😏😌🙄 This article was co-authored by Wits End Parenting and by wikiHow staff writer, Amy Bobinger. Wits End Parenting is a parent-coaching practice based in Berkeley, California specializing in strong-willed, “spirited” children with impulsivity, emotional volatility, difficulty “listening,” defiance, and aggression. Wits End Parenting's counselors incorporate positive discipline that is tailored to each child’s temperament while also providing long-term results, freeing parents from the need to continually re-invent their discipline strategies.
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😏😌🙄 Small children can be unpredictable. One minute, your child might be frustrating, throwing a tantrum in the middle of a store. The next minute, he might do something so cute or funny you can't help but smile. To navigate these ups and downs, it can help to learn how to interact with small kids.
Method 1Method 1 of 3:Cooperating with Small Kids Download Article
- 1Make tasks fun. Since small children are constantly making messes and dirtying their clothes, it's easy to feel like your house is always a wreck. If you want your child to help you keep things tidy, make chores or simple tasks into a game. Avoid just telling your child that he has to clean something up. You may need to help him or get him started. You can also make challenges or chores into races where you compete.XResearch source
- For example, get a large bucket and help your child toss toys into it. You might encourage your child to find all of the blocks or balls to throw in. This will help him learn to sort and makes cleaning more interactive.
- Make chores a competition between several kids. This will make it seem more like a game.
- 2Give choices. Kids like feeling as though they have some control or power over things. If you give your child an option, he'll feel as though he's in control of the situation and he'll be less likely to disobey or throw a tantrum. For example, you might tell your child he can select his pajamas to get ready for bed or he can pick out what story he'd like to listen to before bedtime.XResearch source
- When giving small kids options, keep them simple or your child might become overwhelmed. Also, give your kid a chance to make the decision.
- If you're caring for several kids, ask "who wants to help me with this project?"
- 3Create a routine. Small children don't have a sense of time like adults do. But, they do have a sense of routine. Knowing what comes next and what to expect during the day can be comforting. You don't need to plan out detailed activities for every hour of the day. But, a loose routine will give your kid a sense of security which can improve his behavior and create good habits.XResearch source
- For example, a loose bedtime routine might include getting pajamas on, brushing teeth, snuggling while reading stories, and bed.
- When handling more than one child, it can help to coordinate their nap schedules so that they both get rest and you get a break.
- 4Reward good behavior. Don't wait for your child to do something naughty before talking about appropriate behavior. Instead, catch your child doing something good and praise him for it. Kids respond better to positive reinforcement than punishment. Just be sure to use specific praises or your child might start tuning it out.XResearch source
- For example, if your child wipes up a spill, you could say, "Good job cleaning up after your mess!"
- Avoid chastising one child by pointing out how good another child is. This will just make one kid resent the other one.
Method 2Method 2 of 3:Managing Difficult Behavior Download Article
- 1Control your reactions. Your small child depends on you for emotional and physical well-being. If you hit, yell, or use foul language when talking to your child, you'll terrify your child and could cause long-lasting damage.XResearch source While you still might get angry, tell yourself not to punish or deal with your small child until you're calm. Always avoid hitting or threatening your child.
- If you find yourself yelling at your child, try whispering instead. Some teachers say that whispering actually makes the children more likely to listen and pay attention to what you're saying.XResearch source
- Small kids look to each other to determine how they feel. So, if you yell at your toddler, your baby might actually start crying.
- 2Put yourself in your child's position. Try to relate to what your child is going to. This is useful whether you're frustrated, bored, or trying to have fun with your small kid. Ask yourself what your child must be seeing, thinking, or feeling. Remember that many situations that seem normal to you might be new, frightening, or overwhelming to your small child.
- Hunger, thirst, and sleep are also big factors in your child's temperament. If you notice your child suddenly becoming whiny, consider if he may need a snack or a nap.XResearch source
- Remember to watch how each child is doing. If you notice one kid become quiet or upset, pull him aside and ask him how he's feeling.
- 3Calm the child. If your small kid gets worked up easily and is prone to temper tantrums, try to relax him. Ask him to sit near you and read a story. Or, play some calming music. Put on some of your kid's favorite music to help improve his mood.XResearch source
- Sometimes, just sitting near your child and connecting with him will make him feel better and can make him more likely to listen to you.
- 4Get help. If you still feel like you don't react or deal with your child the way you'd like, or you find yourself still losing your temper, you might want to talk to a doctor or therapist. Sometimes, talking about your frustrations and expectations with a trained therapist can help you learn to handle childcare situations better.XResearch source
- If your child is in school, you might want to discuss your situation with your kid's teacher or the school counselor.
- If you're struggling to handle more than one kid, consider putting one of them in a preschool or playschool for a few days a week. This can give you some one-on-one time with another child, or at least give you a little break.
Method 3Method 3 of 3:Nurturing Small Kids Download Article
- 1Show love. Your child will learn to treat himself as you treat him, so showing love is important. This doesn't mean that you should let your child do whatever he wants. Set boundaries and enforce them so that that your small kid knows what to expect. Show your love however you can. Some people give hugs, others provide a good home, and some give their attention.XResearch source
- Don't expect to be the perfect parent or caregiver. There will be times where you're frustrated with your children. Accept the frustration and know that things will get easier.
- 2Spend time with your kids. You don't have to carve out a large chunk of your day to dedicate to your small children. You can actually make small moments count and show your kids that you're interested them. You might sit together and read stories, play silly games, or just work on making snacks together. The point is to encourage your children to do things alongside and with you.XResearch source
- If you cook with your child, be sure to do it at his level. Work on a low table or bring a high-chair over to a counter so he can help you prepare food.
- Small kids love when adults act goofy. Surprise your small child by making faces or dancing.
- 3Listen. Take the time to listen to whatever it is your kids want to tell you or talk about. Stop what you're doing and really engage with them. Try getting down on their level, make eye contact, put away your cell phone, and hear what they're saying. Your kids will feel valued and communication between you can improve.XResearch source
- If your child has a hard time talking or describing things, you can always ask open-ended questions to get him talking.
- 4Expose them to new experiences. New experiences and playing are how small children learn about their world. As a parent or caregiver, you should give your small kids things to explore. For a very young child, you might give toys that develop his senses (like balls, rattles, or soft animals). For somewhat older small children, take them to a museum, a nature park, or zoo.XResearch source
- Kids like activities where they can create something, run around, or explore something new.
- QuestionHow do you discipline a child that won't listen?Wits End ParentingWits End Parenting is a parent-coaching practice based in Berkeley, California specializing in strong-willed, “spirited” children with impulsivity, emotional volatility, difficulty “listening,” defiance, and aggression. Wits End Parenting's counselors incorporate positive discipline that is tailored to each child’s temperament while also providing long-term results, freeing parents from the need to continually re-invent their discipline strategies.
Parenting SpecialistsParenting SpecialistsExpert AnswerWith small children, the best approach is to tell them something once or twice, then to provide a non-punitive consequence if they don't listen. Don't be mean, hurtful or punitive, but also keep in mind that it's often a mistake to spend too much time explaining what the child did wrong. Younger kids don't have the cognitive development necessary to apply these insights in future situations.