They call it ‘terrible toddler’, but I prefer to use the word ‘terrifying.’ Even putting all that I’ve learned as a nurse aside, they’re now going beyond exploration. At this stage, toddlers have their newfound autonomy, and they’ve advanced in the intelligence department.
Shy of reaching 24 months old, my boy would throw things because he enjoys them or he just feels like it. At exactly two years old, he would haul his toys and look at us as he waits for our reaction. Then he would laugh.
And before we knew it, he would throw even his food right in our faces. Yes, there’s no such thing as graceful parenthood. So if you’re wondering how to deal when toddler’s bad behaviour gets worse, I got you covered.
Understanding Your Toddler
At one point, it was cute. That was until we were eating in a public place and I suddenly found mashed potato on my cheek. There was also the time when he scratched my cousin’s face and bit her shoulder during their first meeting.
And you may wonder, is this still normal? Or do I need to do something to stop or lessen it? When can you say ‘enough is enough’?
Remember, aggression is part of their development. You don’t want to be too harsh but neither would you prefer to be lenient when it comes to discipline. Toddlers love stretching limits especially your patience.
You tell them not to do something, and they will do it just to spite you. My mother used to say, “The bigger the child, the bigger your mouth.” And it’s just recently when I realised how frighteningly accurate that is.
What you need are two things: patience and consistency. I guess I don’t need to explain the importance of the first one anymore because you already probably know it too well. The second one is vital because you should never cave in especially when you set clear limits.
For example, you gave them a time-out. You should do what you said you’d do. Don’t just make threats. If they realise you’re just telling them, they won’t take you seriously.
What To Do
- Don’t shout – always go for the calm route. If your child starts biting someone and you’re there, immediately tell them ‘no’ in an assertive manner. Yelling won’t prove your point or get you anywhere.
It’s important to act as soon as you see it or before it even happens, so they will understand which ‘bad behaviour’ you’re referring. Also, don’t embarrass them in front of other people. Talk calmly.
- Make direct eye contact. It’s something I religiously follow when talking to my toddler. Whether I say ‘I love you’ or tell him to stop throwing his toys, I call him and sit down or squat so we can be on the same eye level.
Then I speak to him slowly and clearly.
- Control your temper. I did mention about avoiding any yelling or shouting. You want to lessen their aggression, and you can’t accomplish that by getting riled up quickly when they do something nasty or wrong.
If they see you lecturing them with a high-pitched voice, they might just try that too. Keep in mind how good this age is at imitating what they see.
- Ensure positive reinforcement and never forget to praise them for their good behaviour. Saying something good can do wonders for you and your child. But it’s easier said than done.
Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar: if your kid is acting up, you may scold him. But if they’re behaving nicely (no biting or throwing stuff), you might just smile inwardly and feel relieved.
Yes, it needs effort, but it will pay off. It’s a lot like a pat on the back; they might just keep up their good behaviour if they realise it will earn them positive feedback.
- Encourage physical activities like playing ball or running around. My son got to a stage when he threw food, toys, remote control and pretty much anything he can hold. I found that he no longer did it as often when I bought him balls of several shapes and my husband installed a basketball ring in our house.
- Limit screen time. I keep on stressing this out because it can have several detrimental effects on your child not just socially but also psychologically and emotionally.
Nowadays, when you try to scroll through several channels, every once in a while, you will encounter violence. Even cartoons have scenes of chasing each other or fighting. It’s just not safe.
So the best thing you can do is ensure they only get a maximum of 2 hours every day where they can watch TV (I highly discourage the use of iPads and other gadgets).
I hope you learned something from this post. I totally get what you’re feeling right now – so much anxiety and stress whether your child is still within the bounds of what you can call normal and what you can do to help them.
Of course, when in doubt, you can always check with your physician. Then again, we are talking about toddlers here, and as what I have mentioned earlier, they have this reputation of pushing you to the edge.
They’re probably just overwhelmed. But even if it’s a challenging time for you, take the time to enjoy this phase because like everything else, it will pass.
Nancy Shaw is the founder of HiFiveBaby where she writes about common problems encountered by parents and how to deal with them, motherhood in general and FAQs about babies, toddlers and kids. She provides scientific and medical basis and also her personal experience as a mom to a wonderful toddler. Now you can explore the joy of parenthood with ease! You can also find her on Twitter