As the mother of a very active twenty-month-old who is just discovering his independence, I am always on the look-out for ways to save my sanity by making him more agreeable. I would rather not go the punitive path, because I have found that punishment typically only worsens the behavior (and my mood) at this age. Instead, I prefer to be proactive and stop bad behavior before it starts. While I am not successful all the time, or even most of the time, the following tips and tricks really do work. I have gleaned them from friends,family, magazine articles, and Internet sites.
Have A Routine
Routine, routine, routine. Oh, how I love a routine. And I most certainly did not love a routine until I became a mother. I preferred the Fly-By-The-Seat-Of-My-Pants approach to life. But I quickly found that babies and toddlers do not do as well as I did with that particular approach. So, now our lives rotate around a fully predictable day, and I love it. My son knows exactly what to expect and he is so much better behaved. In fact, the one part of our day that is not in full-routine mode is the first hour or so in the morning, and I can tell a huge difference in his behavior. This is my fault because I am so not a morning person, I am just having a really hard time coming up with a plan that will work for us, but I'm going to, and soon!
Model the behavior you expect.
I think that this may be one of the most overlooked, but most important keys to better behaved children. Children, from very young ages, watch absolutely everything you do. If you are trying to teach sharing.... share. Give your child half your apple, share half your Diet Coke with your husband, and talk about what you are doing. "Look, Mommy is sharing her apple with Charlie."
Ask before you act.
My son used to love bathtime. Then he went through a stage where he hated it. He was fine splashing around but as soon as I actually tried to actually make him clean, with real soap and a washcloth, he would get upset. So I started asking him if I could bathe him. I would say, "May I wash your arm?" and he would grin and hold out his arm. And we continued this way and bathtime became enjoyable for both of us again. It really makes sense, I mean if someone just started pulling at me and rubbing a wet washcloth over me without asking I would get mad, too. This is also a good way for toddlers to learn body parts.
Ask your child if he wants an apple or a banana for a snack. Limit his choices to two. If you give him too many, he may become overwhelmed and then you haven't really helped anything.
Know What Triggers Tantrums
This is typically fatigue and hunger. Know when your child needs a nap or a snack, and don't expect them to tell you. I can always tell when naptime is just around the corner becaue my son will cry over the slightest thing. But, if I ask him if he's sleepy, I get a quick and emphatic, "NO!"
He acts much the same when he's hungry, but he does not want to slow down long enough to eat, so I have to more or less force him to sit down and have a snack. It is always best when I get his snack or get him in bed before he gets perturbed. It saves us all from his bad moods.