Conquering the Biggest Parenting Challenges around Kids age 2 to 4

One word that runs through the minds of many parents is “endless,” because just when you think you’ve checked a few things off your list, another issue arises. Being a child isn’t easy, and being a parent definitely isn’t! Here, we offer advice on parenting challenges for children aged two to four, which should help to make life easier for everyone.

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Not Sleeping in Their Own Bed

Like anybody, a child needs to feel tired and peaceful to fall asleep. They need a fixed routine before bedtime, which shouldn’t involve any excitable play or electronic devices. A bath and a quick storybook is better.

Continue with your routine once they are in bed. Make sure they don’t have any excuses for getting out of bed, like needing a drink or going to the toilet. If they do get out, gently put them back and leave the room quickly so that they know getting up won’t be rewarded by more time with you. If you hear them crying or complaining from their room, try not to go in immediately. Children are learning how to get to sleep by themselves during this phase.

A useful step, aside from the usual nighttime routine, is to get kids excited about their room. Let them “design” their room to feel like it’s their special space. Allow them to choose the bed covers, and let them decide where their toys are going to be. A favorite soft toy to make them feel safe and comforted is essential for a lot of littles!

Preparing for bedtime can start even earlier in the day. We all know using up energy with a nature walk every afternoon isn’t possible, but on days when they’re not using much energy, try an online kids and parents workout video, such as easy dance workouts. They might even get so into it that you can take a step back and give yourself a little break…

Picky Eating

As many as half of preschoolers are picky eaters, so if you’re experiencing this problem, you’re not alone. Don’t blame yourself, or your cooking! In many cases, being choosy isn’t about the child behaving badly. They may have the same reasons as adults for not wanting to eat certain things at a certain time. For example, we often don’t want to eat when we are tired, already full, or bored of eating the same thing.

Schedule meals for times when your little ones are not likely to be tired or in a bad mood, and bear in mind that even a glass of milk can make them feel full before eating.

It’s frustrating to discover a healthy snack or meal your little one will eat, only to find that the next day they have no interest in it. Maybe they’re just not in the mood for it! Offer them a couple of choices, as long as all options are something you feel comfortable with.

Just like designing their own room, this gives them the control they crave while establishing boundaries. Helping with food preparation or even setting the table will also let them feel in control, instead of being told what to do and what to eat all the time. You’ll probably find a three-year-old is much more willing to set the table than older kids will be!

Keeping a record of what children refuse to eat may help you to establish a pattern. Your little one might have a quirky dislike for food with certain appearances, such as layers or chunks of something in a sauce. They might not have the words for their aversion yet, but finding the pattern can help you dodge the problem just by rearranging how the food appears on the plate.

Occasionally, picky eating is connected to other behavioral problems, which makes it all the more important to seek professional help if your child’s behavior is difficult to control.

Temper Tantrums

Daily tantrums are normal and are not something to worry about unless they happen multiple times a day and are very disruptive. However, they are still stressful for parents. It’s important to reduce the possibility of tantrums, and to deal with them when they happen.

Frustration is the main cause, because children don't know how else to express themselves. Try to pinpoint what upsets your child and triggers a tantrum. If they don’t like sharing, for example, teach your child that sharing is a good thing and not about taking something away. Praise the times when they do share (applause and smiling works for younger kids).

If tantrums occur in the morning, it may be because your routine is rushed. Find a way to make things easier by preparing outfits the night before or making breakfast more simple.

When your child does have a meltdown, distracting them right at the start might work. Point out something outside the window, or suggest choosing the cool outfit they’re going to wear tomorrow. It’s amazing how music affects the mood of children even under a year old, so see if putting a song on works.

If none of that helps, stay calm and show your child that their tantrum doesn't get a reaction. It may be easiest to give them what they want, but this will only encourage future tantrums. Keep breathing, keep the environment around them calm, and show affection with a hug or by holding their hand if they’ll let you, even if you that doesn’t happen until they’re calming down.

Because communication difficulties are often the root cause, encourage your child to express themselves with words, and create fun sign language for younger children to communicate feelings such as “thirsty” and “tired.”

Getting help from experts on child behavior can save a lot of time and frustration as you learn and grow as a parent. Find out how Just Parent can help.

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