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How to stop toddler tantrums

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Expert tip

"The best way to deal with a tantrum is to be aware that it is normal, make sure the environment is safe (no coffee tables with sharp corners around) and try not to show too dramatic a response."

Dr Morris Zwi, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, South West London and St. George's Mental Health Trust

At the age of two, your little one will be discovering her naughty streak. Temper tantrums come out of nowhere and can be a real nightmare to deal with. Learn to recognise tantrum trouble spots and stop bad behaviour before it becomes a full-on meltdown.

Refusing food

Be patient. Toddlers often fear new things. Introduce one food at a time, but don't put any pressure on her to eat it. Research shows that a new food sometimes needs to be presented 15-20 times to a child before she will try it.

Won't go to bed

Make your evenings a calm routine of tea, play, bath, pyjamas, story in bed, kiss, goodnight song and leave. Energetic play before bed doesn't tire out toddlers - it winds them up. And if your child keeps getting up in the night, return her to bed with no words or attention. Keep doing this and she will soon learn.

Aggressive biting and hitting

Being firm and immediate in your response will help make her aware that it just isn't right for her to behave this way. Removing her from the action will show her that this is not acceptable – for example you could put her in a room where she’s safe, for no more than two minutes, to get the message across. Then explain that if she hits or bites again, she will simply be removed from the fun again.

Difficult potty training

Patience and encouragement are key at this stage to avoid stress and tantrums. Remember, it can take months before some tots wave goodbye to the nappy. Making sure she is really ready before you begin will help; if her nappy is dry when you get her up from naps or between changes, it's a good indicator - it means she is gaining bladder control.

Won't brush their teeth or get dressed

Rather than locking horns, turn the activities into a game - the toothbrush becomes a magic tooth-bug monster laser zapper, or the shoes become magic slippers that will give your toddler special powers! Set your little one a challenge, saying "I bet you can't put both of your shoes on before I finish the washing-up - Mummy's faster than you!" or "I bet I get to the bathroom before you do!"

Too late - temper tantrum!

Be calm and ignore it. You'll reinforce the behaviour by giving it attention. The tantrum will eventually blow itself out, but you need nerves of steel. Try singing a favourite song to yourself as a distraction from the yelling!