Building routines for your toddler

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Thought Series : Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 11

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As humans we have an inbuilt need for security, for feeling safe. And, one of the ways in which we feel safe is when ‘everything is predictable’ or when we know what can happen next. Sadly, in our adult life, this is not always possible. But as parents, we can surely make this possible for our toddlers.

That’s the next need in line for a HAPPIE toddler – Predictability.

Like us, our toddlers also seek ‘predictability’. When they know what’s going to happen next – it makes them feel safe, it gives them a sense of power & control.

Toddlers tend to meltdown more often, when their days are haywire – that’s because it makes them feel out of control & unsafe, thus activating their brain’s stress hormones and then causing the meltdowns, crankiness & clinginess.

The simplest way to give them predictability on a daily basis is through a ‘consistent routine‘.

When it comes to routines, most parents are often at two extremes – either following a strict timetable or not following any routine at all. Let me explain what a balanced routine looks like that’s enough to give your toddler the much-needed predictability and a sense of power, control & safety.

A strict timetable looks like :
We get up at 8 am,
Brush at 8.15am
Breakfast at 8.30am & so on.

The problem with this approach is that – toddlers have a way of ‘extending’ every little normal chore in some way or form. If you’re too strict with the time, it can cause unnecessary stress to you – when your toddler wants to have a bit of fun while brushing or is taking longer for breakfast. That stress will cause you to react with unnecessary scolding or yelling, spoiling the day for you & your toddler.

A more balanced approach to having a daily routine is to have a FLOW.
For example:
We wake up — Then we brush — Then Breakfast — Then playtime — Then Bath — Then Lunch… and so on.
Toddlers don’t understand time, but they understand FLOW. When done consistently, it helps them predict what comes next (after brushing), giving them a feeling of control over their day.

You can definitely have a rough timeline behind the flow, in your mind – but make sure you’re flexible to incorporate some special fun requests or tantrum that your toddler might decide to have.

Handling change in routine

Toddlers need and love routines! Now, the downside to this is – if you’ve been following a set flow & routine consistently, and your child is used to that – any change in routine can also easily upset him/her.

For example, if you decide to visit your Mom and stay there for a week, or a change in Nanny, or a new playschool / daycare. These changes can be difficult for your toddler, and she might take time to adapt.

How you can help in the process : Through PREP.
Whenever the change is predictable (which it often is) – Make sure you’re informing your child much beforehand, helping her imagine how the new change would look & feel like, validating her fears and reassuring her of your presence.

Prepping your toddler beforehand can work for all of the above situations plus other common scenarios like guests visiting, doctor’s appointment or anything new & different from their normal routine. Yes, even after prep, it’s possible that your child might resist or cry, but prepping helps you calm their nerves, most of the time!

Thought for Today:

Reflect and share : Do you think your toddler prefers having a consistent routine? Does he/she have trouble with change in routines?

What kind of routine do you prefer or which one would you like to adopt?
Strict / Flexible with Flow / No specific routine

Next:

How to bring in ‘predictability’ in the rules & responses towards our toddler?

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Access Previous Days In This Series: Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 0 : Laying out Universal Human Needs
Day 1 : Healthy Parent = HAPPIE Child
Day 2 : Making Self-Care A Habit
Day 3 : Meeting your toddler’s physical needs
Day 4: Identifying your own triggers before you tend to your child’s
Day 5: Dealing with feelings of guilt & inadequacy (Moms!)
Day 6: Attention v/s Connection Parenting
Day 7: Ways to connect with your Toddler
Day 8: Making way for ‘special time’
Day 9: Identifying Power Struggles
Day 10: How to end Power Struggles with your toddler



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Identifying Power Struggles

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Thought Series : Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 9

Moving on to the next most important need that must be satisfied for a HAPPIE Toddler, the need for POWER.

Well, who does not like Power? Let me rephrase it – Who likes to feel ‘powerless’?

As humans, we feel good when we have power over something or someone – it’s natural, and that’s why we knowingly or unknowingly crave for it. And the same is true for your toddler, too.

When your child was born, you saw her like this innocent little tiny and ‘powerless’ being – who was really incapable of doing anything without you! And that image of your baby stays with you, much beyond infancy! But your child grows out of it sooner than you do.

As soon as your child enters toddlerhood, you will see him/her seeking power – often in ways that are irritating and frustrating. And that’s what we call a ‘Power struggle’.

You might have had several encounters with your child, when either one of you ends up being angry / frustrated – that’s when you know it’s a ‘Power Struggle’. It’s like tug of war – only one side can win! The other has to be disappointed.

Today, I want to help you identify the power equation you share with your child, and in which situations do you often have a ‘Struggle for Power’?

Then in the upcoming posts we’ll see how we can ‘not’ engage in the tug of war with our child, and arrive at win-win solutions!

Thought for Today:

What are situations where you are calling the shots i.e. you have the power?
(NOTE: One way to identify these areas is to think when does your child resist the most)
Examples: Food, Clothes, Sleep, Bathtime, Diaper change, Brushing, Other chores

Are there any scenarios where your child can call the shots i.e. the power lies with him / her? If yes, what are they?
Examples: Play (maybe)?

Based on the above evaluation, give a judgement about the Power Equation you have with your child (Parent : Child)
Example: Power equation (Me:My child) = 70:30
I’m sure, you’ll be surprised with this evaluation because you never saw it this way.

Be as authentic as possible, there’s no right or perfect equation here – let this be an objective evaluation of your current situation, so we can know how we can balance it out a little more – and help our little toddler have power in a measure that she can safely handle!

NEXT

We’ll learn how we can balance the power equation through simple actions.

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Access Previous Days In This Series: Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 0 : Laying out Universal Human Needs
Day 1 : Healthy Parent = HAPPIE Child
Day 2 : Making Self-Care A Habit
Day 3 : Meeting your toddler’s physical needs
Day 4: Identifying your own triggers before you tend to your child’s
Day 5: Dealing with feelings of guilt & inadequacy (Moms!)
Day 6: Attention v/s Connection Parenting
Day 7: Ways to connect with your Toddler
Day 8: Making way for ‘special time’

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Making way for ‘special time’

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Thought Series : Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 7

Special Time is a adaptation of ‘Quality Time’ that we all would like to spend with our child. The below article outlines how you can do it.

Read more : How to Special Time

Thought for Today:

When can you make time for ‘special time’ during the day?

What can you do during that time?

How – For younger toddlers, the child-led method that’s suggested would have to be slightly modified,

Use the next few days to try different things and let us know how you’re doing ‘special time’ between you and your child?

NEXT

We’ll delve deeper into the next need for raising a HAPPIE Toddler i.e. POWER.

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Access Previous Days In This Series: Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 0 : Laying out Universal Human Needs
Day 1 : Healthy Parent = HAPPIE Child
Day 2 : Making Self-Care A Habit
Day 3 : Meeting your toddler’s physical needs
Day 4: Identifying your own triggers before you tend to your child’s
Day 5: Dealing with feelings of guilt & inadequacy (Moms!)
Day 6: Attention v/s Connection Parenting
Day 7: Ways to connect with your Toddler

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Ways to connect with your toddler

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Thought Series : Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 7

Continuing our focus on Attention & Connection to raise a HAPPIE Toddler.

Pam Leo, Author of Connection Parenting defines:
Connection as ‘Feeling loved & listened to’, and
Disconnection as ‘Feeling hurt & unheard’.

She says – Provide children with a consistent, loving connection through eye contact, loving touch, respect, listening, and spending time working and playing together.

We’ll use these definitions as a compass throughout our discussions on ‘Connecting with our Toddler’. It sounds pretty simple, isn’t it?

To put it even more simply, you can connect with your child by offering them your undivided time (for listening, playing…) and undivided attention (through eye contact, your loving touch…)

Many a times, thanks to our crazy schedules, work load and other stress, we try to give our kids our time and attention, but often it’s not UNDIVIDED. We’re interrupted by mails or messages or our own wandering thoughts about incomplete tasks and what’s next on our to-do-list.

You’d know how annoying it is when you’re speaking to your spouse, and they keep checking their phone! Do you feel loved, listened to & connected when that happens? Well, imagine the same with your child.

Today, I’d like to explore with you some simple ways in which you can connect with your child. All of the below suggestions are simple things which can help you build trust & connect with your child, IF you couple it with UNDIVIDED TIME & ATTENTION.

  1. Your kid’s daily chores : Brushing, bathing, feeding time, nap time which we often frown upon due to the struggle they often are – can actually be great opportunities to connect if you can infuse some fun in them.
  2. Your daily chores : Cooking, Drying clothes, Dusting are some activities where toddlers love to ‘help’. Including them in safe ways not only helps your child feel involved and loved, but is also a great learning opportunity for them.
  3. Reading & Storytelling : While most toddlers might not show great interest at first due to their short attention spans, being consistent and interesting in your methods can go a long way in instilling creativity and a love for books and reading from an early age. Plus the touch, warmth, glances & time you share during the process creates deep bonds over time.
  4. Play : Play is the ‘work’ of childhood. Play for connection, Play for learning & teaching, child-led play, adult-led / guided play – there are many forms of play, which we’ll try to delve deeper into in future posts. Fun & Play can be infused in about anything and everything you do with your child, and you’ll find yourself magically connecting and bonding!

In short, anything that includes smiles, laughs, giggles, hugs and cuddles – are all ways to fill your child’s cup with connection & meet their need positively so that they don’t have to seek attention through negative behaviors.

Thought for Today:

What are some things you and your child enjoy doing together that involves smiles, laughs, giggles, hugs and cuddles?

If you’d like to add some connection rituals, which of the above suggestions would you like to start experimenting with?

NEXT:

We’ll learn about ‘special time’ and how you can incorporate that in your day or week to connect deeply in a short span of time.

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Access Previous Days In This Series: Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 0 : Laying out Universal Human Needs
Day 1 : Healthy Parent = HAPPIE Child
Day 2 : Making Self-Care A Habit
Day 3 : Meeting your toddler’s physical needs
Day 4: Identifying your own triggers before you tend to your child’s
Day 5: Dealing with feelings of guilt & inadequacy (Moms!)
Day 6: Attention v/s Connection Parenting

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Identifying your own triggers before you tend to your child’s

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Thought Series : Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 4

From the moment, I’ve experienced ‘being a parent’ – I can say with all my heart & might that ‘Parenting is not for the faint-hearted.’

The cuteness, the excitement – everything wears off, and then you’re left squandering in the muck with your toddler, his/her struggles plus the tantrums, your chores, office stress, the guilt and the nagging thought that “you’re not doing enough!”.

With all the physical, mental and emotional weariness – it’s no surprise that we often lose it, and end up venting out our frustrations on our children. Sadly, they often become easy targets, because we know we can’t safely vent out by hitting or yelling at another adult in the family!

What’s worse, is the guilt-trip that ensues later!! Driving us into a deeper pit!

Let me tell you – this is not how motherhood or parenting a toddler is meant to be. It can be far more civil, peaceful and fun – if only we achieve two things:

  1. Understand our toddler better (especially his/her needs)
  2. Understand ourselves better ( our needs, priorities & triggers)

Throughout this thought series ‘Raising a HAPPIE Toddler’ – we will delve much deeper into your toddler’s needs. But I want to take a day or two out to help us sort ourselves first – as mothers, as human beings – so that we can serve our best selves to our children, when they need us the most.

Today, in specific, I’d like to focus on OUR TRIGGERS.

We’ve cursorily discussed before that ‘Unmet needs lead to Misbehavior’ in toddlers, which means that misbehavior is always triggered.

The same holds true for you, Momma!

If you’ve misbehaved – by yelling, scolding or hitting your child (when you know you could have handled it better, often as an after-thought) – it’s important to acknowledge that you were triggered!

What could those triggers be?

  • Office stress, bad boss, bitching colleagues, office politics…….
  • A family member saying something
  • Your spouse not saying something, when you wanted or expected
  • Physical weariness
  • Not feeling good about yourself – for not spending the day, the way you had planned or wished
  • Your child did something!!

A BIG FAT NOTE : You might often feel your child’s misbehavior was the trigger for your misbehavior. But if you dig deeper into your own heart & mind, you will know – that the REAL trigger was hidden deep within. Your child just pushed you off the edge.

“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.”

L.R. Knost

How can we share our calm with our child, if our inner self – our mind and heart – is in chaos?

A little step we can take today is to at least identify our triggers. Becoming aware of our triggers, will help us identify when we must be careful with our actions, especially towards our child.

And next time, you realize a hidden trigger which can potentially harm your child (through words/actions) – it’s best to ‘LEAVE’.

Leave your child with another caring adult, and
Leave the scene to take care of your own self first!
Come back renewed, and share your peace, calm and joy with your child!

THOUGHT for TODAY

What are your triggers? Identify & list them down.
Next time, you feel triggered, you know what to do (and what NOT to do!)

Reminder: Are you keeping your self-care promise from Day2?

TOMORROW:

We take a quick look at our PRIORITIES, and are we really living up to them.
That will mark the end of our focus on ‘Physical Well Being /Health’ – Ours & Our Child’s.

Access Previous Days In This Series: Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 0 : Laying out Universal Human Needs
Day 1 : Healthy Parent = HAPPIE Child
Day 2 : Making Self-Care A Habit
Day 3 : Meeting your toddler’s physical needs

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Meeting your toddler’s physical needs

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Thought Series : Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 3

It’s never very challenging for a mother to judge and provide for her toddler’s physical needs.

With the experience of heeding to her infant’s needs with almost 100% accuracy, even when the baby could not say a single word – mothers are often masters at watching out for cues of hunger, thirst, sleep and pee/poop.

Besides this, it’s also worthwhile to check if your toddler gets a regular dose of :

  • touch & warmth: that provides a sense of safety & security
  • physical movement/exercise: indoor & outdoor (with daylight exposure)
Universal Human Needs – For Physical Well Being

All of the above are pretty much taken care of by most parents. But, there’s one mostly unexplored territory of physical needs.

Often parents notice their toddler to be excessively clingy or cranky for no apparent reason. Here’s when you might be dealing with a – Growth Spurt

What is a Growth Spurt?

A growth spurt is a sudden peak in your child’s physical or cognitive development.

Signs of Growth Spurt in Toddlers

A growth spurt can last for a few days during which your toddler will show one or more of the below signs:

  • Your child eats more or becomes ‘unusually’ fussy about food.
  • Sleeps more or has ‘unusual’ trouble sleeping
  • Is more cranky than usual (often because of growth pains)
  • Is more clingy than usual and demands more attention
  • Could be shyer with strangers
  • Younger toddlers demand more breastfeeds.

In short, your toddler behaves ‘unusually’ – they are going through something they don’t / can’t understand, and you can expect the unease to be expressed in any of the above extremes.

The best help you can be for your child during a growth spurt, is to ‘Be Present‘.

If your child is (unusually) super clingy / cranky for a few days – it’s best to tick off any other basic needs of hunger/sleep – and then understand that this could be a growth spurt.

During this phase, provide your child your warmth and presence, nothing heals their bodies and minds better.

The brighter side to a growth spurt

The brighter side to a growth spurt is that – at the end of it – you will find your toddler having gained a little weight,
or added a few inches in height or ,
or a new tooth in younger toddlers,
or your toddler would have mastered a skill that she had been trying for sometime – like starting to speak using more words.

THOUGHT for TODAY

Have you noticed any signs of growth spurt in your toddler?

What were they?

Reminder: Have you created your self-care promise from Day2, and are you keeping it?

TOMORROW:

Before we delve deeper into the other needs for a HAPPIE Toddler, there are two things we need to deal with as parents – Our Triggers & Our Priorities.

Access Previous Days In This Series: Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 0 : Laying out Universal Human Needs
Day 1 : Healthy Parent = HAPPIE Child
Day 2 : Making Self-Care A Habit

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Healthy Parent = HAPPIE Child

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Thought Series : Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

Day 1

This week, we’re focusing on the most basic and fundamental human need : Health / Physical well-being.

Note that I said ‘human’ need, and not just ‘toddler’ need.

After caring for our infant for a year, we have become experts in judging and providing for our child’s physical needs like hunger, thirst, sleep, sickness, teething, need to pee/ poop, need to be clean after pee/poop … an endless list.

Our expertise continued even as our infant turned into a toddler, and we can still effortlessly identify and fulfill their physical needs.

But, during the 1 year of infancy, we also progressively lost the ability to sense & care for our OWN physical needs –

  • Losing sleep for several nights back to back
  • Skipping meals to make space for our kids needs, needs of everyone else in the family, office work and household chores
  • ME-time is non-existent
  • Working at full potential even during our own sickness & weakness.

These are just a few scenarios where we’ve so easily forgotten to cater to our OWN need for PHYSICAL WELL-BEING, while ensuring that for our child and family members.

I know, we feel good about being able to do so much for our loved ones; but:

  • How many times have you felt sorry for being so self-sacrificial?
  • How many times have you missed your long-forgotten hobbies?
  • How many times have you wished you had some more time to yourself?
  • Worst of all, how many times have you lost it (because of stress / tiredness) and taken out your frustration on your child by yelling / hitting, and then feeling guilty about it?

Here’s what we need to remember :

When a needy person comes to us for help, can we help that person if our own pockets are empty?

When your child becomes clingy / throws a tantrum – that’s your child asking for help. But if you are completely drained mentally, physically & emotionally – will you be able to offer help to your child in a meaningful way?

THOUGHT for TODAY

  1. Are you WELL – physically / mentally / emotionally – everyday, so that you can cater to your child’s needs in your BEST capacity?
  2. If not, how do you think it’s affecting the way you care for your child, and deal with his/her needs?
  3. Tell us, ONE thing that you’d like to do – which takes only 15 mins – DAILY – that can help you stay WELL – physically, mentally, emotionally.

TOMORROW

How you can fulfill your child’s needs better – by making A HABIT of self-love and self-care – (Point 3 above), so that your child experiences the BEST of you – EVERYDAY!

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Day 0

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Raising a HAPPIE Toddler

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DAY 0

Hello & Welcome to my Thought Series on ‘Raising a HAPPIE Toddler’.

Starting today, we embark on a journey to understand our toddler’s unsaid needs and learn how to fulfill them consistently, in the best way possible.

All humans have a set of needs. As long as these needs are met, we feel content. However, if a crucial need remains unfulfilled for a reasonable period of time – we will SEEK to fulfil the need, by hook or by crook.

As parents, we never realized how our little baby who was content as long as his need for food, water, sleep, warmth (& a clean diaper) was met, turned into a little ‘human’, soon after her 1st birthday. We never realized how his needs expanded much beyond the physical realm. Well, even if we did, it was difficult to know for sure what our little tot was ‘SEEKING’.

This series is to help every parent here – understand your toddler’s unsaid needs, so that she does not have to SEEK them through negative / undesirable behavior.

Unmet needs lead to undesirable behavior.

As a Toddler Mom myself, I decided to delve deeper into understanding ‘UNIVERSAL HUMAN NEEDS’ and finally arrived at SIX of them.

Health | Attention (Connection) | Power | Predictability | Inclusion (Participation) | Evolution (Progress)

Fulfilling these needs consistently, makes a Toddler HAPPIE!

(I have seen that 1st hand)

How did I arrive at these SIX out of a massive list of documented ‘Universal Human Needs’?

  • These SIX are relevant to a Toddler’s life.
  • These SIX encompass several other smaller needs from the ‘Universal list’.
  • Parents report behavioral issues when one or more of these needs are unmet for reasonably long periods, often because they never realized the need.

Today, I want you to mull over this list of ‘UNIVERSAL HUMAN NEEDS’ – image below:

THOUGHT for TODAY

Do you think there are more needs from this list that are relevant for a toddler – other than:

Health | Attention (Connection) | Power | Predictability | Inclusion (Participation) | Evolution (Progress)

TOMORROW:

We begin with the 1st need : Health / Physical well being, and explore how it is relevant & valuable for both the parent & the child.

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9 mistakes to avoid if your toddler (Year 1-3) hits/ bites/ throws/ kicks/ pushes / pulls hair

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Every parent has been witness or subject to a toddler’s aggression at some point in time. When it happens for the first time, we might be taken by surprise. When our toddler is aggressive in public or with others, it can be very embarrassing!

As a parent, initially you might have reacted impulsively; but when you notice this behavior repeating, it’s turns into a grave concern. If you’re someone like me, you might have devoured every possible article on Google or asked in your trusted FB or Whatsapp groups about how to tackle this.

Being a toddler’s parent and a parenting coach who speaks with Moms daily, I’ve realized that parents often tend to make things worse when they’re dealing with aggression in a toddler.

By the end of this blogpost,

  • You will be able to clearly identify the mistakes you’ve been making while handling your toddler when and after he hits/bites/throws/kicks/pulls hair.
  • You will be able to understand why your current reactions aren’t helping in curbing your child’s aggressive behaviors by giving your child the wrong message.
  • And then, I will direct you to well-researched resources that will help you with the exact action plan & strategies to help you and your child overcome aggressive behavior peacefully. 

WARNING: If you’re new to the concept of Gentle Parenting, a lot of my suggestions below might raise your eyebrows. These are my learnings from great teachers of peaceful parenting methods that are based on scientific evidence and that have been proved to work in raising the next generation.

If you’re ready, let’s dive in.

Here are 9 mistakes every parent must avoid while dealing with their toddler if and when he’s physically aggressive towards you / others.

1. Hitting back

So, the first time your child hits you / another person in your presence, your natural instinct might be to hit back. That’s your brain’s Fight-mode in action. So, you can forgive yourself if you hit back as an impulse. But, if you’ve been hitting back to teach your child a lesson that “He should not hit” – it’s easy to see what an irony that is.

The message your child gets: It’s ok to hit if you are bigger and stronger than the opposite person.

2. Forcing an apology

Have you tried getting a SORRY from your child after he has done something wrong, and failed? You are not alone. Even if your child obliges with a Sorry, do you think he has internalized the moral reasons why he should not hurt anyone next time? NO.

The message your child gets: I can do anything, and then just cover it up with a Sorry.

Is there a better approach? YES. I’ll show you how at the end of this article.

3. Pretend crying

While you might think that pretending to cry might convey to your toddler that ‘Hitting hurts’ – you must know that they’re much smarter. If your child sees through your bad acting, he might find it funny and enjoyable, and so might love to repeat it often.

So, it’s best to just be yourself, treat your child as a smart little person who can understand if you calmly just say, “I can’t let you hit, because it hurts.” That conveys more confidence to your child, increasing the chances of him taking you seriously.

The message your child gets: Is Mommy really hurt? Let’s do this again and see.

4. Yelling / Scolding / Punishing / Taking away privileges

Most of us have been brought up by a generation of parents who resorted to scolding, hitting or punishing at the drop of a hat. It’s natural for us to follow these methods, because that’s the only way we’ve seen parenting in action. However, today there’s enough scientific research to prove that such punitive measures might work in the short term and get your child to obey out of FEAR, but they are not effective in the long run. We must adopt approaches that help in building our child’s character where he chooses not to do something because it’s wrong and hurtful, and not to avoid punishment.

The message your child gets: If I do this and get caught, I’ll be punished. Let me try again, and not get caught.

5. Isolating him

Often when all fails, we might take the emotional route where we tell our child, “I will not talk to you if you do this again.” Please don’t put your child through this trauma. A toddler is just a baby with relatively more physical and verbal skills. They love you as much as or more than you love them. Being away from you physically or emotionally is traumatic for them, and it’s vicious to take advantage of that just to make them obey. Let your child have the gift of ‘unconditional love’. (It’s not easy, I know!)

The message your child gets: If I am good, my Mom loves me. If I am bad, she does not!. ☹

6. Distracting too quickly

So, if your toddler hit the nanny, you might take the kid away from the nanny & try to distract him with something else. Well yes, it’s a good tactic to take their minds out of aggressive mode, sometimes. But it does not teach the child anything about his improper behavior, and why he must not repeat it. It’s a good idea to deal with the behavior in the right way (more about it at the end), before you engage your child in something else.

The message your child gets: I can easily get away with this! Let’s try this again!

7. Thinking your child is the only one who behaves like this.

It’s possible that you’ve been worrying about how your child learnt aggressive behavior, when everyone at home is pretty mild and well-mannered. Yes, your child might have seen someone behave aggressively OR it could just be his impulses.

Aggression is a very common form of expression among toddlers. So, don’t look at your toddler like some alien and think, “How could you do this?”. To understand your tot better, and help him overcome his aggression, it helps to know WHY he’s being aggressive.

The message your child gets: I’m a bad kid. I don’t deserve anything good.

8. Imagining your child as a bully 10 years later, and “What will people say?”

Firstly, your child will not become a bully because he’s displaying an aggressive streak at 2 years of age. Of course, if you help your toddler overcome his aggression, he will grow up to be the most well-mannered and respectable person that you want him to be. So, cut out the “What will people say?” Avoid punishing your child for his aggression, just to appease others around you.

9. Blaming your parenting for his behavior

There are no bad parents. All of us have the best intentions in mind as we raise our kids in ways we know and can! But, what makes a great parent is the willingness to learn and grow with your child.

You can help your child overcome his aggression and gain better control over his impulses using gentle and peaceful methods.

And I’d love to tell you how. It’s for parents like you and me that I have put together a COMPREHENSIVE ACTION PLAN for Resolving Toddler Aggression. You can click here to download it for FREE. Thank me later! 😊

If you’d prefer a more personalized solution for your toddler concern, book a consultation with me (FREE for a limited period only) by clicking here.

If you’ve benefitted from this blogpost, and know others whom it can help – Show that you care, and share!!

Follow me @Sharon Mary and my page @Thought Symphony on Facebook.

I’d love to connect with you, and help you if I can!

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Why is my toddler (Yr 1-3) hitting/ biting/ throwing/ kicking/ pulling hair?

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Our 2 year old son seems to be very aggressive – hitting, pushing and biting us and others. It’s embarrassing when he hits others, and it makes me angry when he hits. It’s getting out of control, and we don’t know what to do?

A concerned mother

As a parenting coach, who speaks with Moms daily, the first thing I can assure this mother who’s just as concerned as you, is that – this behavior is very common among toddlers aged 1-3 years.

Parents often complain that their toddler hits one or both parents, or the nanny, or the grandparents. Other complaints include that the child often hits himself, hits his head with hands, or bangs his head against the wall or floor and hits other children “for no reason”. I hear similar complaints about biting and pulling hair, and also that the child is always throwing things or kicking “in anger”. If you’re reading this article, you would have experienced one or more of the above behaviors with your child.

Often as parents, we are taken by surprise when our child hits/bites us for the first time. We feel embarrassed when our child hits someone else in our presence, or when others complain about his hitting behavior. When he throws things at us or pulls another child’s hair – we feel clueless about WHY is he doing this?

We try to deal with the behavior in the best way we know, and yet, when our child continues expressing himself aggressively in socially unacceptable ways – we feel that we’ve failed as parents!

I see you, and I feel you! And I want to assure you that:

  • By the end of this blog post, you will know the WHY behind this behaviour. This knowledge  will help you meet your child where he is, and connect with him deeply before you try to correct his behavior.
  • And then, I will direct you to well-researched resources that will help you with the exact action plan & strategies to help you and your child overcome aggressive behavior peacefully. 

Read on, if you’re ready!

Here are FIVE things every parent needs to know about WHY their child is indulging in aggressive behavior like hitting/ biting/ throwing/ kicking/ pulling hair?

1. It’s not intentional

As much as it might seem that your child is acting this way on purpose, that he’s doing it intentionally, to make you angry – trust me, he’s not. A toddler is a little baby with relatively more physical and verbal skills. That’s all. He’s not cognitively developed enough to pre-meditate, plan and act in ways to manipulate you. So, if you’ve been feeling this way about your child, just strike that out right away. And give your child the benefit of doubt that he deserves.

2. It’s usually experimentative

Toddlers are little scientists who are always in action – creating new experiments, observing the results and archiving their analyses of the situation for future reference. Most of the time, hitting/ biting/ throwing/ kicking/ pulling hair is just to see what happens? As silly as it might sound, this is a serious ‘experiment’ for your child. The way the other person responds is the ‘result’ he’s looking for. And based on that result, they often have the ‘urge’ to repeat the experiment (maybe with the same/different persons) to just see if the results are consistent, or they may decide to move on to something new. 

At times, your toddler might have seen someone hit / push, or might have been hit or pushed by someone. Now, the little scientist is just curious to know how it feels when he does it, how do others react (“so I can do the same when someone hits me!”)

3. When it’s not an experiment, it’s just an impulse

Your toddler’s brain is still developing. Parts of the frontal cortex / higher brain required for impulse control and rational thinking develop gradually through life and are fully developed only when the child reaches adulthood. In simpler terms, your toddler lacks impulse control.

However, the lower brain AKA the reptilian brain is completely developed, and that’s the reason your toddler often acts more like an animal (hitting & biting) rather than a socially sophisticated human being. (No offense intended, it’s just scientifically correct!).

So, make peace with the fact that aggressive behavior arises out of impulse in a toddler, which they cannot control without help from you or another caring elder. (I’ll tell how you can help your child with impulse control – here)

Often parents find that their child hits someone and smiles or laughs, as if he’s deriving some evil pleasure out of this. But experts say that, the smile is usually out of embarrassment or discomfort for not being able to control themselves, thereby unintentionally hurting someone. It’s a sign of their innocence & helplessness.

Some parents complain that their child bit them in the midst of an enjoyable cuddle. That seems very odd and offensive, right!? But it’s just that your little tot had a gush of STRONG (happy) EMOTIONS in his brain, which he could not handle; and the bite was an act by his (immature) brain to release the emotional pressure! So, please be kind! The same is true if he experiences an overwhelming gush of negative emotions, which I explain below.

4. There are TRIGGERS which lead to the impulse to hit, bite, kick, pull or throw

There are 3 alarm systems in your child’s brain which are triggered by Rage / Fear / Pain. So, anything that can cause your child to feel anger, fear or pain will activate these alarm systems, which in turn activates the instinctive & less rational ‘fight-flight-freeze’ responses. Go back and think about those situations where your child acted out aggressively – what was the trigger?

  • You did not give in to their demand
  • You set a limit that they did not like
  • A new situation, too many people around
  • An unexpected change in routine
  • An unmet need – was he hungry, sleepy, tired or overstimulated?
  • Or was it a pent-up frustration of needs that have been unmet for a longer time – like the need for attention, connection, a predictable routine or more power and freedom? You can read more about ‘unmet needs of toddlers’ here.

Remember, it might seem that they hit you or the other child “for no reason”, but there’s always a trigger! Sometimes, the trigger is in the situation, or it could be something pent-up over time. At times, you might be able to identify the trigger and respond accordingly, but many-a-times, you might not be able to pinpoint the trigger. But even in those cases, trust your child – they’re not giving you a hard time, they’re having a hard time.

5. An aggressive breakout is often a CALL for HELP

Dr. Mona Delahooke, a pediatric psychologist, describes disruptive behaviors as “just the tip of the iceberg,”. They are important signals a child may be sending that are symptoms of an underlying issue.

All forms of aggressive behavior among toddlers is the child’s way of saying, “I really don’t know how to handle this, I need HELP.” And here’s where your response matters.

Imagine you’re looking up to someone for help, and they yell at you or punish you or behave as if you’re some alien doing weird things. How would you feel? It’s in your hands to help your child not feel that way.

These out-of-the-blue, sometimes embarrassing moments are great opportunities for you to connect deeply with your child, show him that you love him despite his behavior and that you CAN and WILL help him get through this.

Your perception of the situation and of your child is extremely important for you to help your child effectively. I am confident this blogpost helped you perceive your child as completely normal & human for acting the way he does.

What’s more important is ‘Being Well-Prepared’ to handle these situations effectively, so you can help your child get through this phase, and develop a strong control over his impulses & emotions.

So, to prepare yourself to handle your toddler’s aggression more effectively & peacefully, read on to know the 9 mistakes you must avoid while dealing with aggressive behavior.

Or even better – Download the FREE COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE for Effectively Resolving Aggressive Behavior in your Toddler

If you’d prefer a more personalized solution for your toddler concern, book a consultation with me (FREE for a limited period only) by clicking here.

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