This master list is something that I originally wrote out (roughly) for my Au Pair (nanny), along with my Daily Routine, so that everybody was on the same page with my son. It takes on learnings from 3 amazing parenting books mixed with our own experience. If this blog is too long and you think it should be broken up into smaller sections, please leave your feedback in the comments below.
This blog will discuss ….
- What mainly causes meltdowns and this behavior. Most of it is usually preventable and takes some intuition from the parent.
- My own creative tactics for getting myself and our son to calm down and to break the cycle of using the undesirable behavior to get what he wants.
“AROUND” TWO YEARS OLD THE MOOD SWINGS AND TESTING BOUNDARIES START: Within a week of turning two, like a light switch, my sweet little baby boy suddenly started getting crazy mood swings and testing boundaries. ( I hear that some mothers have mentioned theirs started much earlier). The new “normal” became unexpected slaps to the face, meltdowns from random things like bringing him the wrong colored breakfast bowl, to full body tantrums because he did not want to get in the car. As a 2.5-year-old, it’s mainly because he wants to do things for himself… on his own (slow) time.
Here are the topic areas of this post.
- Introduction: What causes the undesired behaviour and what’s our part?
- Importance of Routine.
- Expectations with their personal hygine.
- Talk and treat them ‘respectfully’.
- Expectations with manners.
- How we deal with negative behaviour.
I’m so glad when you get a sweet little newborn, they don’t come out with the attitude and challenges of a two-year-old, because I would have handed him back… hahahah…. don’t worry, I’m joking!!. I’m glad we work our way up to it, one challenge at a time. Over time, I have found that I have definitely become way more patient, tolerant and experienced.
Remembering back when my son was younger, I laugh when I think about dealing with:
- The shock of the first pooh explosion,
- My baby trying to roll over all the time during dirty diaper changes,
- My curious boy getting into places he should not be and needing to baby proofing the whole house, and
- Dealing with the pain, heartbreak and lack of sleep of a teething toddler. “Sigh”.
THE UPHILL BATTLE LEARNING TO DEAL WITH THE NEW PARENTING CHALLENGES: I was lucky that I started reading many toddler behavior books early (See my favorite booklist in the picture below) and watching and learning from my friends with older kids so by the time we saw that little wilder beast for the first time, I was well equipped with the tips and right toddler language wording to tame him down. While the theory is good in practice, most of it is trial and error with our own son and we have discovered some different tactics of our own, which I will share. For example, It’s amazing how his teddy (that I animate) can convince our son easily to do something that we have asked him to do a million times….. geeeeez budy!….. (wink!!) HaHaHa.
1. INTRODUCTION: WHAT CAUSES THE UNDESIRED BEHAVIOUR AND WHAT IS OUR PART?
IS IT ALL THE TODDLERS FAULT? NO! It’s crazy, before having kids of my own, I used to stare in horror and judgment of those “bratty” kids having tantrums in the supermarket because they could not have a candy bar. I was amazed at how the mother would be seemingly unphased while I was imagining my future mom self yelling at (maybe even smacking) the child and basically act like a two-year-old myself. I just thought that it was the kid’s fault for acting bratty and the parents were unlucky to have such a shitty kid.
Wow, my perspective and education have definitely changed being a mother and finding myself in similar situations where my toddler is acting out. I kind of have to laugh inside and say “hahaha… how the rolls have reversed” while I see all eyes on us while my toddler has a meltdown in the middle of the department store because we need to leave the toy store early because I am unexpectedly busting for the toilet.
SAYING NO TO YOUR CHILD. I’m going to sound like a super judgy parent when I say this but …stuff it….yea, I am a super judgy parent when I see a kid playing with something that the parent doesn’t want them to (or trying to take a toy off another child) and then see the parent simply snatch the item off the child and say “NO!” then walk away from them. No explanation! Like WTF! Please explain to the child what on earth is going on. I am an adult and I am also confused for the child. No matter how young the child or baby is, explain to them. Remember they are “people”, not dogs or objects and you are shaping their minds and future. Nothing will ever change, unless you teach them and reward the behaviour you want.
- Behavior is learned from their parents and daily surroundings. Toddlers and kids need to know that the grown ups are in charge, with confident, decisive, gentle leadership.
- Groundhog day: Toddlers crave routine so that they can make sense of the world, feel better prepared and what is expected of them. Create strong routines around important things, especially around nap times. Explain whats expected of them and reward good behaviour.
- Don’t reinforce negative behaviour: Giving into pouting and crying teaches them that that is the way that they can get what they want. You need to simply ignore it, only respond when they use their manners and talk in a ‘normal voice’. Say “I simply cannot understand you when you talk like that. Can you use your normal voice?”.
- Spanking: Hitting is never ok, never do it. It shows that it’s ok.
- Kids will not have no control over acting out if they do not have their basic needs met.
- Not enough sleep: Don’t take them out in public if they have not napped or its approaching nap time. Also, it’s too stimulating in public to expect they will sleep in their stroller.
- Getting to (H)ANGRY.
- Being too overstimulated with too many people or things going on where they are.
- Attention: When you don’t give them the attention they want, they usually play up. Giving them some quality time with your undivided attention and some cuddles will usually help. Kids basic needs are to feel safe and secure.
- Not being able to express themselves verbally.
- The rest is them simply just testing boundaries to see what will happen next. Learn to pick your fights and what to let go.
- Be mindful that sometimes their toddler impulses are stronger than their control (E.g. knocking something over, or slapping a face) and it’s not personal.
- Power struggles.
All of these topics, PLUS MORE will be discussed below.
2) GIVE THE TODDLER A GOOD ROUTINE.
GROUNDHOG DAY IS A GOOD THING: For what feels like a never ending groundhog day grind for me (down to the hour or day of the week) for my child a predictable environment and schedule feels like security and an opportunity to master his routine. The more he knows what’s going on, what is already expected of him, the better he will feel prepared and calm because he knows he will get what he needs.
To read a detailed description of our daily routines and some structure around our naps and homeschooling, CLICK HERE. (Or simply, click the image below for the simplified printable version).
Don’t get me wrong, he will try to test the boundaries to see what happens, some days he will want to master some more of the routine tasks himself or want to stay on one task longer or shorter than usual (than I will like). It’s normal and I want him to feel safe and loved in the process. Some times I will make practice stations for him to try master some skills in his own time, like making a water pouring station because he was very keen to prepare his own breakfast cereal.
Here are some challenges that we face regarding our daily routine and some ways that I deal with it…
LEAVING THE HOUSE: I need to allow plenty of time to get him ready to go out the door. It can be stressful for everybody when it is done frantically. I find that the more rushed I am, the more my son dawdles. If there is hesitation getting into the car, I will entice him in with having some favorite toys or snacks in the car and talk about all the trucks that we will see along the way on our journey. It usually works! If he gets in quickly and we arrive super early, I usually reward him with some “Broom Broom”, which is letting him in the front seat to pretend to drive my car, explore going through all my consoles and pressing buttons in my car. (Don’t worry, the car is turned off and the handbrake is on).
PLAYTIME WRAP UP: Ending playtime can be pretty devastating for my son when he is really stuck into playing with something he is really into. Some tips to avoid dissapointment is:
- Give warning: Give him notice when playtime is almost over.
- “In 5 minutes it will be time to go upstairs to have a bath.” Or “When the 10 on the clock changes to a 15, its time to go upstairs.”
- Ok, I will let you play for 2 more minutes. I will set an alarm and when the clock rings, play time is over.
- You can play with it later: Sometimes he has a hard time finishing up with a toy he is playing with or the last book he wants to read. Usually, if I point to a spot on a table or floor and say, “lets put it there, nice and safe and we can play with it right after your nap“, it usually helps. He always knows he can come back to it and where it will be and no one will take it away.
POWER STRUGGLE: If there becomes a bit of a power struggle with parts of his routine, it may be that he wants to be more in control of the situation. Either:
- Give him a choice: Give him two choices (that both lead to the same outcome). e.g. “Do you want to walk to the kitchen yourself or do you want me to carry you to the kitchen?”.
- Doing things for himself: He may want to feel independent and capable to do things for himself. Preparing Breakfast started becoming a struggle at home at one point because he wanted my attention while I was making it for him or he was getting upset about how I didn’t make it to his liking, so I gave him more satisfaction by learning to prepare it himself. He could choose his own bowls and spoon that were placed in a low easy accessible shelf and the cereal was in a tub with a scoop. Milk was in a pitcher on the lower shelf in the fridge. (We had to also set up a water pouring station to give him more confidence pouring and stopping into other bowls and cups). He never complained about a breakfast he made himself and was always pretty proud of himself.
(You can watch his morning routine in the video below… it’s very cute!)
- Monkey See Monkey Do: Animate one of his favorite teddies to do the desired action, like putting toys away, brushing teeth or eating dinner. When my son sees one of his teddies do something that he was whining about not wanting to do, suddenly he is willing and interested. I got this idea from watching my son eat the food he usually hates with no issue because he watched his cousin (who loves eating broccoli) gobbled up a whole plate without blinking an eye. Some times, I will annimate my sons favorite teddy to ask him to do something and so I’m surprised how quickly he will agree with Teddy, yet will make me ask a thousand times.
THINGS NOT TO TOUCH: When my son is around things that he is not allowed to touch (e.g. Jewelry in a clothing store, mums make up etc), he responds well to “You can look, but don’t touch”. I often give a description of why so that he knows, and often it will help with future curiosity. Afterward, I will acknowledge by saying “Thank you for listening”. If he can’t handle his curiosity to touch, if it’s not dangerous, I will ask him to be very careful and have a little careful touch (together) and then put it back because (it might break, it’s expensive, its sharp, etc).
HIS RECREATIONAL TIME: During walk time, play time or park time (this is HIS TIME), if he wants to take longer exploring something along the way (meaning he will have less time at the park, for example), that’s ok. There is no hurry for him to spend all his designated time at the park. This applies in many other circumstances too. There may need to be circumstances that you will need to give him options (e.g. leave now, or leave in 3 minutes) or (the choice of walking or being carried), and then follow through.
SAYING GOODBYE: Don’t make a big deal of leaving and he won’t make a big deal about it also. His dad used to make it a big thing and drag it out and my son would cling onto him and then cry when he knew he was leaving. When he made it quick and not a big deal, it instantly became no big deal for him too. Whenever we leave the house, it’s just a matter of giving him a kiss, saying goodbye and letting him know when we will be home.
3. EXPECTATIONS WITH THEIR PERSONAL HYGINE.
WASH HANDS: He must wash his hands in the sink before meals and snacks. When he realizes he can’t reach the sink, he hunts down his own footstool and everything is reachable by the sink for him. He won’t even let us help him anymore and knows to wash until all the soap bubbles are off his hands. There have been times that he didn’t ‘want to’ wash his hands and i have found educating him on what germs are (explaininig and some youtube videos) and talking about how it can make you feel sick in your tummy if germs get in. I realised that my son didn’t know what being sick is, so I explained it is like “feeling yucky after spinninig around too many times, but lasts longer”. We kept on it and NEVER let him be lazy with it, and now my son is three, potty trained and automatically washes his hands without being reminded! Washing his hands now is automatic behaviour.
BRUSH TEETH: We have a very structured routine that our son must brush his teeth after breakfast, just before nap time and just before bedtime. The teeth brushing is almost like the start of a routine morning and nap time routine.
- If he does not do a thorough clean at night time, we help clean his teeth for him after he has a good go first. Sometimes he is less interested in the help but we have found some tactics to make him more agreeable. Some of them are:
- Have a toy or the toothbrush pretend to be impressed with him if he does a good tooth clean.
- Hold a favorite teddy so that it looks like it is holding the toothbrush and wants to clean his teeth for him.
- Try a new colored toothbrush or toothpaste that is stashed away for moments like this.
- Explain which teeth you next you are going to clean and say there are some cookies (or whatever he just ate) on those teeth that we got to get off.
- If all else fails, I hold him upside down or tickle him so I can clean those teeth to brush.
DIAPER CHANGES: If he soils his nappy, he must be changed immediately (or within a practical time). Toddlers get a bit restless having diaper changes, so it helps to give him something to distract him. Maybe its a photo, a small toy or just make a funny joke about how stinky his nappy is with lots of animated “phwoaaaaaa”. These days I will do stand up diaper changes at his toy or train table.
FACE WASH: If he upset about having his face washed, I will usually ask him to go look in the mirror and look how dirty his face is. When he sees that, he is more accepting to get his face clean. He also is more open to the idea if give him the option of “soft and gentle” or “quick”.
4. TALK AND TREAT HIM RESPECTFULLY AS YOU WOULD AN ADULT.
HE IS AWARE: Don’t think that my toddler is vacant, unaware and incapable of understanding or communicating with you or while watching your actions. He is switched on and very smart. So be careful talking about things past his maturity level. Don’t talk negatively about him in front of him thinking he can’t understand. He has numerous times remembered small details and words from over 6 months ago.
DON’T DUM DOWN WORDS: We talk to our toddler normally, avoiding baby talk and speaking in full sentences. It does him such a disservice having to relearn how to say or speak later in life if he is not taught English properly. Words that are a bit tricky, we break it down into syllables and say slowly. I also try to explain what new words mean.
- At this age, he is such a sponge learning new things. When he was just a small baby I was teaching him colors, names of things and anything and everything I could. Then by the age of 6 months, he could recognize and point to colors that I called out, even though he could not say them. From that moment, I learned to never underestimate introducing next level things early, to store in their back of their mind until a time when they can practically use it. When reading stories, I will also stop and explain what new big words mean. For example, his Mighty Might Construction Site Book had two new words that he said he didn’t know what they mean when I asked him. They were “Teamwork” and “Cooperation”.
NO LYING: Don’t blatantly lie to a toddler. This one is really hard for me to think of examples because I don’t ever do this…. but here is one made up example. Saying anything to just get them in the car like, “If you get in the car we will go to Disneyland” and not go.
NO SNATCHING: Don’t snatch from his hands: We are teaching our son not to snatch from people so we won’t don’t do it to him also. We ask, use manners, and/or offer to swap with something else of interest. If he is refusing to give something up that he should not be holding, i’ll politely say “I see your having a hard time giving this up, I can see why, its pretty interesting, so i’m going to help you by taking it now…. thank you, let go, goodboy“, while I gently get it out of his hands.
NO PHYSICAL OVERPOWERING:
Last resort: I do not like to physically overpower my child. There are times when it is the last resort like he is doing something unsafe or has had more than enough warnings (e.g. told and explained in different ways while allowing more than enough time for him to process what is being asked) and still blatantly refuses to do a routine task expected of him. For example:
“I have asked you multiple times to go upstairs for your bath. Do you want me to help you, or do you want to walk up the stairs yourself?“. If he collapses on the floor refusing, I will ask a few more times as sometimes it takes a bit longer for it to sink in what I am asking. If we are not getting anywhere, I will then pick him up and say “I see you are having trouble going up the stairs on your own, I am going to help you…“. He will usually protest but to lighten the mood I sometimes I like to have a giggle and say “Gee, I’m sure you had legs there somewhere… oh there they are. Were they not working? hahaha“. Or I will carry him upside down or pretend he is superman.
Give him opportunities to be autonomous and have his decisions respected except when he could hurt himself or others.
If he says “No” to personal boundaries, please respect his decision. For example, if he doesn’t want a horsie ride or help with picking something up, don’t force him. I am trying to teach my child physical and personal boundaries from a young age. I was never taught this and can think of a thousand instances where it has done me such a disservice in my life, (including sexual abuse at the age of 7).
Example: My son has a gym class once a week and one of the instructors was asking him to try a tumble roll and my son very sweetly replied “No thank you, no thank you” because he did not want to give it a go. The gym manager saw this and ran over to my son from behind and physically forced him into the tumble roll. My son balled his eyes out so hard and ran over to me for a cuddle with so much fear in his eyes. It broke my heart and I made sure to have words with him later about it. But to be honest, that manager was a real asshole anyway, even ignoring the toddler in the past trying to sweetly talk to him. He should not be working with young kids anyway… maybe football jocks!
There are times that I need to use my discretion though. Some examples are when he is doing something unsafe, or he has run out of time or opportunities, that is a different story some times.
5. EXPECTATION WITH MANNERS:
We have found that his attitude changes more positive when we encourage him to use his manners.
- He must say “please” when he wants something. If he is saying and/or pointing what he wants without using his manners we are make out that we understand that he is “just” saying what that item is called. The minute he adds a please to the end of the name, it suddenly becomes a request for that item. When we go and get something for him and are about to hand it over to him, I pause holding onto the object and wait for him to say please. Generally, he will read my face that I am waiting for the words and he will then realise he had forgotten to say please first. I will help prompt him with “What do you say?” If he has not used him manners yet at this stage. Always finish off with asking for a “thank you” from him.
- Gratitude: Encourage him to say thank you to a person who has helped him with something. When his aunty cooks him a meal, I get him to copy me and say “Thank you Aunty Ri-Ri for cooking dinner…. It was very nice”. I encourage him to say something like this to all his gym and music class teachers after his lessons or to waiters after a nice meal. Now that he does it on his own, its so gorgeous to watch. Also when my son was 3.5 years old, we set a tradition at the dinner table to all go around the table and talk about what our favorite parts of the day were. We also (sometimes) follow on with something that we learned today.
- Praise: We acknowledge accomplishments and progress. “Look at you sweeping the floor, look, now it’s all nice and clean”. I prefer him to get gratification out of what he is doing good, rather than from constant praise (e.g. good boy). “Wow, your teeth are looking nice and clean from all that scrubbing”. “Your are so hard working putting all your toys away”. We give thanks for helping rather than offering empty “good job” praise.
I also rather my son feel he accomplishes things because he is hard working, practices etc, not because he is “smart’.
- Interrupting: Don’t let him interrupt you talking to another adult. We put our hand up when we want to talk when someone is already talking to someone. That means we dont hear “mum, mum, mum MUUUUUM!!!!”, during a conversation. If he still interups, I say “I hear you asking for our attention. When …(name) and I are finished talking I am going to listen to you. Please give us a few minutes”. (and follow through). I will also show that i am waiting for him to finish talking so i dont intterupt him too.
6. HOW WE DEAL WITH NEGATIVE BEHAVIOUR
Looking after and loving my son does not mean keeping him happy all the time and avoiding power struggles. Often it’s saying “No” and meaning it.
If my son is misbehaving, first try to see if he may be hungry, tired, feeling overwhelmed, etc. They are the last person to be able to register this for themselves.
- Provide a safe and comfortable place to explore and learn about pushing boundaries. My child needs to practice handling disagreements with us and peers. We need to get comfortable with disagreeing with each other. He will express this by crying or having a tantrum. We can’t always give them what they want and that’s ok. His emotional responses to not getting what they want (e.g. anger, frustrated, confused, disappointment) with the limits we set should be allowed/encouraged without judgement. Home is a safe place. He may need a minute to cry, throw his teddy, etc. But at the same time, hitting, breaking things are not allowed.
- Sharing with peers: Some parents have different views on this, and think they should be left to ‘work it out’ when toddlers struggle with other peers over a toy. I am of the option to educate them early what behaviour and words is encouraged and what is not allowed, until it becomes second nature to them first. If kids don’t learn this first, they will repsort to bullying or not wanting to play together with other kids. If he is struggling with a peer over a toy, this is a great way to help teach him to manage conflicts and how great it feels to share. Narrate the situation objectively without assigning guilt or blame. “You and the other boy are both wanting the same toy. He grabbed the toy first so let’s wait patiently until he is finished with it.” We want him to learn about:
- Taking turns (waiting patiently until the other child is finished) or offering to swap toys,
- We don’t snatch from others,
- We ask before we take a toy that does not belong to us,
- We move out of the way or say excuse me when other kids are in our way.
- If he gets upset, offer empathy and comfort. “That makes you upset, doesn’t it? It can be frustrating when you really want a toy. I’ll wait with you together”.
Here is some sample dialogue thart I use with my son:
- SNATCHING/PUSHING IN DIALOGUE:
- “(INSERT NAME), this boy is playing with it, let’s go find something else to play with until they are finished with it”. Or
- “(INSERT NAME”, he doesn’t like you snatching it when he is still using it, if you want it now, let’s ask if he wants to swap with one of your toys.”
- “(INSERT NAME”, Let’s use our patience. How about we sit here and wait for him to finish it.
- BITING/HITTING DIALOGUE:
- “Teeth are not for biting, it hurts me. Mummy prefers nice soft cuddles”. (A great book for this phase is HANDS ARE NOT FOR BITING by Elizabeth Verdick.
- UNSAFE DIALOGUE: “(INSERT NAME), this is unsafe to touch. It’s sharp and can cut your fingers and will make you cry, I’m going to keep you safe and take this out of your hands”. (I explain to young toddlers that it will make them cry because its something that they can connect with and they want to avoid that).
If he needs to get his negative feelings out- offer some safe choices like stomp their feet, hit a pillow or something else.
Acknowledge his point of view. “You are having a hard time putting those shoes on. Your working really hard”. It can give him the encouragement to help push through his frustration. Don’t invalidate his reaction, it may be big to him.
“I can see you want to play longer at the park, but its time to go home for dinner. Look, the sun is going down and it will get dark soon. I know it’s hard to leave when your having so much fun. I want to stay too, but it’s home time. Do you want to walk or sit in the stroller home?”.
Another example is: “I see your feeling …(emotion) because you can’t (action). I understand that this must really disappoint you.” I may even mention “I am telling you this because I love you and want you to be safe. When your ready for a cuddle, I’m here.”. ALWAYS encourage him to express these feelings.
“I see you wanted a cookie and I said no because its close to dinner time. It’s upsetting not to get what you want. I’m getting hungry too.
Consistently demonstrate that you are not threatened by their behavior, you can handle it and its no big deal.
Try not to get annoyed. Do not take a misbehavior personally. My toddler will resist, have meltdowns. Toddlers are sensitive, intensely emotional and severely lacking impulse control. Their impulses are bigger and stronger than they are.
In the face of the toddlers storm, Do not waver, get angry, pitting or take his feelings personally. Respond calmly, empathetically, be a solid leader, and use a tone like a CEO would. If you have fear about upsetting, disappointing or angering him, it can effect your vision and judgement and create a nagging response in the toddler.
- Reinforce positive behavior and not the negative behavior: When he is doing something negative, try reinforces him with a positive behavior/instruction he can be doing instead.
- Give him options ” I see your still playing. Would you like me to change your diaper against the toy table or the couch”. Or “Are you going to put the book away on the shelf or in the box?”
- Do not reinforce yelling/loud verbalizations (e.g. Some times he wants you to take some thing, and he will get louder and louder until you take it- saying “Hand”, meaning take it), whining for things (e.g. cookies), and doing things that we don’t want them to do.
Discipline: I prefer my son to learn discipline from natural consequences that are FAIR and not from being manipulated or shamed. If he throws food, his meal time is over. If he wont get out of the bath, he will have less story time.
If he grunts or whines for something: “I’m sorry, thats not a word, I can’t understand you. Use your words”.
DO NOT: Give big emotional reactions, scold, create guilt, shame or give punishments, spank.This violates trust and damages the relationship and teaches them even more negative behaviors.
He is simply asking you for some limit setting. Remain calm, kind, empathetic, but firm.
- Don’t discipline with quick fix tricks, gimmicks and manipulative tactics. Simply be honest with him.
- Don’t try to make him do some thing by making him feel guilty (e.g. It makes me sad or frustrated when you don’t clean up your spills”. They are ineffective, and cause an unhealthy sense of responsibility and discomfort wit the vunerable feelings of others.
- Do not give “Time outs”. This is a complete worst case senario and 30 seconds is enough for them to get the picture. Time outs should not be done in their bedroom as this is a place of peace for them. The laundry is my mother in laws reccomendation.
- Avoid the over use of saying No. If we want to curb a behavior, I’ll simply say “Ahhhh…. Ahhhh”. He will usually stop and look at me. He actually does not respond at all to yelling “No”. In our home we do not say “No”, unless it’s in a sentence. “No, you have had enough”, “No, thats only for grown ups”. etc….
- Don’t give him negative labels-When we characterize a child as bad (when we are feeling frustrated, confused, or offended by their behavior) the child may start believing that about themselves. For example:
- Your naughty: You could say “I see your having a hard time following instructions. I think I will have to help you”.
- Your noisy: You could say that You can mention that his “voice is very loud and it’s making you feel scared”.
It’s their job to push limits and learn about our leadership, the rules, etc. They are active learners and explorers. Its easy to say “Ok… have your way” after nagging or a meltdown but then what would that accomplish and what would they learn!!!! They would learn that nagging or screaming leads you to getting what you want.
- If he touches or does something he should not, explain in terms he can understand- He responds well to things like “Be careful, that is sharp/slippery/hot/dirty etc. Ouch, that might hurt.
- Some times it takes a few times/days of repeating for some things to sink in. He may want to test some thing out a few times to see if he gets the same response. e.g. Tipping bath water onto the floor. I tell him “Keep the water in the bath, it makes the floor slippery and I don’t want you to fall and bump your head. Here play with this cool bath toy”.
Boundaries: When they work, he will not test them as often. If he acts out, I want you to imagine him, holding up a little red flag saying “Help, Stop me, rein me, or parent me”. Imagine driving a bridge in the dark with no railings. We will drive slowly and tentatively. If we see the railings on each side of us, we can drive with confidence and ease. This is how a young child feels in regard to limits set in their environment. (lansbury) The toddler will test the boundaries until they are clearly stated and they need to know the adult is in charge.
We respect our child’s boundaries. Don’t ever over power him to tickle him. If you do tickle him, keep it very short and then ask if he wants more tickle.
Setting limits: The emotional state of the adult plays a big part on his reaction. Try not to get frustrated, lack clarity or confidence it will often lead to more negative behavior.
Dont give out a direction and then a question like ‘Okay?” At the end of it. Directions should be firm.
How to handle Hitting/ Biting/ Throwing etc.
- Hitting/ Biting: Try not to react or be very animated as he is looking for a response. If you make a silly sound, he will spend the next week hitting you again randomly (or another family member) to see if he can get the same response. Simply say something along the lines of “That hurts, I don’t like it, No thank you. I like to be touched softly. Cuddles and soft touching makes me happy.”. Some times words might not be enough and If he keeps on hitting, calmly hold his hands “Your having a hard time not hitting me, so I’m going to help you” (by holding his hands or simply move away from him).
- Throwing items: “Is that a ball? (No). We don’t throw (item names), we throw balls. Would you like me to give you a ball to throw?” Or “Careful, we don’t throw (item name), it might break. We look after the things we like. Would you like me to get you a ball?”” I won’t let you do that. If you throw that again, I will need to take that away”.
- Throwing food: “That is making a big mess… how about you put your food you don’t want here (point to a spot or a spare plate). Or “Are you finished with your dinner. I can take it away now, are you done?”
- Yelling: We do not ignore the whining but we are not accommodating it either. Guide him to tell us clearly and politely as he can and then let him know our response. “That’s too loud. I can’t understand you when you yell (whine, etc). Are you asking me to ….” . or “Please speak in your regular voice so that I can understand” .
- Running away: Don’t charge at him when he doesn’t follow or come, because it becomes a thrilling game. We prefer to
- Repetatively snatching: He is asking for help with boundaries and needs to be gently stopped.
- Not getting into a car seat: He can choose to get into the seat themselves or be helped. I usually give him options of things they can play with in their seat after he gets in. Sometimes he really wants “Broom Broom”, which is sitting in the drivers seat and pretend to drive my car for a while. If I am not on a tight dead line, I just let him because he is really passionate about it. Its no big deal. But if I really don’t have time, I will let him know a time that he can do it later (and follow through with it), like after his lesson.
I want my child to feel safe to have emotions. It’s ok to be sad, to be mad, to feel disappointed. I can hold space for that and talk about it too. But it’s not ok to hit, to talk rudely or damage things.