Wondering if your toddler is having a disturbing behavior can be hard to come to terms with. As parents, we don’t want to think that our child is doing or acting in a disturbing way. If you suspect that your child is having a disturbing and non normal behavior, then you need to come to grips with it and plan accordingly.
I have three kids, two of which were difficult toddlers. One of my children has ADHD and the other has PDD (pervasive development disorder on the Autism spectrum) so I am no stranger to disturbing toddler behaviors.
After you come to terms that your child is having a disturbing behavior, you need to do some detective work and figure out why your toddler is having the behavior. This article will address some behaviors and what you can do about it.
Some of the disturbing behaviors that your child may have are biting, temper tantrums, head banging, hitting, separation anxiety, throwing toys and screeching at the top of their lungs for an extended amount of time. These behaviors can occur if your child gets frustrated or jealous. Below are several ways you can try to get the disruptive behaviors to stop.
Reflect the feelings: Toddlers often feel powerless because they are always been told what to do. “Do this” or “Do that” or “No you can’t do that.” If your child is having a disruptive moment, take a minute to figure out why they are behaving that way. If something happened that hurt their feelings or if they’re jealous that someone got something they didn’t, start talking to them by saying “I understand you must feel pretty upset that little Susie got a new doll.” Get your toddler to communicate with you to the best of their ability. Our family counselor told us that even if your child says “I hate you!” or “I hate my brother!” not to discount their feelings by saying “No, you don’t hate your brother” because in that moment, they very well may hate their sibling. You can instead say something like “You must be pretty upset with your brother right now. It’s hard when he won’t play with you and it must hurt your feelings.” Then you can go onto explain that the brother may not always want to play with your toddler or whatever reason your toddler feels like they hate a family member or friend.
Nevertheless: If your toddler is having a bad behavior, use the word “Nevertheless.” Don’t think a word will be that effective? You may be wrong. My family was recommended by a family therapist to use that word when a child is being disruptive, especially when you ask the child to do something and they start throwing a fit. For example, if your child is throwing a fit because they don’t want to pick up their toys, you can say “Nevertheless, you’ll be picking up your toys.” The idea is that in time, if you use the word on a regular basis that when the child hears the word, they’ll start listening to you quicker because they’ll know that you won’t be arguing with them once you say that word. This may or may not work for your family, but if you’re at your wits end, it doesn’t hurt to try.
Acknowledge good behavior: If your toddler is prone to disruptive behavior, you need to acknowledge the times when they are behaving well. If they have a play date and they get along ok with the other child, praise them when the other child is gone. Say “I’m proud of how well you played with Eric today. I’m proud of them.” If they clean up their toys without complaining, praise them for that too. In time, they’ll want to behave more often then not to get your praise.
Teach your child right from wrong: This may seem obvious but sadly, it’s not always. I was at one of my favorite stores the other day and two mothers that had come together let their toddlers run havoc through the store. This included picking up empty hangers and throwing them like boomerangs throughout the store. The toddlers even went as far as to hit stuff that I had in my cart because they thought it would be fun. Their mothers didn’t pay attention to the children; they simply talked to each other as they went through the racks of clothes as their children ran through the store. If that sounds like something you’ve done before, then you can’t be surprised that your toddler has lots of disruptive behaviors. It’s important to teach your child right from wrong so they know what to expect from you and things that come up in life.
Throw a temper tantrum: Our family counselor suggested to that WE throw a temper tantrum when our kids did. If your child is in a full blown temper tantrum, throw one along with them. Lie on the floor, wail, and kick your legs. More often then not, it will shock them out of their tantrum. It can help them realize how silly they looked and they might even get a giggle out of it, which will be good for you because the tantrum will stop.
Distraction: You know your toddler’s limitations. If you know that playing with blocks will drive her crazy because she can’t get the pieces to connect, then distract her from the blocks by giving her another activity she enjoys doing.
Don’t overreact: When you overreact to your toddler’s disruptive behavior, it reinforces that if they do something naughty, they’ll get a lot of attention from you. Deal with the situation accordingly but don’t get overemotional.
Time out: You can give your child a timeout if they are having a bad behavior. If your child can’t sit still, start with 20 seconds and then work your way up. If they squirm out of their seat, you can place your hands on their shoulder and gently hold them in place until their time is up.
Safe room: If your child is prone to head banging and hurting themselves, you need to create a safe room of sorts where they can’t use things to hurt themselves. If you have a bedroom your safe room, have lots of pillows and stuffed animals lying on the floor and on the bed.
Seek help: Seeking help for your toddler’s behavior does not make you a bad parent. In fact, seeking help while your child is young is better then waiting until they are older when it may be too late to help them. You might even want to get a family counselor that will give all the members in the family tips on how to handle hard to manage toddlers.