This is a Typical Toddler Behaviour Case Study
Hi Karen, we did a phone consultation a few months back regarding my 3-year-old boy Jake and managing toddler behaviour. At the time the tantrums really weren’t that bad but we wanted to nip it in the bud before they got worse.
All has been going well until recently. We moved house in early May and had a baby girl 2 weeks ago. He took to the move fine but this week his toddler behaviour and tantrums have gotten worse. So I’m not sure if it’s linked to the new baby.
At the moment he flips from happy to whinging in a matter of seconds. He seems to kick off for no reason. He’s in daycare 5 days a week so the 4 of us are only really together a lot on the weekends.
An example of his toddler behaviour: yesterday we went for a walk down to Maroubra beach. He brought his bike then 2 mins in didn’t want it then wanted it, didn’t want his helmet on, wanted it on. When he cries he doesn’t even make any sense in what he’s saying – it’s more baby talk.
Then we went for lunch, he got ice cream but then kicked off because it wasn’t in a tub, then when he got the tub he started again because he couldn’t scoop some out. It’s one thing after the other at the moment. He never used to be like this. He’s also started whinging if there’s stuff on his fingers, e.g. melted ice cream.
Bossy and Demanding
He’s also very bossy and demanding. He gets jealous when we have visitors over and when having a conversation with them he’ll start demanding our attention.
We also went out for a short stroll yesterday evening and he kicked off because of the wind. He’s sensitive to the wind and really loud noises (like a drill).
Just wondering if you could give us some tips/pointers to manage this phase. I’m assuming it’s a phase and it’s typical of a 3-year-old?
New Baby On The Scene
Any change in a strong-willed child’s world is going to flick their switch and escalate behaviours. Children with strong temperaments do not like change at all. They are likely to act out, tantrum and refuse to do as you asked. This is when their defiant little streak comes to the fore. You will see behaviours you have never laid eyes on previously.
Your well-behaved toddler has suddenly turned into a fire breathing dragon and you probably never saw any of this coming. Previously they were the centre of your world, they had no competition at all. Now you’ve brought a newer better model home and they’ve worked out that it’s here to stay! Eeek. If you asked any self-respecting toddler if they wanted a sibling I’m sure you’d get a resounding NO!! Especially if they knew what it involved…
Escalation of Toddler Behaviour
When children feel stressed and threatened they will escalate behaviour to get your attention in an attempt to get back to where they were. Change feels uncomfortable and the strong-willed child struggles with change. They may walk around the baby who is laid playing on his mat on the floor looking at you out of the corner of their eye pretending to nearly stand on the baby.
They are testing you and what you are going to do about it. Remember a toddlers job is to test the boundary. Whereas your job is to pull the boundary back to where it should be. This push-me pull-me resistance is a normal part of the toddler years and it is them testing your boundary. Remember boundaries are creating security and they need to see a firm boundary.
Working Out His New World
Your toddler has gone from being the focus of your entire world to suddenly being on the outer. Your attention is strongly focussed as it should be on the new baby. And he is acutely aware of this. To try and get your focus back on him he tries to grab your attention the best way he knows how. By doing naughty and cheeky things he knows will raise a reaction from you.
The Expectation of Good Behaviour
There is an unsaid expectation from you the parent that all behaviour should be positive or good. Children naturally want to behave well. However good or positive behaviour hardly features on her radar because we see it as expected.
Naughty or negative behaviours alert our alarm bells and the flashing amber and red lights in our brain are triggered to notify us. And the toddler knows this. Suddenly they are the focus of our full attention again. The more we pay attention to bad or naughty behaviour the more it will appear. So how do we get rid of this and turn this around?
Managing The Toddler Behaviour
Here are my top strategies to help you
- Use labelled praise to increase the likelihood of more positive behaviours e.g. well done Jack for putting your toys away, high-5. The emphasis needs to be in this area.
- Use the child’s game as the glue to stick it all together and increase the chances of success
- Consequences for naughty or dangerous behaviour – Time Out or Logical Consequences for over 2.5-3 years
- Bring them in close, examples of this are read a book to them whilst feeding the baby
- Get them involved in helping you prepare meals, use a learning tower, housework, washing and putting the washing out, helping change the baby etc.
- Once they feel helpful and valued things will change in a positive direction, it will take approx. 7-10 days to turn things around.
- Read books about emotions to help him navigate these new feelings e.g. The Brothers Quibble by Aaron Blabey, My Book of Feelings by Trace Moroney