Dealing with a Spirited Toddler - The Basics

Toddlers are energetic little creatures by nature, but some toddlers tend to be more spirited than others. By definition, a high-energy child is one that is louder, more intense, persistent, empathic, active, and tantrum-prone than the average toddler. While it’s true that spirited toddlers are a challenge to control, there are still several tactics that you can use to defuse daily power struggles and calm your child down.

Set clear and consistent rules

Being inconsistent in enforcing the rules you set will teach your child that rules can be ignored and broken. That’s why it’s vital that you firmly stand your ground and follow through on enforcing your rules at all times or you’ll end up adding to your woes if you’ve got a hyperactive toddler on your hands. If you’ve set your toddler’s nap time after lunch, make sure to follow through even if your child protests, or if TV isn’t allowed before bedtime, stick to your guns and don’t slip up by allowing your child to watch TV even if they plead for “just this show”.

Keep your toddler “in the know”

Not knowing what’s coming next oftentimes leaves young children feeling anxious, which can potentially lead them to act up and resist their parents’ decisions and prompts. In the case of a spirited toddler, it’s extremely important to keeping them informed of what’s going to happen next in order to help them accept your decisions with less fuss.

For example, if you’ve taken your child to a playground and want to leave after the designated play time is over, tell your toddler in detail that you’re both going to the car, then you’ll drive home, you’ll find dad there, and what you’re having for dinner. 

If your toddler tends to throw crying fits when you leave them at daycare, have the teacher frequently remind them that mommy is going to pick them up in the afternoon, as young children have trouble remembering certain details and need to be constantly reassured to allay their fears.

Stick to safe areas

Choose your destinations and activity settings carefully if your child is energetic and rarely sits still. For instance, if you know that your toddler has trouble staying still at the table, make sure to avoid visiting restaurants that aren’t geared towards families with young children, as there will be danger zones that an energetic and curious toddler can easily access. 

You should also try to avoid or limit your child’s exposure to overstimulating situations, such as a playmate’s birthday party; don’t hesitate to leave early before your child gets out of control.

Calm your child’s senses

When your toddler seems to be nearing alarming levels of hyperactivity, help them calm down by having them play with their toys while you give them a warm bath, or place a cool wet towel over their forehead during a hot summer day, or allow them to play with their floating water toys in the kitchen sink while you cook. Other soothing toddler activities include finger painting, modeling play dough or clay, or playing with sand or cornmeal.

Establish a positive “yes” environment

Spirited toddlers will become more cooperative and independent if they’re nurtured in a “yes” environment where parents allow their children to take part in harmless activities that help develop their life skills. Such instances include allowing your toddler to pour their own juice from a small pitcher, or letting them put on their own shoes. Even though things might take longer to get done and you might end up with a bigger mess than usual on your hands, the positive effect on your child will be well worth it.