You may occasionally find yourself wondering why your toddler repeats a certain unwanted behavior. Why does he always bite his sister? Why does she throw her food on the floor during mealtime? Why does she push other kids on the playground?
The key is to understand what your child is trying to communicate through those behaviors. To do that, you need to learn to observe and analyze his or her behavior regularly. What is your little one trying to tell you?
Patterns in behavior
Behaviors that occur repeatedly are happening for a reason. If you take note of the behavior and what was going on before, during and after it, you might find the pattern and realize why it’s happening and how to stop it. It’s a good idea to write down those notes, so that you can go back to them when the behavior happens again.
How to deal with challenging behaviors in the moment
Keep in mind that since children are just beginning to develop self-control and self-regulation skills, challenging behavior is usual and even expected the first years. Toddlers are impulsive and act on their feelings. When they’re overwhelmed, they act out and throw a tantrum or behave in an unwanted way. That’s how you’ll know they need your help. Try to stay calm and be steady, that way you’ll be his or her anchor back to calmness. That way, you’ll model self-regulation as well.
Try to become aware of your child’s feelings. Put yourself in your little one’s shoes and try to imagine what it must be like for him or her. Once he or she calms down a bit, help your little one manage the situation by naming the feeling and redirecting his or her attention to something else that he or she likes.
It’s important to be lovingly firm. If you need to set a limit, don’t budge, empathize with your child, be unconditionally accepting and hear him or her out, but don’t give in if the limit is important to his or her well-being. Being consistent helps your child feel safe and learn about limits.
- Challenging Behaviors. (2018.). Retrieved from https://www.zerotothree.org/early-development/challenging-behaviors
- Green, J. (n.d.). Observation: The Key to Understanding Your Child. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/families/observation-key-to-understanding-your-child