If you’re feeling baffled by your toddler’s behavior, you’re not alone.
Whining, tantrums, hitting, biting, not listening, not complying, bossiness, demanding, or even sleep difficulties…
Right now I’m going to help you with the what’s going on. It’s a really important mindset shift before we get to the how-to.
The word behavior bothers me, even though I use it, because it usually has a negative connotation. As you’ll see, there’s much more going on.
Traditional assumptions about toddler behavior are still very common, which makes sense because most of us grew up under this perspective:
- Toddlers don’t know how to behave
- The behavior is a problem
- They’ll continue doing the behavior if they’re not taught
- So we must teach behavior
Friends, this mindset will keep you running in circles.
Here’s your detective magnifying glass. This perspective comes from Aware Parenting.
- Toddlers do know how—how to attempt to get their needs met. There’s always an underlying need.
- Trust the behavior as communication
- Address the underlying communication or need, and the behavior typically solves or reduces by itself
- We still may need to help them understand boundaries, but we usually don’t need to teach the particular behavior not to happen
This is your golden ticket. Once you understand how to investigate beneath the surface, you won’t need to teach “behavior.” In fact, trying to do so tends to backfire or simply not work—and in the meantime trying to ‘teach’ takes up a lot of precious mama energy!
Bypass the behavior?
We’ll get to how to handle these behaviors. First, here’s the big picture: other than keeping everyone safe, it’s imperative to, not ignore, but bypass (for now) the surface-level behavior and dive straight into the deep end.
If your first instinct has been to try to teach your toddler how—or how not—to behave, that’s completely understandable. It’s most people’s first instinct and makes logical sense without knowing the background info.
But teaching behavior without addressing underlying needs tends to do the following:
- Attempts to teach them something they already know (children see right through this!)
- Doesn’t address the original need that caused the behavior in the first place
- Doesn’t solve the problem
- Can create resentment for parent and/or child
Which means you’re basically fighting yourself… and is why you might feel burnt out.
Behavior as communication
So release any guilt–this is why it hasn’t been working. It’s not because there’s something wrong with your child or you. It’s because you needed some deeper information and a new pair of lenses to look through.
Your toddler really is trying to tell you something. It’s an invitation to connect.
Behavior challenges = Communication
Stay tuned for some how-to. For now, let this information seep into your interactions with your toddler and see what happens!
So… I was going to write part to (the ‘How’!), but we had a pandemic… until I get back to it, see Aletha Solter’s article, Understanding Tears & Tantrums.