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Calm down! They are only toddlers! Screaming, throwing tantrums, constantly changing their minds - life with a toddler can be hard, but two South Wales mums think they have come up with a way to help. CATHY OWEN finds out more.

Byline: CATHY OWEN

MOST parents have been there. How do you deal with a screaming public tantrum in the middle of Tesco on a busy Saturday afternoon.

You try not to meet anyone's eye as you dither over whether to just ignore it, tell them off, or just give up, lie down and join in with the screaming. With three children under the age of three mums Clare Saunders and Sarah-Jayne Watt, from Llantrisant, know only too well the difficulties toddlerdom can bring. When their children turned from little chilled out babies into lively, spirited toddlers, they found a lack of support and advice in the area, so decided to do something about it and set up their own classes helping parents to deal with toddlers.

The idea is to help stressed out parents through the toddler years, by giving them the confidence to deal with any issues that arise.

Clare admits she found it a struggle when she had her son, Albi, when her daughter Matilda was only 18 months, and with little support around she was floundering.

"Parenting a toddler is hard," says 32-year-old Clare.

"Gone is your warm snuggly immobile baby bundle and in its place is a wilful bundle of curious energy fighting for control and independence and causing you much heartache, frustration and embarrassment. Matilda really struggled when Albi was born because she was jealous and her world had really been rocked.

"I was feeling really guilty and didn't really know how to help her, so I took to the internet and found about these toddler workshops, called ToddlerCalm. I found out more and the advice really helped me and helped improve my relationship with Matilda."

Clare found that while there are lots of antenatal classes during pregnancy to teach everything there is to know about labour and birth, there is very little when you need help the most - the toddler years.

"It just seems that all the classes stop," says Clare.

"And I thought it is something that is needed more then than at any time. And it all made sense to me. Toddlers do not have the ability to regulate their emotions and behaviour as we do, they literally 'flip out' during a tantrum and even if they wanted to control their feelings and calm down, they can't.

"They need our help for that. You have to understand that your toddler is absolutely not doing this to manipulate you or wind you up - granted it feels like that sometimes but they really aren't, they are going through such a tricky time, their behaviour is their way of expressing it - it is absolutely never plotted to embarrass you."

After her son, Harry, had a particularly big meltdown at a soft play area, Sarah-Jayne, spoke to Clare about Toddler-Calm and got involved too.

"Harry had been crashing around all afternoon and then actually lay on the floor and had a full blown tantrum," explains the 30-year-old.

"I could feel my blood pressure rising and I was getting really anxious but I followed some of the advice, removed him from the situation and it worked. It's about learning different ways of coping and normalising.

"Toddlers really want to take control and by giving them little choices like what colour spoon they want for breakfast, it can make a big difference.

"When parents learn they are not the only ones going through it and it is all normal behaviour, it can make the situation look very different."

One of the biggest issues Clare and Sarah-Jayne get asked about is sleep, and how to get a toddler to bed and to stay in bed all night.

"In the movies you see the child being taken off to bed, read a story and then off they go to sleep," says a laughing Clare.

"The reality is often a very different story. Who does actually sleep through the night? Most of us don't, but we know how to go back to sleep. Some of the 'advice' books say you should have your baby sleeping between 7pm and 7am, and if you can't do it you are left feeling guilty. There is also a lot of conflicting advice. But it is more about finding the right solution for your child and you as a family. It is only a problem, if it is a problem for you."

So, the big question is - what should you do about that very public tantrum? "Instead of ignoring your toddler during a tantrum try to comfort them," says Clare.

"A tantrum is scary for them - they can't control their emotions like we can, a big hug is often much more effective and positive in the long term than the usual 'ignore it' advice. Communicate at your toddler's level - literally, bend down so you are at eye level with them and use simple words and short sentences."

Now to put the theory into practice!

Coping with toddlers | Understand what normal toddler behaviour is; the chances are your toddler is behaving perfectly normally for their age, yet knowing something is normal makes it a lot easier to deal with. It is important to understand how a toddler's brain develops and what they are physically capable of doing and understanding. For instance did you know that toddlers are incapable of understanding other's feelings, or why sharing is important? They just don't have the brain capacity!

| Try to see things from your toddler's point of view. How might they be feeling? Empathy for your toddler can be eye opening.

| Describe the behaviour you want from your toddler. Use "we use gentle hands" rather than what you don't want, like "don't hit people". Your toddler's brain processing works differently from yours. If you keep repeating "don't do this" followed by the undesirable behaviour you may as well be telling your toddler to do it.

| Give your toddler as many choices as you can. For example, lay out three different outfits in the morning and let them choose. It's amazing how a bit of control can improve a toddler's behaviour.

| Play can be helpful at letting your toddler to feel in control of their world and also as a way to help them release scary emotions. Try painting their anger, or modelling their sadness out of play dough.

What is ToddlerCalm? IN short, it's a unique concept, presented through classes and literature, which aims to empower parents to raise their toddler with confidence.

Classes and workshops are suitable for all parents of toddlers aged between one and three, and can be held in your own home, or even with a group of friends.

For details, email sarah jayne@toddlercalm.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

Clare Saunders, left, with her children Matilda, 30 months and Albi, one, and Sarah-Jayne Watt with her son Harry, 28 months

PICTURE: Peter Bolter (c)
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 30, 2013
Words:1137
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