Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Children mirroring parents

"he kicks, he nips, he shouts, he bites, has the worst tantrums I have ever seen and doesnt listen to a word I say!!!"

He sounds really really angry. Here's what I'd be doing:

1. concentrate on what is making him so furious, and do whatever you can to a) help him do the thing he is struggling with, if it's safe or b) offer something he'll enjoy even better. It's much easier to persuade a toddler into a car seat if you've found out why they don't want to go in it and solved that problem (you want to hold Thomas the Tank Engine all the time while you're getting in??? Oh - ok then! Smiles all round). Someone is more likely not to have any problem leaving the playground if you're suggesting a minimilk from the icecream van on the way home...

2. be very very careful about your responses. Children mirror what their parents do, a lot. I'm not suggesting you're hitting him for a moment, but when you write

"I try and give him trouble"
"I shouted for him to come here several times"

... he might be learning to shout back because that's what people around him seem to do when they are in a situation they don't like. (but maybe I'm reading your words wrong - that was just the interpretation that jumped out at me.

3. You seem to be telling him a lot that things are "naughty". Naughty is just a word, and your child isn't even 2 yet, so he isn't exactly fluent in English yet, let alone being well practised at abstract reasoning. Use as few words as you possibly can to explain what the actual problem is, and to show him without punishing. Punishment is completely meaningless to a child of this age - all they'll see is an arbitrary withdrawal of mummy's love until they do something magic like say "sorry" (whatever that means - just another word). That's why putting him in his room isn't making him penitent - it's just inexplicable, from a child's point of view. If he's reaching for the hot oven, you could say "NO!! That's naughty! Come here at once and listen!" Or you could say "LOOK OUT! Hot!" and then go with him and put your hand near the oven so you can feel the heat without burning and encourage him to do the same, and do safe experiments with the hot water tap and lit candles and things so he really understands the concept of hot. There isn't actually anything "naughty" about exploring the world. Our children just need our help to do it in a civilised and safe manner.

4. Playdates just aren't a time for mums to relax at this age. You need to be down on the floor with the children at all times, helping them interact in a friendly way with each other, making sure both of them have access to toys they want (here's a car for billy and here's one for Jake, look that one's green and this one I've got is red - do you want the red one?). Avoiding toddler conflict requires running pretty constant interference, and I think we are much better helping our children to learn to interact in a civilised manner by being there helping them on the spot than by telling them off afterwards for getting it wrong.

No comments: