavior modification is not always about correcting bad behavior. It is equally important to acknowledge good behavior. The research has shown time and time again that positive reinforcement is the best tactic for behavioral modification. We use sticker charts in our households. For instance, in the beginning of the month, Katie’s son Mason picks out his own reward. Last month it was movie night with mom and dad. Katie makes a sticker chart and once Mason gets 25 stickers, he gets the reward that he picked out. When they pick out their own reward, they are more motivated to achieve the goal. The younger the child, the easier the goal should be. The key to making the sticker chart work is to give the sticker immediately after the good deed is done. “That was great listening, let’s go put a sticker on your chart!” Try to give at least one sticker a day. They will lose interest and momentum if you aren’t incorporating it into their daily routine.