My toddler is in an irrational phase. He will ask for water, even though his cup is already full. Although we have a bin full of blocks, he wants the ones his sister is playing with. He wants to walk across the street all by himself. When he doesn’t get his way or is prevented from doing something dangerous, he cries and arches his back. Sound familiar? Toddlers are notorious for being irrational. Yet, there are ways to communicate with your toddler and make those irrational moments a little more rational.
Why is my Toddler so Irrational?
My son can talk pretty well. However, there are plenty of things he can’t say yet. Since he can only talk in short phrases and has a limited vocabulary, it’s not any surprise when he mixes up words or says something that is hard to understand. Inside his head, he knows what he wants but he can’t always fully express it. According to zerotothree.org, “when you see challenging behavior, it usually means that your child can’t figure out how to express her feelings in an acceptable way or doesn’t know how to get a need met.” Luckily, there are ways to help your child cope with these feelings of frustration.
Give Your Toddler Options
One of the things that helps me is giving my toddler a choice or asking him a question. Do you want to have pasta or chicken? Would you like to read a book or play with your cars? This helps him feel like he has options. At the same time, don’t give your child too many choices or options you aren’t willing to follow through with. The Mayo Clinic also recommends this parenting technique.
Learn Your Toddler’s Language
Listen closely to your child. Even when their words sound like gibberish, they are often saying something. For instance, my son has a favorite pirate fork. When he wants it, he say “pi.” If your child is less verbal, it is a good idea to teach sign language. You can start this when kids are babies. I taught my children key signs like “more” and “all done” and they used these until they began to talk better. Using visual cues such as picture cards can be helpful for non verbal toddlers. My sister uses picture cards with my nephew, who has autism, to help him communicate.
Sometimes my son will throw a tantrum. One day, my daughter started stroking his hair and whispering “Shhh, it’s okay.” Suddenly, he was completely calm. As a result, we started calling her the “baby whisperer.” Kids take cues from adults. If adults respond to a tantrum in anger, your toddler will pick up on this and it will only make the situation worse. When consoling or talking quietly doesn’t work, I typically allow my son to be upset. According to the Mayo Clinic, “the best way to respond to a tantrum is to ignore it.” However, if the tantrum involves hitting or kicking, it’s good to tell your child that hitting is not okay and give him or her a timeout.
One of my son’s biggest meltdown triggers is when I try to do something for him like carry him when he wants to walk or lift him into his carseat. While I sometimes have to carry him (across a busy intersection crosswalk or crowded place), I let him walk or do things on his own as much as possible. As long as something isn’t dangerous, it’s good to encourage autonomy.
The next time your toddler is having a tantrum or being irrational, realize that you are not alone; this is a normal part of a toddler’s development.
More from Melissa:
Just Breathe: How to Have Patience With Children
4 Reasons to Stop Nagging Your Kids
A Survival Guide for Parents in the Suburbs