The most important thing is to remember that there are no bad kids, only bad behaviors. Kids need a loving connection, not threats, as it is well explained in the wonderful book by Dr. Laura Markham “Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids”. Keeping this fact in mind, if you learn and apply some techniques, you will see quick progress. Here is what you can do.
1. Cover the basics
Toddlers tend to show negative behavior when their physical needs are not satisfied. They may simply be hungry or thirsty or tired. The first thing to do is to make sure these needs are met. Giving them a snack, a drink and letting them have a nap might solve all the problems. They might also need physical movement, fresh air or a bath. When we don’t feel comfortable in our body, we get nervous and so do our toddlers, only they act out expressing their discomfort, while we suppress.
2. Take them out into nature
Toddlers need to be physically active much more than we do, so providing them with a space to be free to run and jump is crucial. There is no better place for this than out in the open, in healthy natural surroundings. They connect with the environment in a natural way and there are many things they can explore and play with. They learn how real life works and it keeps them engaged and occupied. Man was not made to sit inside in front of TV, we are creatures of nature, and kids need their outside play time. They will also expend extra energy and release any stress and negative emotions.
3. Give them things to do
Children under five have a short attention span and can focus on something for up to 15 minutes. That means they need many more activities than we do in order not to get bored. We have to keep up with their pace the best we can. There is a wonderful educational method of Montessori which adjusts games and learning to the kids’ own pace of cognitive development without our interference. We just have to provide the correct learning tools, materials and games and they will pick them up when they are ready and move on to something else when they feel like it. Your job is to let them learn how to be independent learners and entertain themselves.
4. Set firm rules and be consistent
Our little troublemakers need to know what the rules are, so we should set simple but firm rules and stick to them. We should introduce appropriate punishments for breaking the rules, and apply them immediately after bad behavior happened. The kids will connect their behavior with unpleasant consequences and adjust their behavior. The trick is to be consistent and give them a lot of single word reminders and ask them questions instead of giving orders and making threats.
Bad behavior is stressful and draining both for parents and for kids, and making a bigger problem out of it than it initially was by adding our negative feelings into the mix will only make things worse. We should first check if their basic needs are covered, and if they are, we need to look for the underlying cause of bad behavior. The parents’ role in this is bigger than we think. What if the kid is only picking up on the negative vibe in the house? What if they are only absorbing our stress? What if we are not showing them enough love?
Thanks so much to Emma for reaching out and asking to write this for Dad's Diary! Really useful ideas here for parents like me! I especially support the idea that it's worth taking your children out into nature as my own son responds very well to this and often displays classic signs of cabin fever.
Emma is a teacher, a mum to two boys, and a regular contributor to High Style Life. She is passionate about writing and learning new things that can help you to lead a quality life. You can follow Emma on Twitter here!