Toddler misbehaves to get attention: What every parent can do

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Toddlers are so egocentric - they think the whole world revolves around them. And if it doesn't? They'll do what they can to make sure it does.

That's why your young child tries anything to grab your attention - he even misbehaves to the point where he has a full-blown tantrum - as long as you are entirely focused on no one else.

There is no easy way around this.

If you don't give your tot exactly what he wants - your attention - his tears and uncooperative ways will continue.

Yet if you respond to his negative acts, he will soon learn that this is a great way to make him the focus of your world whenever he wants. Before you know it, his outbursts and tantrums will become even more frequent.

You feel like you are trapped. What can you do?

For a start, try ignoring him, at least for a minute or two anyway. It isn't easy to stand your ground when confronted by your angry child, but it can be done if you are determined enough.

There is always the possibility that he will calm down, and your delayed response teaches him that you are not at his beck and call.

If he is still acting up after a few minutes, and you feel you can't ignore him any longer, go over to him.

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Keep calm (even if you are ready to explode inside) and reassure him that he'll soon feel better if he cools down. You may decide to remove the source of his frustration, for example, the jigsaw that he couldn't complete.

Some parents use the "timeout" method with their young kids because it reduces the amount of attention they receive for misbehaving, while still dealing with the undesirable act itself.

This technique is exactly what its name suggests - you remove your child from where he misbehaved and place him in a quiet area away from all attention. It can be used for a whole range of demeanours, mild or severe.

Stay with your tot

If you leave him alone, you are giving him solitary confinement, not a timeout.

Stay calm

Your loss of temper won't help him gain control over his rage. Be firm but calm, so that you provide a model of control he can copy.

Talk to him as little as possible

You don't want the timeout to become simply another way to get your attention, so keep conversation to a minimum.

Pick a quiet area

The place must be free of distractions. There is no point in removing him from, say, his bedroom into the living room where his grandparents are watching the TV.

Set a time limit and stick to it

Timeouts should last, at most, for a few minutes - regardless of whether or not your tot has calmed down at the end of the period.

Repeat as often as you think is necessary

Be prepared to do this again on another occasion if necessary. For some children, the effect of a timeout is cumulative rather than instant.

ALSO READ: Managing tantrums and meltdowns when travelling with a toddler

This article was first published in Young Parents