Toddlerhood is the stage when your child starts independent thinking and communicating, they are little sponges absorbing everything they see and hear. Behaviour is mostly influenced by their environment and learned behaviour from carers and parents.
Can a toddler have behaviour issues? The simple answer is yes, a toddler can have behaviour problems AKA the terrible twos. I actually dislike this term, toddlerhood is not terrible at all, it is one of my favourite stages. The toddler stage is full of fun, it’s super rewarding but can also be an emotional rollercoaster. Of course it’s normal for toddlers to have emotional outbursts, not wanting to be constantly directed or to do everything a parent wants them to do which can result in negative behaviour, their social and emotional skills are developing.
A key roll of a parent is to guide and to teach social skills and positive communication. In my experience the movement of baby led then flows into toddler and child led which can lead to insecurity which again can result in negative behaviour. Babies and children feel secure with boundaries and routine and tend to be happier for it.
How to avoid the terrible twos and breeze through toddlerhood?
Gain an understanding of the stage your child is at and what they are capable of understanding mentally and emotionally. Your toddler is an individual and what works for one may not work for another. Here are a few practices I find work well with all personalities and lifestyles.
Keep a Consistent routine. A child’s behaviour will improve when they know what they are doing, even if you have flexible daily routine, keep a consistent bedtime routine with timings and pattern of events such a bath, number of stories etc. Sleep is so important for your child’s development and temperament. A bedtime routine signals to calm down the brain and body the hour before bed and a well rested child is usually a calmer child.
Reacting to shouting and tantrums with rewarding for an easy life or with raised voice will only feed that behaviour. Responding in a calm and happy voice will promote positive communication. The key thing is to think about the message you are sending. If your child tantrums or cries, say for a snack just as you are serving lunch and you say no… but then give in to keep the peace? You are telling your child the constant crying is how he gets what he wants. If the same thing happens at a snack time and you give the snack with your child’s prompt of an emotional out burst, again you are saying this is the right way to communicate and ask for things. Only give your child the snack when they have asked in a happy calm voice and try not say no then yes.
Practice asking your toddler for things in a positive voice as part of a game.
Exercise is something a lot of parents miss and don’t necessarily think about when thinking about managing toddler and child behavioural issues. Just like adults, raising the heart rate, fresh air and ideally nature has a huge positive affect on your wellbeing.
Once a child is able to walk and run they will need to exert and expel energy to sleep and to keep an even temperament. Especially boys who are like puppies and will be bouncing off the walls if they don’t get enough physical activity.
For more support and advice on baby to child behaviour, sleep and routine – visit Charmian Mead’s Baby Sleep Consultant website.
Toddler Q and A on Charmian’s Why Wednesday feature
My toddler wants to eat off everyone’s plates but won’t share his food, any tips?
I would suggest not sharing your food at meal times. Prompt to focus on his own food and not yours. Ideally eat the same things at mealtimes. At 19 months you wouldn’t expect a child to share meals. Snacks are a little different where you can teach sharing. A few grapes in a bowl can be given on the understanding the snack is for both or all of you. Prompt to give the first grape to you before having one themselves.
My toddler constantly throws food on the floor
Put less food on the tray, maximum 3 pieces. If your child is self spoon feeding put very little in the bowl.
On first throw of food, take the food away and getting down to your child’s eye level, give a calm warning that the food will be taken away if it happens again. Put the food back and on the second throw take the food away and take your child out of the high chair. Meal is over but please don’t worry if a few meals are low whilst sorting out this behaviour. Do not give snacks to make up for lost food at meal time in fact one of golden rules is to never give snacks between meals if meal times are problematic with behaviour or food intake. Not all children need snacks and this topping up of food can sabotage meals
My toddler has slept through the night from month 4 but now wakes 4am screaming?
Have you tried reducing the length or phasing out your toddlers daily nap? A toddler stops napping altogether between the age of two to three years which means a 2 year could be nap free or need up to an hour. Another reason for early waking could be physical activity, toddlers are like bouncy puppies, they need lots of exercise.