COVID has been disastrous for many families. To everybody that’s going through these really challenging times, I know it is really hard. This situation that we find ourselves in, when we have to go into lockdown and quarantine, it’s not a natural way of living. Even my sister has her issues with her kids who are much older. The oldest is seven, and she’s found it really, really hard.
I got this message from a mum …
“Alex turned two in April. He’s constantly pushing everyone. He also throws toys everywhere all day long, wanting to smash them up. I’m guessing he’s doing it because he’s bored and wants attention. We’re living in semi-lockdown. We have play dates, but not often. We also live in a tiny apartment. I’m at my wit’s end because all my husband I seem to do is try and get him to play nicely. All ... day ... long. I’ll admit that I leave the kids to play in the lounge while I cook and clean. So I’m not exactly sitting with them all day long. I’ve tried holding him, like you told me, which has stopped the hair pulling, but now he’s pushing everyone and smashing toys. It’s hard with no family or help. It’s all up to me. Please help. How do I redirect this bad behavior?”
My Response ...
Honestly, it IS hard. And I feel for you. Children in apartments easily get bored. They need outdoor time and interaction with others but that’s a challenge with a small confined space.
We also don’t appreciate the mental and physical load that mums are carrying right now.
It was when I went to do a visit to a single mum with three kids recently, that I truly understood exactly what lockdown was doing to families.
She was seriously lonely and said ...
“I even went into the garden and I don’t garden. I went to prune the bush in the front garden, just with the hope of seeing somebody. Just to get out of my four walls. It was just doing my head in.”
Now, when you have a two-year-old it’s even harder, because until they get to the age of three, they cannot play independently. They just don’t have that ability.
He feels frustrated and you’re feeling frustrated as well. He is acting out because of being bored and he’s a boy. Boys can be quite boisterous, throwing, rough play, all that sorts of stuff.
When kids are throwing stuff and pushing everyone, they’re trying to assert their authority. Toddlers are designed to push that’s their job. They’re designed to test your boundaries, to test the boundaries full stop your job as a parent is to pull back and it feels exhausting.
Strategy 1: Why it's important to involve your toddler with housework
We should be preparing our children to be mini-adults. We should be giving them jobs to do.
- Toddlers WANT to do housework.
- Toddlers WANT to sweep up.
- Toddlers WANT to be in the kitchen with you.
Yes, they really do! Children want to do things, and we need to remember that.
Kids at 18 months to two years old want to be little mini-me’s. And it’s important that we allow this to happen because then we can direct their energy into some positive play. It helps to know that children at this age don’t play with you, they play parallel.
I know people will ask, “But where’s the play?” But housework IS play. It’s ALL play. Only as kids get older do they realise housework is a chore.
When I was growing up I was trained in how to do things that I would be doing as an adult. And I loved it. I was baking at the age of five.I was probably baking younger than that but that’s what I remember.
- I remember making cakes with my grandma and my mum.
- I was laying a fire at the age of five.
- I was taught how to get the fire going in the kitchen. How to set and light the fire.
Nowadays, we don’t give our children credit for what they’re able to do. We need to teach them how to do all this stuff. Housework has long term benefits for your child’s emotional intelligence. Getting them to do this stuff with you is really going to really pay off. What you do now is going to impact the rest of their life.
We need to teach children values as they get to the age of two to three. We need to teach them how to help, sharing, how to have empathy, kindness and thinking of somebody else’s needs. If we don’t teach emotional intelligence (EQ) early, we don’t get EQ as an adult. Housework provides opportunities for doing that.
I want you to do stuff with him. I want you to get him involved in ...
- Emptying the washer
- Putting clothes into the washer
- Putting clothes out on the line
- Getting the pegs for you
... that sort of thing.
I know it’s going to double your workload because you’re going to be playing as well as doing, but I want you to bring him in close to you.
It is going to take you a little bit longer to do your housework, washing and cooking, but you’re going to have a child who is so much happier. It will pay off long term. All this frustration will go once he’s actively engaged. They love doing all this stuff, they absolutely love it!
When he is acting out and you’re stuck in the apartment with nowhere to go, we need to redirect his energy and we need to use it for good stuff.
Have you heard of the learning tower for interacting with your toddler?
Learning towers are amazing. Sometimes they call them the little fun pods. It’s basically a wooden structure that the child stands in. And they can stand with you at the kitchen work surface with a chopping board and a safe knife, chopping up some fruit or veg.
Find more info on the Little Partners learning tower here: https://littlepartners.com/products/original-learning-tower
So below are the other things that I want you to really focus on now.
Strategy 2: The "Child's Game" also known as "Special Time"
I want you to do some special time with him, which I also call the “child’s game.” This is something that I want you to continue until lockdown is finished or he is five years of age. Under three years of age, children can’t play independently for long periods of time.
They easily get bored. So we need to keep him busy. When we have something to do, we feel much happier.
The good thing about doing special time every day is you teach independent play. So when they get to three, you can get independent play and it will pay off long term.
You’ll want to get the details on “special time” in these posts ...
The Child’s Game: 10 min a day to build a better relationship with your child: Part 1
And part 2 ...
Strategy 3: How to give instructions to toddlers with labelled praise
When he’s helped you and you’ve liked the job he’s done I want you to use some “labeled praise” as well. Lots of it. Then you’ll see more of those positive behaviours.
Empty praise vs. labelled praise and effects on resilience in kids:
I want you to say, “Alex, great work for putting that in the washing machine. High five!”
We need to redirect this stuff because if we don’t redirect it, it becomes acting out. It becomes frustration. If we just say, “Stop doing this!” he doesn’t know what to do.
So we need to give these instructions like this ...
“Stop doing and do instead.”
For example, “Stop throwing your toys and play nicely instead.”
If we just say “Stop” or “No” he doesn’t know what he’s got to do. All that happens is you just keep repeating the negative stuff of what he said to stop becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Do you really want to get a handle on communicating instructions effectively to your toddler? Then you’ll want to read these 2 posts …
Helping Your Child to Comply with Instructions
How to Say “No” without Saying “NO!”
Where to from here?
If you follow through I just know you’re going to have a much happier little boy and you’ll be much happier too. I’m not saying it’s going to be perfect and they’ll still do these things now and again. But within a week you’re going to have a child who eats out of your hand. We just need to redirect.
Toddler behavior like sleep, is like a jigsaw. And like sleep all the pieces have to go in the right order.
I’ve worked with some particularly challenging cases of toddler behaviour which you can read about here …
When your child has taken control!
Lisa's Story: When Your Toddler Is out of Control
If you are still struggling reach out to me at Nurture Parenting
With over 30 years of experience with kids under five, I can give you one on one help.
If you’re looking for extra support you can schedule a consultationhttps://nurtureparenting.com.au/how-can-we-help-you/toddler-sleep-behaviour-help/
For a more affordable option there is my online program:https://nurtureparenting.com.au/nurture-sleep-program/
You might be one of the many parents who are also struggling with a fussy eater or just anxious about getting the nutrition balance right for sleep. The effects of diet on toddler sleep is not to be underestimated. To help toddler sleep problems it’s important to look holistically at sleep using scientific evidence.
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