The old adage “Do as I say, not as I do” takes on a certain significance when you look at the results of a new study published in the journal Development and Psychopathology.
Researchers found that toddlers are more likely to become easily agitated and act out if their parents are quick to anger and overreact.
The study looked at the behaviors of adopted children aged 9, 18 and 27 months of age, and their adoptive parents in 361 families and 10 states. They also analyzed genetic data from the children and their birth parents.
The study revealed that the children of adoptive parents, who had a tendency to overreact and were quick to anger when toddlers made mistakes or tested their parents with age-appropriate limits, had more temper tantrums than normal for their age.
Children who had the greatest increases in these types of negative emotions as they grew from infants to toddlers (from 9 months to 27 months of age) also had the highest levels of problem behaviors at 24 months. This suggests that negative emotions may have their own development process that impacts children's later behaviors, according to lead author Shannon Lipscomb, an assistant professor of human development and family sciences at Oregon State University, and her colleagues.
Genetics also seem to play a role in the children’s behaviors. Children who inherited a genetic risk for emotional negativity from their birth mothers, but were raised in a low-stress and less reactive family, also displayed a higher level of tantrums.
According to the researchers, these findings help improve an understanding of the complex link between genetics and home environment
"Parents' ability to regulate themselves and to remain firm, confident and not overreact is a key way they can help their children to modify their behavior," Lipscomb said in a university news release. "You set the example as a parent in your own emotions and reactions."
To help your child learn self-control you must model good self-control. Show that good emotional control and problem solving are the ways to deal with a difficult situation.
Toddlers are easily frustrated by what they are able to do and what they want to do. Tantrums are a normal part of development and are equally common in boys and girls. Toddlers generally understand more than they can express. Imagine not being able to communicate your needs to someone — a frustrating experience that may precipitate a tantrum. As language skills improve, tantrums tend to decrease.
Toddlers also want a sense of independence and control over their lives. When they discover that they can't do something or have everything they want, the stage is set for a tantrum (much like some adults!)
Kidshealth.com offers these tips for tips for parents of toddlers who want to avoid tantrums.
Give your child enough attention – Children crave attention, even negative attention. Try to establish a habit of catching your child being good, which means rewarding your little one with attention for positive behavior. Even just commenting on what they're doing whenever toddlers aren't having a tantrum can help increase those positive behaviors.
Give your toddler control over little things- Offer minor choices such as "Do you want orange juice or apple juice?" or "Do you want to brush your teeth before or after taking a bath?" This way, you aren't asking "Do you want to brush your teeth now?" — which inevitably will be answered "no."
Keep off-limits objects out of sight and out of reach- Although this is not always possible in an environment outside the home, removing temptation when possible can help prevent frustration and provide a safer outcome.
Use distractions - Take advantage of your little one's short attention span by offering a replacement for the coveted object or begin a new activity to replace the frustrating or forbidden one. Or simply change the environment. Take your toddler outside or inside or move to a different room.
Choose your battles carefully- Is your toddler’s request outrageous? Maybe it isn't. Accommodate when you can, or offer an alternative that is similar.
Know your toddler’s limits - If you know your toddler is tired, it's not the best time to go grocery shopping or try to squeeze in another errand.
Try to understand what's going on. Tantrums should be handled differently depending on the cause. Try to understand where your child is coming from. For example, if your little one has just had a great disappointment, you may need to provide comfort.
It's a different situation when the tantrum follows a child being refused something. Toddlers have fairly simple reasoning skills, so you aren't likely to get far with explanations. Ignoring the outburst is one way to handle it — if the tantrum poses no threat to your child or others. Continue your activities, paying no attention to your child but remaining within sight. Don't leave your little one alone, though.
Kids who are in danger of hurting themselves or others during a tantrum should be taken to a quiet, safe place to calm down. This also applies to tantrums in public places.