When children become toddlers, there often seems to be an overnight transformation. Babies that were once easy to please and generally happy may begin to misbehave. As parents, it is often our natural instinct to immediately react to the behavior to discourage it in the future. Our reactions are usually punishments or lectures. While punishments and lectures are sometimes necessary, it is helpful to understand the underlying reasons for the misbehavior in order to have more constructive reactions when our children misbehave.
When children are hungry or tired, they are much more likely to misbehave. Children often don’t understand that they are hungry or tired, and these feelings may manifest as anger or sadness. As parents, knowing a child’s sleep and eating schedule and staying ahead of these issues can drastically reduce the frequency of tantrums and other misbehavior.
The whole world is new and thrilling to toddlers. They don’t yet understand consequences or pain, so they are bound to attempt to fulfill their curiosity in ways that are unacceptable from time to time-or all the time. It is helpful to be understanding when a child makes a pretend ice skating rink out of the kitchen floor and a bag of flour or other innocent forms of misbehavior, as these things are not intentional misbehaving. Be firm in diverting children away from things such as a hot stove that may hurt them, but also be specific and give basic reasons why instead of just a “NO.”
Toddlers are inexperienced with emotion, communication, and interaction. They have not yet mastered the concepts of right and wrong. They are apt to yell at others and throw tantrums when faced with boundaries. These things are part of learning, as difficult as they may be to cope with. The way that we react with our own emotions, communications, and interactions is often a child’s best model for what to do in those situations. Be mindful not just in explaining how to handle emotions and interact, but in your actual responses and interactions that they are using as an example.