When we talk about specific behaviors at specific ages, we often talk mostly about how it’s important to investigate where that behavior is coming from, what happened first, what’s causing it, that’s what we want to know.
The reason why we want to investigate that is because knowing where that behavior came from, or at least having an idea of the root cause can help you understand what your little one is going through, which can then help you empathize. That goes a long way in parenting, when we are dealing with specific behaviors.
Finding out the root cause can also help you come up with a solution that will work.
For example a toddler who is hitting because they are testing the limits is going to be dealt with a little differently than a toddler who is hitting during an emotional meltdown and having a really hard time regulating, because they don’t have that skill yet.
It can feel like our toddlers are out to get us at times, but it’s important to remember that your child is never doing something just to get you. There is always a reason behind that behavior. There’s always something bigger going on, there’s always an emotion that’s attached to it. Our job as parents is to understand where that behavior is coming from so that we can start to give them the skills to be able to learn how to work through their feelings and frustrations.
Where did they even get the idea to hit? We don’t hit in our home!
That is a VERY common question we get from the families that we work with. We want to reassure you that this behavior is part of their development. Your toddler is learning boundaries along with new ways to communicate and hitting regardless of what that root cause is, is part of that development.
It’s alarming for parents when their child starts hitting, especially because it’s something that can come on suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere. We have to keep in mind that hitting is that physical outlet for their frustration. It’s not necessarily that they’re learning it from somewhere, it’s that they have all this frustration and all these pent up feelings that their body legitimately doesn’t know how to process. That’s when it comes out in a physical way.
As parents we need to give them those tools to work through these emotions. Whether the behavior is hitting, biting, throwing toys or throwing food, it’s always about what tools can we give them to help them through these experiences?
Let’s look at some examples:
It’s past lunchtime, you and your toddler are in the kitchen. They’re poking in the cupboards or getting into something that they shouldn’t, you go and remove them or redirect them, and all of a sudden they are having a meltdown. They’re hitting you. The root cause in this moment is your child’s hunger. You can address it by saying “Ouch, that hurt, hitting hurts, I’m not going to let you hit me and as you do so gently hold their hands. Then you’re going to carry on making them lunch, and you’re going to get them fed because that is the root cause of that emotion and that frustration at that moment.
Another one would be if you have children that are siblings or your child is having a play date and hitting or kicking is going on. Try to determine what is happening first, is somebody getting into their space are they fighting over a toy or game? Getting to the bottom of that so that you can then determine what your best scenario is going to be to help them move forward. If it’s a specific toy that is the challenge and you’ve observed that then some solutions would be to get another toy so that both siblings have that same toy to play with. Maybe you have it so that your toddler who’s hitting is playing with that toy at a specific period with you close to them, so that the toy isn’t being taken from them. Or vice versa. Another great way to redirect is having them say ‘my turn’ instead of hitting. A new way to communicate their frustrations.
Staying close and offering those tools, when you’re in the moment, will allow you to help your child to get to that point where they’re going to be able to play more independently without you having to hover over them.
By observing and finding the root of the emotion, eventually you are going to be able to see the hitting before it even happens and that will allow you to redirect before the outburst even takes place.
In our Tools For Parenting Toddlers class, we go through many different scenarios and give you strategies on how you can help them through these scenarios.
How to get them to come in from outside when they’re outside,
how to get them to go outside when they don’t want to go outside,
working through not wanting to put their boots on to go outside.
All of those different emotions and scenarios that happen with toddlers is what we cover in our Tools for Parenting Toddlers class.
If you are struggling with any of the challenges we listed above or any other challenges, be sure to check out our Tools for Parenting Toddlers workshop, CLICK HERE to register.