Friday, December 07, 2012

Challenging Toddler Behaviour

Parenting is a challenge and parenting a toddler has it's special challenges.  Here's my response to a blog post on Baby Giveaway that was titled, "The Struggle to be a Gentle Parent".

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Challenging behaviours happen for four reasons: to get something, e.g., the cereal kept over the stove (note: move the cereal); to get your attention, e.g., 'bad' behaviour when visiting friends; to escape a situation, e.g., kicking you during a diaper change; and finally, for sensory reasons, e.g., emptying a water cooler. Sometimes it's a combination of these reasons but for the most part it's one.

Often times it help to teach a positive behaviour that you want to see and reinforce it enormously so that you can replace the challenging behaviour with a positive one, e.g., replace kicking you with signing "finished". Note that you can try to ignore the challenging behaviour that you don't want to see (as long as it's safe) and really, really positively reinforce the positive behaviour that you want to see.

Here are some steps to follow as consistently as you can when giving instructions to a little one:
  1. Be sure to get their attention;
  2. Break down tasks into smaller instructions, if needed;
  3. Describe the desired behaviours you want to see. Sometimes you may even model or show the desired behaviour, e.g., signing "finished" at the end of diaper change;
  4. Use a calm voice;
  5. Give the child time to respond;
  6. Phrase the instruction as a command. Don't say "stop kicking, okay?"; say "Show me finished"
I also had a simple phrase that I used with my little one at this age when it comes to giving instructions to them...it was more for the grown ups, "If you have to say it twice, move your feet". A two year old may not understand your verbal instructor and it will help to pair it with you modelling the behaviour or gently helping them to do it themselves. This meant that if I had to give an instruction more than once I went over and gave the instruction and gently helped them do it. 

Oh, and you can get child safety knobs for water coolers that make it too hard for them to work them (you have to press or turn something to get them to work...easy fix).
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