Recent studies show that children dont actually develop the ability to control their impulses until theyre at least 3 years old, and even then it can be a huge effort.
Kitty Hagenbach, a psychologist specialising in parenting issues (babiesknow.com), agrees that its perfectly normal for toddlers to act on their every impulse. Impulsiveness is a childs natural expression of themselves, she says. Its not wrong, in fact its a very important developmental stage. Our role as parents is to gently steer those powerful impulses in a positive direction. NORMAL, NOT NAUGHTY
Hollie Smith (holliesmith.co.uk), a mum of two, and author of Cool, Calm Parent (£7.99, White Ladder Press), says that for toddlers under 3, a lack of self-control is perfectly normal. Theyre simply too young to understand the concept, which is something to bear in mind when youre being driven nuts by your little ones latest display of impulsiveness. So before you lose your rag, try to remind yourself its normal, not naughty.BE REALISTIC
Having realistic expectations of your toddlers abilities can help you handle those times when your childs impulses might overwhelm him and you. For example, most toddlers just wont be able to sit at a table for a prolonged period of time, so insisting on it is likely to lead to outbursts of impulsive behaviour, such as food thrown on the floor or manic wriggling until they can get down, says Kitty. Accept your childs limitations and work around them. Learn to anticipate the flashpoints that mean he is likely
to behave impulsively.TRY TO UNDERSTAND
Toddler impulses can seem wild and inexplicable, but understanding the feelings behind your childs actions is the first step to helping him express himself more appropriately. Try vocalising your childs emotions to him. For example, say, I see you really want to play with that toy, but someone else is playing with it now. Lets play with this puzzle together until its your turn for the toy. ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES
It helps to remember that when toddlers act impulsively, its the way in which theyre trying to understand their world. Thats not to say boundaries arent important, however. Keep explanations short and simple children under 3 will only register that youre cross with them, without understanding why, says Rachel Goodchild (rachel-goodchild.com)
Most children arent naughty at this age; theyre just exploring and seeing how far they can go.When a child resists the boundaries, it can be tempting to give in to avoid a tantrum, but, says Kitty, its especially important to stick to your guns at those times. A toddler who wants to draw on the wall might get upset if you dont let him, but he needs to learn that your walls arent the place for him to express his creativity! Being told no now will save upset in the long run. Kitty explains: Those experiences are really important for helping children develop cognitive connections in other words, theyll discover the world doesnt stop turning just because they cant do everything they want to! TAKE YOUR TIME
Helping a toddler control his impulses shouldnt be rushed. It takes time and requires encouragement and patience from parents. Remember, this stage of unabashed self-expression can be wonderful to witness, and it wont last forever.A toddler who acts impulsively literally isnt thinking, says Kitty. Hes just experiencing a great whoosh of enthusiasm for doing what he fancies, when he fancies. Self-control comes through learning how to interact with the world but its a gradual process. Seeing the challenges as a chance to learn together can help make it more manageable. As Hollie says, If all else fails, remind yourself that self-control will come in time. Eventually.