Whether it’s eating from a favourite plate, insisting on a nightlight being kept on at bedtime, or cuddling his blanket, toddlers are sticklers for keeping to a routine. And love it or loath it, it’s something every parent has to learn to live with.
While most of your baby’s first year is spent trying to implement a routine, it seems the next two are spent trying to break out of it. Toddlers love predictability and familiarity but you may discover a regimented routine will start to rule your life rather than the other way round.
‘Toddler rituals and obsessions are extremely common,’ says child psychologist Dr Penelope Leach. ‘Try to accommodate them as best you can, but set limits. And if a routine becomes disruptive, modify it in a way your child accepts. So instead of giving in to their four stories before bedtime ritual, choose six books with brief stories. You won’t be seen as mean and will have introduced flexibility.’
Equip yourself with a few simple strategies for calming things down
- Ask yourself: What am I doing to fuel this? Often the parent has to change before the child improves.
- Don’t reward tantrums by making a fuss. If you’re at home, leave the room and only talk to your child to repeat what you want her to do. Keep calm and remember, as the adult, you are setting the example. You want your child to be calm and in control, so you must be, too.
- Use simple language that a toddler can understand so there’s no doubt about what you want.
- Don’t give too much choice – it’s confusing. ‘Shall we paint or read?’ is better than ‘What do you want to do?’
- Shopping is prime tantrum time for many toddlers. Get her involved by asking her if she can spot the foods you need on the shelves.