Many parents would agree that there is a “Terrible Two” phase. However, the truth is, tantrums and madness can happen at any age as our little ones make progress towards growth and development. In fact, many toddlers begin testing limits just shortly after burying their adorable chubby faces in birthday cake at the loving age of ONE! While every child is different, and most certainly we can celebrate every year of new joys and challenges, the growing pains of “Toddler Troubles” and “Preschool Problems” can be successfully managed. Take some time with me as we countdown on the “stages of preschool development”.
“FOUR-teen” Year Olds!
With my little guy nearing the big “5” soon, I am most certainly enduring what I call the “FOUR-teen” stage. At this age, my little cub sees the world as ending at the smallest things…Why??? Well....socially and emotionally four year olds are becoming more intuitive about the world, processing and understanding feelings, and welcoming you with a boat load of questions that seem to only end at bedtime (sometimes)! Moreover, they make every situation GRAND and their behavior can sometimes go a little “over the top”....yes when they are sad, mad, or even happy. Their fearless four spirit may still even have a few tantrums when they don't get what they want. Nevertheless, FOUR Moms and Dads, stick to consistency, routine, and validate their feelings. Even when their behavior is "over the top," set limits and bring your little one back to reality without making him/her feel bad for their BIG emotions! Four year olds will show you that they are ready and capable of handling big responsibility, so do not limit them. In fact, this will help them as they prepare to move into the “schoolage” phase. After all, mom and dad will not be around to get them out of a jam or to open their juice boxes. Allow them the opportunity to show responsible behavior, and do not forget to acknowledge them and their good deeds. After all, when you want a behavior to stick and last, you have to first give them the opportunity, and second reinforce it!
Awww…the “Three-nager”… the stage where your little one begins to realize they are “not a baby” anymore, yet at the same he or she still wants to be held like they are still swaddled in a blankie! Sounds like a much later stage of development, huh? This is the stage where you begin to question if your child is going through growth spurts for preschoolers or puberty! Three year olds most certainly let you know that you are in for a ride of lifetime. In many respects, I believe that Terrible 2’s have little on Treacherous 3’s! Aside from the shifting moods, 3 year olds, quickly become your best friend. With their developed reasoning skills and growing vocabulary, you find yourself talking to a little “Benjamin Buttons” who can hold a conversation with you and in ways that you can actually articulate. However, at 3, our little preschoolers have a great peak in their behavior… DEFIANT behavior. Your mini me is beginning to seek independence and may even show some great negotiation and bargaining skills which may result in some BIG tantrums. But the key to helping them navigate their “threenage” moments is to ignore negative and inappropriate behavior, as long as they are not hurting themselves or getting in unsafe situation. At this stage, be ready to utilize my “Scoop, Tuck, and Roll-Out” method which is your way of isolating an audience who may fuel a tantrum or moving him to another place because of his refusal.
They are finally flapping the gums a lot, and you are really able to understand them so much more! They are showing their natural curiosity about the world, and this means one thing…..TROUBLE, TROUBLE, TROUBLE, TROUBLE! Nevertheless, there is hope. With curiosity running their never tired brains and bodies, it is important to set limits to help them maintain their safety as they explore their changing world. Just a FYI, YOUR two year is not the only one who has trouble with the word “No”. Redirection can and will be a struggle at times, but again it is important to focus on the fact that they are LEARNING. Two year olds in their natural curiosity do not understand that it is unsafe to run across the street, or even eat the interesting looking bottle cap off the ground. So help them by identifying and labeling these things and pointing out the danger for them. Two year olds don’t yet have the language to express feelings, so they resort to pitching fits and tantrums. Most of all, their brains are not yet programmed to handle extreme emotions without going a bit CRAZY. Praise and positive attention goes a long way. Yelling or even “pop-pops” make tantrums last longer. Instead, wait until the tantrum subsides (ignore, ignore, ignore) so that your child can absorb the lesson you plan to teach.
Last, but not least, ONESIES! One year olds are moving abound and they are no longer your little infant any longer. Gone are the days when they were able to sit in the swing or bouncy and watch you move about. Now, you are exhausted chasing after them as they have finally picked up the steps and courage to move those fat legs! But they are still your “baby’ so you can cuddle and snuggle. Enjoy the moments with your one year and do not rush their development. Somewhere, turning “1” has really shifted their understanding and reality that is really is all about “me”. Because they are up and moving, you are finding yourself using the word “no” or “eh- eh” A LOT. Naturally, your darling little one has learned that great word too. For sure it agonizes you when they tell you NO and take off running in the opposite direction without a diaper on their head instead of their bottom! What is so great about a 1 year old, is the ease in redirection and positive discipline. When you are in the kitchen prepping dinner and your sweet baby is one step away from a catastrophic house fire, you can easily give her a set of pots and a spoon, and watch how quickly she forms a one-baby band! Yet, the struggles of life are still there as sleep patterns are still being sorted out. You will find sleep to be more difficult as your one year old discovers something new and hits a growth spurt as well. Teething is also impacting his sleep too. Of course, with lack of sleep means more tantrums and crankiness. Most certainly, the babbling makes her limited vocabulary difficult to graps what she is actually communicating to you. At this stage, introduce your one year old to objects and activities to promote his language and vocabulary. Continue to redirect with distraction and replacement, as this helps to minimize meltdowns.