Your toddler starts becoming independent between the age of two and three. They start to understand that they are different individuals from others. But, they have limited language, logic, empathy and control over their emotions. This is when they need your support and guidance. You should help them in understanding and communicating their feelings.
Toddler behaviours during this stage will be often difficult to deal with. The following behaviours are a normal part of their emotional and social development. Understanding the reason behind their behaviours will help us deal with tantrums.
Toddlers around the age of two exhibit aggression in their behaviour. They lack communication skills and they are unable to express themselves. So, they get frustrated and that leads to temper tantrums. They do not have the ability to understand how others feel(empathy) and they do not have self-control. Hence, aggressive behaviours like hitting, bitting, kicking, banging their head etc peak around this age.
Some degree of these aggression is normal. But, you should always correct them. Let them know it is unacceptable and show them alternate ways of expressing their feelings. Since verbal reasoning is impossible, below are some of the ways that would help you.
- Consistent Discipline - Respond to an undesirable behaviour in a similar way all the time. They will understand the pattern.
- Model acceptable behaviour.
- Appreciate good behaviours, so that they understand good behaviours receive good reaction.
- Burn off their excessive energy by providing them a lot of outdoor time. Ensure they get plenty of physical activity.
Anxiety and fear
Toddlers all of a sudden become anxious and clingy. This is a part of their emotional and cognitive development. As they become more independent, they realise the dangers around them. Sometimes, they become fearful of their surroundings. At this stage, they can identify the difference between familiar faces and strangers. Thats why separation anxiety is common among toddlers.
Fears may arise from an actual incident(falling in the playground, scratched by a dog) or what they hear or see (flood, earthquake etc ). And thus, fear at this stage is attributed to the growing imagination, egocentricity and limited vocabulary. Toddlers are also very suggestible to the feelings of others who spend a considerable amount of time with them. For example, they may adopt fear from you, their siblings, playmate, caregiver etc. These anxieties and fears reduces when their language develops and they become less egocentric.
Your toddler cannot determine if it is appropriate to seek attention. When they cannot express themselves, they try to seek your attention in the form of a tantrum. They might want to tell you “I am tired”, “I am not hungry”, “I am bored”. But, they do it by hitting, banging, throwing food, etc. We should teach them that there are ways to get our attention without a tantrum.
When we appreciate our toddlers for good behaviour, they get positive attention. Positive attention increases good behaviour. When we frown at them or show an angry face, they get negative attention. Negative attention increases the misbehaviour rather than punishing it. Pay attention to good behaviour and ignore bad behaviours. Here are some of the ways to deal with negative attention seeking behaviours.
- Ignore - Never pay heed to attention seeking. Ignore the behaviour, but, not the child.
- Explain - Give a concise explanation. Resist the urge to frown, yell or scold.
- Appreciate positive behaviour. It could be a hug, pat on the back or words of praise. It helps, period.
Impatient and demanding
Your little one cannot understand the concept of “past” or “future”. They always live in the moment - “present”. So asking them to wait for a minute might feel never ending for them. Thats why a toddler cannot think ahead or can be patient when asked to wait. Whether its a toy, food or going outside. As they approach the age of three, they will learn to wait. They will start engaging themselves in other activities. The following are the ways to deal with an impatient toddler
- Distraction - If the "wait" is unavoidable, distract your toddler. Lets say you are at paediatrician’s waiting room. During the waiting period, they will get increasingly impatient. Sing their favourite rhymes or tell their favourite story or explain an object in their vicinity. That would distract them enough.
- Stay Ahead - By establishing routines and structures, you can prevent impatience due to factors like hunger or sleep.
- Patience - Toddlers are extremely susceptible to your behaviour. Avoid being impatient and demanding in front of your little one.
“A two-year old is kind of like having a blender, but you don’t have a top for it” - Jerry Seinfeld. Happy parenting!