Question of the day from a very tired mom of a toddler:
Q. Dear Toddler 411 authors, I am really struggling with my 22 month old’s behaviors. He is very defiant and says “no” to every choice I give him. He hits and bites me as well as some of his friends in daycare. His teacher says some days are really trying with him and 3 other boys in his class! Help!
A. We go over many of these typical toddler moments in the first chapter of Toddler 411, but to recap:
1. Lower your expectations. Toddlers are trying to be independent. You are trying to set safe limits on behavior. Do not expect your toddler to be excited about conforming. You will be less frustrated when you realize that you are planting the seeds of discipline. Do not expect a tree to grow overnight!! It takes a long time for your child’s behavior to change. But, the first step is you changing your behavior.
2. Calm, consistency is the key. If you are consistent with your approach, your toddler will eventually realize that his protests, attention seeking behavior, or outright defiance will get him nowhere. And, following directions and listening to mom and dad DOES get him want he wants.
3. Make your child think HE is the one making the decision. Give your child a limited number of choices, all of which you want him to accomplish. “Which do you want to do first…put on shoes or brush teeth?” If he just says no to everything, then he is choosing not to make a decision and you will make decisions for him (and you can say that…that is HIS choice).
4. Hitting (or biting) is not an acceptable form of communication. So, it does not get you to pay attention to him or get him what he wants. If he hits, he LOSES your attention. You can put yourself in time out and walk away. Or, put him in a safe and secure place and let him spend time in the penalty box.
5. At school, there is always a biter. The teacher needs to get her aid to do one on one attention for that child–most biting happens at predictable times and it can often be prevented if one keeps an eye on the provoker. If he does bite, he does not get to play with his friends nor what toy he might have wanted. Eventually, he will learn that the natural consequence of not playing nice is that no one wants to be your friend. It also improves when the toddler’s language improves. When he has more words to express himself, he will rely less on using his body to communicate.