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As your child continues to grow up, you will have to inevitably face a variety of behavioural issues. It’s completely normal for toddlers to adopt these attitudes and behaviours. However, that doesn’t make it less difficult for us, parents. Pinpointing what the issue is and its underlying causes will help us in finding the best solutions in tackling these problems.
Listed below are some of the most common issues that you will definitely encounter:
It’s part of a toddler’s development to be defiant. It’s at this phase that they are beginning to understand and experience control and independence to some extent; they are not realizing that they are a different person from you and you are not someone that they are not attached to – they are separate. Because of that, it’s natural for them to explore that newfound independence in the way that they want.
However, that is exactly the problem in this instance. While this may sound romantic and inspiring, toddlers still don’t have the appropriate self-control to not act out on everything they desire. Moreover, they still don’t have the reason and logic to differentiate between what they want and what they need. At this stage, you might start to hear “I don’t want to!” or “I won’t do it!” from your child.
As this type of behavioural issue has both its good and bad sides, all in all, it’s a normal phase in a toddler’s life that is also developmentally appropriate.
You can see fussiness in toddlers when they refuse to eat particular foods or wear certain clothes. Toddlers can also be cranky or irritable and it’s because of several reasons. It could be because of lack of sleep, frustration, hunger, being too cold or too hot, or having a fight with a sibling.
Fussy toddlers often have characteristics that make them difficult to manage oftentimes. Some include their unpredictability, mood swings, and need for attention and care. Their schedules can become erratic and uncertain so establishing routines is another difficulty that a parent should face. They may also often resist transition, meaning they wouldn’t like daily routines such as getting dressed, teeth brushing, and the like.
As discussed in the previous sections, toddlers are now starting to explore their independence. From finally realizing what they want, now they also would want to assert that onto others. Realizing that they are separate from their parents as well as from other people leads to their eagerness to exhibit it. Toddlers would now be able to communicate the things they want and what they don’t want.
The problem lies in how they show that to others, especially to fellow children. When they don’t get what they want, they feel angry, just as adults feel as well. However, toddlers don’t have the self-control that us, adults, have. They then resort to physical aggressive acts such as hitting, pinching, scratching, pulling hair, slapping, and the like. Another reason behind this toddler behavioural issue is that they may just be experimenting. For the first few moments that they do these acts, don’t reprimand them. They are young and it’s natural for them to explore what they can do.
This may seem discouraging and parents might feel disappointed in themselves when they see their child hitting others. But don’t worry too much – these acts are part of their development and that doesn’t mean that your child is a bad person.
It’s a common notion that children are blunt and tell nothing but the truth. That’s not entirely true. While they are straightforward in saying what they are thinking, they are also capable of lying. However, they don’t do this just to get what they want or to hurt someone else.
Again, as mentioned previously, kids are very experimental. In this instance, they are finally realizing that while people don’t believe the same things, it doesn’t affect reality as experiences vary. Before they reached this age, children thought that everyone thought the same and believed the same beliefs and that these shared beliefs are a reflection of what is happening in the world. Because of this, they try not to lie in the fear of changing that reality and belief. Now, at a toddler’s age, they would understand that this mindset is false and would most likely start to lie.
Although this sounds negative especially to us adults, lying in toddlers is an indication that they have a progressive understanding of how other people and the world work. They would now be able to communicate better, participate in collaborative conversations and pretend play, and form better relationships with other children.
Temper Tantrums: The Worst of All Toddler Behavioural Issues
Of course, we can’t leave out temper tantrums in this list of toddler behavioural issues. They’re one of the most difficult changes that every parent faces at some point in their parenthood life.
Temper tantrums occur when toddlers have outbursts and it’s not just a random mood swing. Rather, it’s an expression of their frustration in the face of their challenges such as difficulties in completing a task, inability to communicate what they want, and the like. They kick, scream, hit, cry, whine, and even hold their breaths. This also happens because toddlers have this newfound sense of independence. They want to explore as much as they can but, most of the time, they don’t have the power to do the things they want. And so, here comes frustration and the temper tantrums.
How to Handle Toddler Behavioural Issues
Toddlers don’t deliberately want to dampen their parents’ moods or embarrass them in public when these behavioural issues are acting up. These always have a reason and it’s our job as parents to learn how to handle these situations and help them get through our toddler’s emotional rollercoasters as well. Below are some of the ways you can handle toddler behavioural issues:
Teaching them how to handle strong emotions
The majority of the reasons behind these issues involve their inability to handle emotions. What we, adults, normally feel on a day-to-day basis, such as happiness, anger, sadness, frustration, and the like, are things that toddlers will find overwhelming – these are new to them, after all.
- Talk about emotions and how to cope with them. Being able to name emotions is a crucial first step to your toddler’s coping mechanism. To help them achieve this ability at their age, an example would be to read them books and explain how the characters are feeling. This would help your toddler reflect and resonate with the character’s emotions, and in turn, know how to handle it just as the character does.
- Empathise with them. Validating your child’s emotions helps them accept it as well. Instead of reprimanding and chastising them for feeling the way they are feeling, you should acknowledge it. Children are not dumb. Explaining to them why what they want is not possible to happen would help them understand their emotions as well. This is especially important in the long run as well, and would reach up to their adulthood even.
- Offer them ideas on how to manage their emotions. Together with the tips mentioned above, offering them ideas and ways to handle their emotions would be more effective. They need guidance on figuring out the huge emotions like sadness, anger, and frustration. For instance, when they are feeling angry, suggest to them something like jumping up and down, ripping paper, or sitting on the sofa for some alone time. What this does is that it’s opening up to them that there are a lot of possible ways to express their emotions that are not chaotic, hurtful, and painful to them and other people.
Disciplining your toddler
Of course, parents are still the authoritative figure in the household because they are the ones who know what’s best for their toddlers; children still don’t have the capacity to make the best decisions on their own. When you set rules and teach discipline to your toddler, it will also help them manage their actions and emotions in the best way possible.
- Distract them. When your toddler desperately wants something, whether it be a toy, food, or some other actions and objects, what you can do is to gently say ‘no’ and use other things to distract them. They will not be able to manage their frustration so, instead of hitting them, which is something you should never ever do, you show them that there are other options available.
- Implement timeouts. If your child has done something wrong countless times and you think you need to give them a sort of punishment, timeout is one effective way of discipline. This teaches them that they cannot just do what they want without the consequences. They should learn that there are some behaviours that are unacceptable and need to be reprimanded. Moreover, this also allows them to reflect on their actions. For example, when your child hits or bites you, you can tell them to sit somewhere, like the bottom of the stairs, for a minute or two.
- Be consistent. This is one of the most crucial steps that you should remind yourself of. Even if you’ve implemented your rules and guidelines at home, it will not be effective if you do not stick to it. For example, if you know your child has done something wrong and you did not put them in timeout, they will think that it is still okay and inconsequential. Make sure that you follow your own rules as well – kids learn the most by watching their parents. For example, after using something, put them away in their proper place instead of leaving it lying around.
While parenthood is rainbows and butterflies, there are also downsides to it. Our children will not always act in the way we expect them to, and it’s completely normal. As parents, it’s our responsibility to guide them in the right direction, while also letting them have the freedom and independence to decide for themselves, especially for toddlers. Know these five common toddler behavioural issues and help our kids grow up to be better people!