Toddler Tactics

Reporter: Rohan Wenn

Toddlers are like tiny little Dr. Jekyls and Mr. Hydes -- one minute a toddler can be the most wonderful, loving child, but moments later they're like a two foot, wannabe dictator.

Monique, Jenny, Tanya and Jacqui have come together for a workshop with author and child raising expert Pinky McKay. They're all doting, but sometimes frustrated, mums of toddlers. Pinky's first piece of advice is to take all advice with a grain of salt. Parenting styles need to be as individual as the children themselves. "There's so many rules. I think we need to lighten up and have some fun, enjoy the kids and give ourselves some slack", Pinky said.

That said, there are some tactics you might want to try on your toddler. Let's start with the first issue -- nagging. Pinky says the first step is to let your child know you have heard them, and also pick your battles because consistency is key. "If you are going to say no, you say no and you mean it. If you haven't got much energy that day, you are better off saying yes up front than listening to five minutes of nagging and then going alright yes, because they soon learn to pound you down and wear you down", Pinky said. If you can see a conflict coming on, Pinky says parents should try and divert or distract. "Make sure you have something different to play with", she said.

Of course you don't get toddlers without tantrums. "Tantrums are really just a storm of emotions that a child can't manage", Pinky said. The first step to dealing with a tantrum, is to avoid it's cause. "They can be triggered by tiredness, by hunger, by wanting something they can't have and sometimes they're just small tantrums -- like over the broken biscuit, but what's lead up to this broken biscuit? Have I been dragging my kid over the supermarket all day, has he missed his afternoon sleep?" Pinky said.

Even if you watch out for all that, it's natural there will be times when little kids will crack it. So it's now your job to calm the child down. "If the tantrum is really bad, you can hold them and with their back toward you because then they can't kick you and you have to be calm to calm them down. It's not about you restraining them, it's about you breathing slowly and just talking quietly and saying Mummy is going to hold you and be with you until you can calm down. And then you can give them a big hug when it's all over", Pinky said.

Recent studies show eight out of ten parents, under the age of 25, believe it is appropriate to smack a toddler who is having a tantrum. But Pinky argues this is a damaging approach that should always be avoided. Instead, she suggests time out, but it's time out with a difference. She argues parents should go with their child to a quiet place and have time out together. "Really I would interpret time out as taking your child from an overwhelming situation and helping them to calm down", she said.

Diet also plays a big role in children's behaviour. Caffeine, additives and excessive sugars should be kept to a minimum. "Probably the best advice is a range of foods as close to natural as possible. And all things in moderation", she said. Exercise can also be used to burn off excess energy. "I had very active little boys and I used to take them for a ride at the bike track every morning and then I'd find they could do a quiet activity after that", Pinky said.

Adequate sleep can also help in keeping toddlers tantrum-free. Pinky recommends a quiet pre-sleep routine that involves lots of reading and cuddles. "Cuddling them, you're actually helping them to calm down", Pinky said. But Pinky McKay argues mums and dads with young children, just need to be kind -- to the kids and to themselves.

For further information:

Pinky McKay - Toddler Tactics, published by Penguin. For workshop bookings call Pinky (03) 98011997 or visit the website at: http://www.pinky-mychild.com/