Toddlers and preschoolers can be terribly tricky with their tantrums and demands, but is their challenging behaviour really just that – or could it be something more? Here are seven reasons why your little one might be playing up.
1. They’re unwell and don’t realise it
Even when children are old enough to tell you they’re not feeling well, sometimes they fail to realise the reason they feel so sad and sorry for themselves is that they are actually sick. If they don’t tell you about their earache or sore throat, it can be easy for you to miss the signs too. Then you are left with a cranky, whining child who makes your life as miserable as they feel.
2. They’re too curious to resist
As parents, we forget just how curious little ones can be. The big wide world is one giant playground of new things to discover, and even if they know you’ve told them not to draw on the wall, they might not be able to help themselves. Impulse control is not something your toddler has developed yet. Curiosity is part of human nature and never underestimate the power of it. They just really want to see what it will look like to use their bedroom wall as their canvas instead of their notepad.
3. They haven’t had enough sleep
This is an obvious one but important to mention nonetheless. There’s a reason why the words ‘tired’ and ‘cranky’ go together and it’s so much worse for little kids. When toddlers don’t get enough sleep they can become completely different people altogether! And not people you want to be around. Nap time?
4. They are picking up another’s bad behaviour
Young children often learn by copying others: parents, siblings, and friends … Peppa Pig! So if your child starts being aggressive, rude or deliberately naughty, it could be because they’re mimicking the behaviour of someone else in the family or a child at daycare, because they think it’s cool, funny or even the correct way to act.
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5. They are struggling with anxiety
If your child is consistently refusing to go places, being violent or destructive it might be because they are actually suffering from anxiety. For example, a nervous or worried child could feel frightened about being in certain situations and decide to be defiant as a way of avoiding that event. Kids who are jealous and worried about the impact of a younger sibling on their relationship with their parents might start being tricky too, as a way of channelling those feelings.
6. There is another medical condition at work
There are a number of conditions which children can develop, such as autism spectrum disorder, sensory or auditory processing disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; all of which can play out in the form of tantrums, aggression, violence, defiance and other challenging behaviours.
7. They don’t know they’re doing anything wrong
Even if your child is about to go to school (or is at school for that matter), they’re still extremely young and have a long way to go in terms of their development, knowledge and understanding of the world. As adults, we know what happens if you leave the tap running in the bathroom or tell the woman next door she looks fat, but unless you’ve already told them (lots of times) why these are behaviours are less than desirable, they may not actually realise that they’ve done anything wrong. There is a lot about life they still need to learn and it’s going to take them all the way to adulthood to learn all the lessons.
Take it easy
So next time your child is having an epic meltdown, being violent or just plain wilful, stop and ask yourself: are they really just being defiant, or is something else going on? By looking a bit deeper at each incident of tricky behaviour, you might discover what’s really going on and how to address it – which will help improve their behaviour in the long run, stop their suffering, and save your sanity.
Need some more toddler behaviour advice? Our Parent School toddler experts can help. Click to find out more or book a one-on-one session.