Don't starve your toddler of attention. Give her playful times and gentle words and she will be a happy, co-operative child.

Don’t starve your toddler of attention. Give her playful times and gentle words and she will be a happy, co-operative child.

I have a two-year-old who is always playing up. I am constantly chastising and spanking her but she just gets worse. Now I find I am yelling at the other kids who don’t really deserve it. I am exhausted. How can I get control of this child?

You love your little daughter, and don’t want to hurt her. Right now, your frustration is overwhelming you. You doubt your ability as a mother. All this emotion is wearing you out.

It is obvious that what you are doing is not working.

A good rule to remember is this: If you do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got. You need to change tactics.

Having other children, you are sure to know about the terrible twos. This is age when toddlers start asserting themselves. Once they have discovered the power in saying no, they love to exercise this power. The child becomes enthralled with practicing rebellion.

Most experts tell you that you need to get a rebellious two-year old under control. The two-year-old needs to know who is boss. The experts are right. You do need to get the two-year-old under control but how you do this will vary from child to child.

Some children are so sensitive and so keen to please that you only have to frown at them to get them to respond appropriately.

Others like your little girl are unmoved by punishment. It seems to make them worse. Your daughter is not interested in pleasing you. She wants her needs met. She needs attention. And she will settle for whatever attention she can get. She knows how to get your attention. It’s simple. Play up. Unwittingly, you are training her to be disruptive.

Once upon a time, the experts would have told you to withdraw your attention. Starve her for attention and eventually, they would say, she will give up.

Please don’t do this to your little girl. You could break her spirit and set her up with a deep unsatisfied hunger for love and attention. Such emotional hunger can induce a desperation in people that then directs their life.

Attention is the first act of love. The more attention we are given, the more we feel loved. Giving attention doesn’t mean giving into the material demands of child. Two-year-olds like you to make eye contact while listening to them. They like to be cuddled. They also like you to talk with them at their level, and to join in their play.

Give your little girl quality attention each day before she starts playing up. Be specific about what you want from her, for example, “eat your food with your spoon.” Then tell her you will give her a cuddle or play with her if she does as you have asked.

The idea is to break this cycle of rewarding her with negative attention and replace it with positive attention. Both of you will be fed emotionally by building a positive, loving relationship.

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