The Terrible Twos Happen to Other Parents’ Children, Not Yours. Wrong!
During the toddler years, roughly 12 months to about four years, many parents are surprised at the changes that take place in their child. Every mom and dad has heard of the “terrible twos,” but it seems that far too many just don’t think it’s going to happen to their child.
Mackenzie is a good example of this.
“I’m at my wits end with my three-year-old son,” she said recently. “He used to be the most loving, caring baby ever. Then, about three months ago, after my daughter was born, he started to exhibit some negative behaviors.”
The main problem was his aggression. “He hits me all the time and sometimes I think it is for attention because if I’m caring for the baby or talking on the phone, he comes up and starts whacking me,” Mackenzie said.
She went on to say that her son’s behavior is embarrassing, because he hits other people, including other adults. Furthermore, nothing she has tried has stopped him from hitting.
“I’ve tried to talking to him, I’ve tried using a sticker chart, and I’ve given him time outs,” she said. “But nothing works!”
Like many parents who have a toddler who hits, Mackenzie sometimes feels like someone substituted a different child for hers. In addition, she also feels like she’s done something terribly wrong in order to have a child who goes around hitting everyone.
You may sometimes feel like Mackenzie wondering what happened to your sweet, pleasant baby. However, no one substituted an evil child for your own. It’s simply a part of the toddler stage of development, and there are some important reasons why these changes come about.
The reasons usually have nothing to do with you being a bad parent or you doing something wrong. They do have everything to do with the age and the stage of a child’s development.
The toddler years are years of tremendous growth and development. Think of all the things that take place in a child’s life during these years: They begin walking, talking, making choices. They begin expressing their displeasure in words and actions, they begin to relate to other people, and at the same time they want to be more independent.
And while these changes are going on, you expect them to learn how to get along with others, to be polite, to play, to share, and to cope with all the changes in their life.
Also, it often during the toddler stage that another child arrives in your family. So, after two or more years of your first child having your total attention and affection, they have to share center stage with a baby.
No wonder toddlers sometimes don’t cope so well!
But, there is hope. You just have to take an active role to teach your toddler how to control their aggression and interact with others without hitting. Here are some steps for being an effective teacher of your toddler:
- Spend alone time with your toddler every day where you are concentrating on playing, reading, and talking just to him.
- When he attempts to hit you or others, stop him (perhaps by holding his wrist) and tell him that there’s “No hitting!” Explain that it hurts others when he hits and that you don’t like it.
- Then tell him what you do like (“I really like it when you are kind and gentle to mommy”) and then holding his hand show him and tell him what you want him to do: “Be kind to me by gently touching my arm. Like this.” As you demonstrate holding his hand, give him praise for doing it (even though you are actually doing it with his hand): “That’s right. Mommy likes it when you are gentle.”
- When he’s ready, allow him to try it without you guiding his hand.
- Remind him before he is with another person what you want him to do: “When grandma comes over, I want you to be loving and gentle to her just like I showed you.”
- However, if he hits another person, then right then and there go through your demonstration and prompting procedure: “Jill doesn’t like it when you hit her. Let’s try that again. This time I want you to say hi to Jill and tell her that you want to play with her.” The first few times you may be down on your knees with your son and the other child and you may be saying the words for your son because he may not be willing or able to do this on his own. So you show him how it’s done.
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