One day, that sweet baby you’ve cradled lovingly in your arms suddenly grows up, or so it seems. You now have a walking, talking ball of energy roaming your home. You start to think life is getting easier now that your kid can do more things for herself, sing you cute songs, and say adorably funny things you’ll treasure.
But then one day when you’re out and about, your angelic girl suddenly turns demonic, throwing a tantrum over a toy she sees at Big W or Kmart when you’re just there for a new bathmat or groceries. It gets so bad that everyone turns and stares at you and you retreat in shame, vowing never to return to that location. Later, your daughter is back to her sweet self, seemingly forgetting the monstrous behaviour she exhibited earlier.
When friends come to visit with their kids, they play nicely as you talk. Just as you’re fully enjoying the company of another adult, shrill shrieks fill the air. Your daughter has hit her friend, and now everyone is upset.
What’s going on here?
It’s simple really. Your child is exhibiting aggressive behaviour because her little brain hasn’t quite developed at this stage. Between the ages of 2 and 5, all small children will face some sort of behavioural problems, which is perfectly normal. How you react to it is what makes all the difference and helps guide them to better decisions as they get bigger.
So what should you do?
Let’s talk tantrums first since this is the biggest issue for every parent. If your child has not reached this stage yet, stash this information for later use because you’re going to need it. It has nothing to do with neither you as a person nor your child either. You could be the most loving and kind parent and you’ll still get a child that throws tantrums. Your child could be the sweetest little thing in the world too, and she will still throw tantrums. They are a fact of toddlerhood.
Wherever the tantrum occurs (for most, it’s outside of the home), you’ll need to stay calm. You’ll have to fight your urges to scream and threaten because she won’t listen to you. So say she’s pitching an absolute fit over some small toy you won’t buy her, you’ve got to keep your voice normal and be reassuring that everything is fine.
But you’ve also got to be firm too. Be calm and say something like,
“I can see that you’re upset and I know you want that toy, but we did not come here for toys and I’m not buying it.”
If she continues, which likely she will, you can then tell her that this is not the way we act in public and if she doesn’t stop it, you will take her home immediately.
Now here’s where most parents make one of two huge mistakes.
The first mistake is giving in. When the whining and screaming and carrying on get louder and more embarrassing, many parents throw in the towel and give their child what they want. This only teaches your child that her horrible behaviour will get her the things she wants. If she just acts like this, you’ll buy her that toy or that lolly or whatever it is. Don’t fall for it.
The second mistake is when parents don’t make good on the threat they give. So if you tell your child to correct their behaviour or else you’ll be taking her home, make good on it. Yes, it completely stinks to ditch a trolley of groceries, particularly when you need them, but when you stand your ground, you can expect that this behaviour will diminish and abate altogether.
While you want to talk to your child about the behaviour, you should wait to do so once she’s calmed down. You want to let her know she’s loved no matter what and ask her about what happened back there. You might just learn she was tired or hungry, which happen to be 2 of the biggest reasons bad behaviour escalates. In any event, you can talk to her about better ways to handle her feelings and what she should do the next time she feels angry.
So do yourself a favour to nip that in the bud. Take along non-perishable foods with you at all times, as well as juice boxes or Sippy cups. This way, when your child feels hungry while you’re out, you can avoid the drama completely. The other thing you should pay attention to is whether or not your child is tired. If she’s still taking naps, do not run errands or plan any outings during her typical nap time. By working around it, your child will throw fewer tantrums.
Now let’s talk about aggressive behaviour.
Every child will experiment with hitting, kicking or even biting another child, be it a friend or a sibling. And just like tantrums, it’s up to you to correct the behaviour with consistent consequences or else it will continue to escalate.
What’s a good way to stop the aggressive behaviour?
The best way is to calmly issue a consequence like sitting out from the group of children at a play date or at the playground. Let her see all the fun she’s missing as the other children play. It may take a few times for this lesson to sink in but she’ll soon learn that when she’s not nice, she doesn’t get to play with her friends.
You can also give time outs, especially if you’re in your home and your child has been aggressive toward a sibling. After the time out, be sure you have a talk to let her know it’s okay to have the feelings we have. And it’s okay to tell people how we feel. However, it’s never okay to harm someone else when we’re angry. Teach your child the power of words, and how to say they’re sorry.
‘Teach your child the power of words, and how to say they’re sorry.’
To reinforce the importance of using words, when you see your child tell her sister that she’s very angry because she picked up her doll, be sure to acknowledge her growth with praise. Then see if you can help gently guide them toward a solution and see your way out of it.
If your child has started behaving this way and you’ve been inconsistent, you can still get the ball back in your court. It’s not going to be easy, but stick to the plan and you’ll soon reap the rewards.