It’s only natural for a toddler to cry, but what do you do if your child cries a lot…
Long bouts of crying can be stressful and very worrying, not just for you as a parent, but also for your child.
As a toddler, your child is at an age when they’re only beginning to come to terms with the world they’re living in and as we all know, that world can seem like a very big place, so just imagine what it’s like for them.
Crying and whingeing in toddlers might simply be caused by normal everyday issues such as hunger, fatigue, illness, frustration or anxiety.
But if your toddler does whine and cry a lot, do all that you can to give positive attention to non-whiny behaviour and practise calm refusals until he or she learns to communicate in a reasonable tone.
Bear in mind, however, that if your child can't talk well yet, you may need to distract them straight away with another activity when the whining starts. It's tempting to give in to demands for a bit of peace, but this is a mistake as it'll only make the child’s behaviour worse. Try your best not to reward whining by giving your child what he or she wants – this will only teach your child that this is the best method of getting his or her own way.
Deal with the obvious causes of crying immediately, such as tiredness, hunger and boredom
When your child behaves well or asks nicely, give him plenty of positive attention.
Try to respond as quickly as you can when your child asks for something, even if your answer is no. This will show your child that you are listening to him and that you are there for him. If you don’t acknowledge your child, you could be making matters worse.
Keep them distracted – if you bring some interesting toys with you on your trips out or when you’re at home, then it will keep them focused on something other than crying. If you’re out in the supermarket, bring a book with you so they can flip over the pages and look at the colourful pictures.
If you know that you are likely eventually to give in to your child’s demands, then it might be better to do so straight away. If you wait and your child gets more anxious, then you are teaching them that the longer he or she waits and cries, the greater the chance of success he or she will have.
Most of us will have become angry at some point in our lives and perhaps felt like lashing out or throwing something. That’s the kind of feeling that toddlers experience when they can’t communicate their feelings or say what they want. The result can be a tantrum.
You’ve probably heard of the 'terrible twos', when your formerly peaceful baby becomes a screaming ball of fury. In his mind, the child can see what he wants - some sweets or a toy, for example - but, once you’ve said no, they can't see how they are going get it.
Toddlers don’t have the understanding, the necessary experience or the communication skills needed to talk through a disagreement with their parents. They live in the 'now' with little or no sense of the future. Toddlers simply can’t cope with having to wait for what they want and the tantrum which sometimes erupts is a means of communicating or venting that frustration.
It can be difficult to accept that tantrums are a perfectly normal part of a child’s development. The vast majority of toddlers will experience them, but they are a normal part of the growing-up process.
Coping with a tantrum
Dealing with a tantrum is easier said then done. Your toddler is frustrated and angry and however hard you try not to be, you too can be caught up in the heat of the moment.
Instinctively, you may want to do everything in your power to stop the tantrum, perhaps because you feel embarrassed or ashamed about what has happened and sometimes feel that it’s a reflection on you as a parent; but the message is simple – try your best to keep a cool head.
You cannot reason with a child in a tantrum, there’s no point in attempting any kind of discussion until it’s all over.
Here’s some useful guidance:
• Do your best to keep your emotions out of it. If you get angry, it will only feed the spiral of emotions and make things worse. Some parents find it helpful to deliberately 'go robotic' in order to keep their own feelings in check.
• It might also be a good idea to say that you are leaving the room or that you will walk away. Then go somewhere where you can still see your child, but your child can't see you. Usually, without an audience, your child will stop screaming
• Try to develop a thick skin. Do what you need to do and ignore the attention of other people if they are rude enough to stare.
• Make an effort to hug the child and talk soothingly into his ear; they can often frighten themselves by the sheer strength of their own emotions.
• Reassure the child, acknowledging how they are feeling ('you must be feeling very cross', 'I can see that you are very angry').
• If appropriate, you can pick up your child when in a tantrum and take them away from any attention.
• Don't smack. It does not help and only increases the level of violence and emotion in the situation. Remember, children learn by copying!
• It is best not to give in to the tantrum. If the child learns that you change your mind in the face of a tantrum, they will use that power to get their own way.
• If you feel you aren’t coping well with a tantrum, make sure your child is safe and call a friend to talk it over. A rational friend who isn’t caught up in the situation can help you see things in perspective.
After a tantrum
Try not to let the effects of a tantrum go on and on. When the tantrum is over, give your toddler a cuddle and reassure him that while you don’t like his behaviour, you love him.
To toddlers, attention equals love. By insisting on showing you a toy that you've seen a hundred times before, your toddler just wants to know you still love them.
Giving your child praise or involving yourself in their play will give them some reassurance. You can never give your toddler too much attention. If your child feels really loved at this early stage in their development, they are likely to grow up to be independent and confident adults.
During the toddler years, always try to remember to show them your love and not lose patience with them. They will eventually grow out of this behaviour and, as they grow older, they will in time learn how to communicate with you in a more reasonable manner.