Why Do Toddlers Hit? Is it Genes or Environment?

Why do Toddlers Hit?
Is it genes or environment?
by Judy Arnall, BA, CCFE, DTM
It’s natural for toddlers to hit, but where does this aggression come from?
Actually, it is in our genes. We evolved from humans who could fight and
defend their lives, territory and loved ones, and they passed on the ability to
survive through aggression, to the next generation. Even newborns feel anger
when they need something. In addition, in the later half of the first year, they
demonstrate what is called exploratory aggression – curiosity pushes them to
see what reaction hitting or pushing another animal or child will bring. By
toddlerhood, ages one to four years, aggression is at its peak, where one out of
every four interactions between a child and someone else is physical. This is
almost every hour!
Does nurture or nature affect the amount of aggression a child has? Let’s
pretend that a human is like a car. Aggression is like the acceleration a car can
do. We all feel aggression. Self-control is like the brakes. We all have braking
ability too, but in varying amounts. Some people have more acceleration and
some people have more braking power.
Aggression is a function of the brain. The limbic system is the emotional part of
the brain and if we have low serotonin in the limbic system, we have more
aggressive behaviors. The frontal lobes are shaped by inborn temperament, but
the environment (a parent that says, “No! We don’t hit people!”) coupled with
brain development is responsible for suppression of the physical urge of hitting,
pushing and biting.
By age five, children learn about indirect aggression, as the result of their
higher order thinking skills. They can be sneakily aggressive in order to ensure
they don’t get caught, or immediately hit back impulsively. This is a sign of
brain development as it takes higher order thinking skills to weigh out the
consequences in each act. By age five, children do choose how to express
anger.
Hitting relieves tension and may be the reason why parents spank when they
are angry. In a small way, it feels satisfying for a second. However, we also
realize that we are social groups and we can’t be aggressive toward each other
and still get along enough to live together. If we hit, we are group sanctioned;
by isolation, in the form of time-out when we are young, to social ostracism
during the school-age years, and finally, jail, as adults. Isolation is a big
punishment for social mammals whether humans or animals. Societal
disapproval helps children to suppress their acceleration. Young children are
ego-centric and don’t care what others think about them yet. Their impulses
rule their bodies and their brains. By school-age, children are being exposed to
the wider world and care about what people think, so social isolation has a
broader impact on their self-control. Pride, shame, and embarrassment are
effective social tools to keep mammals aggression in check.
As the brain grows, children learn to cope with emotions and develop more self
control. By school age, most children have stopped hitting their friends and
playmates, although the odd lapse against siblings is common until the teen
years. It’s healthy to feel feelings, and express them in better ways such as
words that don’t hurt anyone. The key is to keep repeating what you want them
to do until they begin to take it on themselves. The more children practice calm
down tools, the more they are stored in their memory and come to mind as
they internalize social and group rules. When children are exposed to all ages of
social groups, in extended families and all-age schools, they learn the rules of
controlling aggressive behaviour.
Play fighting does not encourage aggression. In fact, it is useful for
development. Children discover their own limits, and what other people consider
acceptable, and it helps teach self-control. It’s hard to watch as a parent,
because you know one child is going to come to you crying, but it definitely
teaches both children about limits for later.
What is the role of adults: Adults just need to do two things.
Do hold their hands and say “Stop. No. Can you see this hurts your sister?”
“Let’s do this (stomp our feet on the floor) to express our anger.” Children get
to see their effect on others and can choose a non-violent way to express their
feelings. Keep repeating this message after every aggressive event.
Don’t role model hitting, slapping, spanking or any other aggressive
behaviours. Children learn by modeling. Children who are hit, are more likely to
hit others by thinking that those who have power use physical aggression to
wield it.

 

Childhood Assault Must Be Made Illegal

It is an election year, and Prime Minister Trudeau promised to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report recommendations.  One of those recommendation’s is to remove the legality of children being assaulted.  Ask the MP candidates what they are doing in this area to protect children who have very little self-control (normal young childhood executive function) and risk being hit because of adult’s poor understanding of normal brain development. “He should know better!” is a common statement from parents and caregivers that is created from years of myth, bias, and lack of brain capability knowledge that has been passed on from previous generations. As you can see from the above chart, by the time children are old enough to understand “consequences”, about age 6, they are old enough to problem-solve situations without being hit. They have enough self-control to not “do the deed” and really do begin to “know better.” No one would assault a child in a wheelchair for not being able to ascend a staircase, yet, we do it all the time for young children incapable of self-control.

For more help on the difference between punishment and discipline/gentle guidance, read “Discipline Without Distress.” It was written with 5 kids (3 spirited ones) in mind!

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For more help, on handling parent anger, and child/teen anger read “Parenting With Patience.”

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For more help on day-to-day non-punitive handling of all parenting challenges, consult “Attachment Parenting Tips Raising Toddlers To Teens.” 

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All the above books have up-to-date charts on child capabilities and brain development.

Check out the video help at http://professionalparenting.ca/press-media.php

Here is some information of Repeal 43, written by my friend and passionate advocate of non-spanking discipline, Kathy Lynn.

Why Repeal 43? 

Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada

Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances. R.S.C., 1985, c .C-4

This is the wording in the criminal code but

The constitutionality of Section 43 was challenged in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice: then by way of appeal in the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. The Section appears verbatim as it did prior to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision. However, the Court narrowed the scope of defense to assault under section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada and to set out a series of judicial limitations to assist in the interpretation of the justifiable or so-called “reasonable” limits of corporal punishment. The  judicial limitations (which again don’t appear in the Criminal Code of Canada) are as follows:

1)    Only parents may use reasonable force solely for purposes of correction;

2)    Teachers may use reasonable force only to “remove a child from a classroom or secure compliance with instructions, but not merely as corporal punishment”;

3)    Corporal punishment cannot be administered to “children under two or teenagers”;

4)    The use of force on children of any age “incapable of learning from [it] because of disability or some other contextual factor” is not protected;

5)    “Discipline by the use of objects or blows or slaps to the head is unreasonable”;

6)    “Degrading, inhuman or harmful conduct is not protected”, including conduct that “raises a reasonable prospect of harm”;

7)    Only “minor corrective force of a transitory and trifling nature” may be used;

8)    The physical punishment must be “corrective, which rules out conduct stemming from the caregiver’s frustration, loss of temper or abusive personality”;

9)    “The gravity of the precipitating event is not relevant”; and

10) The question of what is “reasonable under the circumstances” requires an “objective” test and “must be considered in context and in light of all the circumstances of the case.”

 Violence against children should be against the law, not defined by it.

Decades ago, it wasn’t a criminal assault to physically beat

slaves,

servants,

apprentices,

prisoners,

dogs,

wives and

children.

In today’s Canada, only children are still on that list.

That’s just wrong.  And it’s not who Canadians are.

This is not a child discipline issue. It’s a human rights issue.  All Canadians, whatever their age, deserve the protection of law against violence in any form.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The Government has promised to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action.

Call to action #6 calls for the Repeal of S43 of the Criminal Code of Canada. Of the many calls to action this is one that is simple to implement and will protect all of Canada’s children.

Research

Research demonstrates that hitting children can lead to impaired parent-child relationships, poorer child mental health, child aggression and weaker internalization of moral standards and delinquency, often carrying on into adulthood.

United Nations on the Rights of the Child

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants to gain a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

The focus for this initiative has been on foreign policy.

But there is another issue that the Liberal Government could easily address.

On December 13, 1991, Canada formally ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention, which is a comprehensive statement on children’ rights, covers every aspect of a child’s life.

The presence of S43 in our Criminal Code is in direct conflict with the UN Convention. It seems to us, at Corinne’s Quest that our government should repeal S43 and come into compliance with the United Nations.

Bottom Line

All that being said, it is 2019 and the culture in Canada is that of non-violence. Bullying is not acceptable in any cases and we say that domestic violence is also not accepted. However, children are not covered when we talk about domestic violence and they can, under certain circumstances, be legally assaulted.

To have a section (S43) of our criminal code which accepts, and in some cases, encourages physical punishment of children is appalling.

It is a question human (children’s) rights and when the simple act of Repeal can protect children from this violence and its unintended risks it should be done.

-Kathy Lynn

 

When Do Children Understand “Consequences?”

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Why is it so difficult to teach children that actions have consequences?  The question might be, “Why do children not choose the best course of action?”

It is difficult because of caregiver/parent’s unrealistic expectations of children’s brain development. Honestly, I think every parent should take an online course about brain biology when they have a child! Brain growth occurs at different ages, and when parents understand the appropriate ages, they will learn when it is best to expect that children can base decisions on understanding consequences. Most parents give children “consequences” as a punishment much too young an age, when they can’t yet understand them.

The prefrontal cortex is the last section of the brain to fully develop and is responsible for behaviour control and critical thinking. Before age 6, children are pre-operational in their thinking, which means they do not have the ability to think out plans and imagine consequences of those decisions. They do not have all the information in order to make the right decision. When they reach school-aged, from ages 6–13, they get better at understanding consequences and can make decisions. However, they do not have abstract thinking skills yet. School-aged children are still operational in their thinking which means they understand what is tangible and what is in their immediate environment – things they can readily see, hear, touch, smell and taste. They can’t think conceptually until the teen years, so they don’t understand the “gray” areas of decisions, or theory or ideology. Consequences demand that the chooser understands all aspects of the decision in order to make an informed choice.

Children are able to begin understanding consequences around age 6 and are much better at it around age 13. Parents and caregivers need to adjust their expectations accordingly. And consequences should never be given to punish children for their decisions. They need an adult/caregivers help to problem solve a solution instead of “pay” for their behaviour with a “consequence.”

 

Consequences or Problem-Solving?

In parenting classes, I often get asked the following question:

When I give my 11 year-old daughter a consequence, she insists that I am being mean to her. I believe that it is respectful discipline. What is the difference between consequences and a punishment?

Brain development stage: Between the ages of 5 and 12, most children figure out that they are not choosing the consequence, and it is the parents imposing the order on them in the name of discipline. If the child doesn’t see the point, she may experience it as a punishment.

Here are the differences:

  • Consequences are parent imposed. The conflict is now between the parent and child. Problem-solving is the parent and child working together to come up with a solution to fix the problem. The conflict is now between the parent-child team against the problem (even if the child caused it.)
  • Problem-solving is a more real-world skill. It teaches kids how to fix things, make restitution, repair relationships and make things right.
  • Consequences are focused on the child, where problem-solving is focused on the end result; a common goal.
  • Consequences tend to be one solution. Problem-solving can be many solutions that would take care of the problem. The goal is repair, whereas the goal of consequences is to teach the child a lesson, which is punitive.
  • Consequences are almost always designed to hurt a child – either financially (pay for a broken item), socially (grounding or taking away cell phone), emotionally (time-out) or physically (hard physical labor). Problem-solving is designed to be pain-neutral. The goal is not to hurt the child, but help the situation. The goal is to fix the problem. Sometimes that is financial or physical, but the payoff is that the child feels good that they are now owning the solution and not just the problem. Children are very fair and more likely to dive into helping fix the problem when they know they caused it, because the focus is no longer on what they did, but what they can do to make it right. When they can put effort into fixing the problem, they feel better about themselves, learn real-world solutions and will make better decisions in the future.

Parents argue, “Yes, but it works!  Consequences change my child behaviour!” That may be correct, but the price is impaired communication.  Parents wonder why they don’t enjoy the open, caring, free communication that they once had with their child. They wonder why they are receiving attitude and silence. Pushback of imposed consequences comes in many forms. Ditch the consequences and use the adult method of problem-solving.

 

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Consequences Versus Problem-solving

Is It A Discipline Issue or Development Issue? Part 2 Problem-solving with Young Children

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Part 2 – Problem-solving with young children

In the last issue, we talked about toddler behaviour and the importance of child-proofing and distraction. For older children’s behaviour, problem-solving is now the first go-to discipline tool. But don’t forget, problem-solving still works for toddlers and preschoolers. Problem-solving is effective for maintaining open communication, and understanding development as well as formulating creative solutions for solving everyday problems of living together as a family. Mostly, problem-solving with young children is comprised of the parent doing most of the “solving” but when children reach ages 3-4, they can help brainstorm ideas too!

Punishment is “me against you.” Problem-solving is “you and me working together against the problem.” Problem-solving teaches creativity, empathy, communication and accountability.

 EXAMPLE PROBLEM-SOLVING

Your child is about to run into the road.

  • Grab and carry the child to safety.
  • Keep enclosed in the yard or house.
  • Discuss car safety and road safety rules.
  • Supervise constantly around vehicles and roads.

 Development Tip: Children do not develop the visual acuity to judge distance and timing of vehicles on a road until aged 9. Children younger than age 9 cannot be trusted to control the impulse to run into a road to retrieve an item of interest.

 Your child is about to touch a hot stove.

  • Remove the child from the stove.
  • Supervise closely in the kitchen and keep the child occupied.
  • Explain in simple words that stoves are dangerous.

 Development Tip: Children must be supervised around cooking appliances until age 12, when they can comprehend the cause and effect of safety rules.

  1. Your child runs away in the supermarket.
  • This could be a fun game for the child, but not for you. Corner and grasp the child, explain that this is not a game, and that you will not play chase in a store. If necessary, head home.
  • Distract with a toy or snack.
  • A shopping cart is harder to escape from than a stroller.
  • Re-think grocery shopping. Could someone mind your child while you shop?       Could you shop at night while your partner is home?

Development Tip: This is a temporary phase. Your child will stop running away from you by about age 5.

  1. Your child is in a whining stage.
  • Ignore the whining.
  • Request their “normal” voice.
  • Model the “normal voice.”
  • Give the desired item instantly when the normal voice is used.
  • When in a peaceful moment, ask for “inside, outside, whining, church, and
  • normal” voices so they can tell the difference in voice tone, pitch, and variety.
  • Pat your head and pretend you can’t “receive” when the tone is whiny. Pretend that the reception improves when the request is less whiny.

Developmental Tip: Most children stop whining around age 8.

  1. Your child draws on the wall.
  • Provide paper, and explain that drawings happen on paper, not walls.
  • Get two cloths and a bucket of soapy water.       Wash the wall together.
  • Collect pens and crayons until you have time to supervise drawing.

Development Tip: Childproofing is necessary until about age 4 when children understand the “why” reason behind the behaviour they are not allowed to do.

  1. It’s time to go, and your child is unwilling to leave.
  • Catch and carry them out.
  • Acknowledge feelings of unhappiness. Say “Are you sad to leave because you are having fun?”

Developmental Tip: Children learn to accept leaving a place of fun by around age 7.

  1. Two children are fighting over a toy.
  • Offer a substitute.
  • Redirect to snacks.
  • Encourage sharing, or taking turns, or flipping a coin, or picking names from a jar, or playing Rock, Paper, Scissors.       Warn that there will be a winner and a loser, and confirm that they understand and accept that.
  • Offer the first player a shorter time, and the second player a longer time.
  • Hold the toy until an agreement is worked out that both children are okay with.

Developmental Tip: Siblings will have conflicts over many issues. Teach siblings to resolve conflicts respectfully, to help them to resolve conflicts in their future family and employment relationships.

  1. Your child throws food onto the floor.
  • Say “NO! We don’t throw!”
  • Stay calm. Breathe deeply.
  • Calmly, get a bucket of soapy water and cloth, and clean up the mess together.
  • If your child is too upset to clean up the mess, postpone the cleanup until the child has calmed down.

Developmental Tip: Children are better able to manage their frustration around age 4.

  1. Your toddler has toilet accidents.
  • Keep up encouragement. Praise any tiny success.
  • Show the child how to help you clean it up.
  • Don’t punish.

Development Tip: Toilet training involves lots of misses. Most children train by age 4.

  1. Your child denies eating cookies – but his lips are smeared with crumbs.
  • Don’t ask, “Did you eat the cookies?”       Ask, “I see that some cookies are missing. Do you know what happened?” In the event of denial, say “I don’t like it when people don’t tell the truth. It breaks my trust.”
  • Reward your child for the truth.
  • Promise that you will never punish if your child tells the truth.

Developmental Tip: Denial at the toddler age is not serious, since toddlers are in the developmental stage of “wishful” and “magical” thinking. Most children understand the abstract concept of lying by the age of 6.

  1. Your toddler rips pages from a valued book.
  • Substitute a magazine that you don’t value.       Get the child’s attention on the substitute and then gently pry away the valued book.
  • Childproof – don’t leave books lying around.
  • Work with your toddler to repair the book together.

Developmental Tip: Children are more respectful to items around age 4.

  1. Your toddler hits, pushes or bites a sibling or another child.
  • Provide attention, cuddles and comfort to the other child.
  • When the other child has calmed, say to the toddler: “No! We don’t hit people!”
  • When the toddler has calmed, take the toddler to the child, and demonstrate how to make up – give a kiss, hug, say “Sorry”, or offer a toy.
  • Acknowledge toddler’s feelings and say “You seem to be angry. We love you both, and you will always be with us.”
  • Give the toddler a teething ring and say, “We don’t bite our friends. Here, bite this.”
  • Give the toddler extra attention every day, though not right after the “hit”. Take her out on “dates” and lavish special attention on her so she can acquire attention in positive ways.
  • Notice and praise when you see the toddler doing something nice for the other child.
  • Don’t leave siblings together unsupervised until the youngest child is 6.

Developmental Tip: Biting, pushing and hitting are typical impulses up to about age 4. As children grow up, they become less inclined to use violence upon each other. By age 7, hitting becomes rare, and by age 12 should end, as verbal skills improve.

  1. Your toddler runs away when you try to change diapers.
  • Catch and scoop up your child.
  • Provide an entrancing toy.
  • Don’t waste time – be fast!
  • Change with a movie.
  • Talk, sing, tickle and make diaper-changing a fun time.
  • Keep a box of interesting toys by the change station, to keep his hands busy.

Developmental Tip: Some toddlers are patient, and some are not. Children become more cooperative around age 4.

 Your child smashes another child’s sand castle.

  • Say “No! We don’t break other people’s things!”
  • Ask your child to apologize to the other child. If your child refuses, say to the other child or parent: “I’m very sorry, but my child doesn’t have the words right now to say sorry”. Model an apology that you give to the parent.
  • Take your toddler away to calm down.
  • When your toddler is calm, offer to re-build the castle together. Encourage an apology, but don’t force it.

Developmental Tip: Children handle anger more effectively around age 4, especially if encouraged with positive alternatives for expressing frustration and anger.

  1. Your preschooler ignores your requests to pick up toys.
  • Make pick-up a game in which you both participate.
  • Assign one task instead of the entire clean-up: “You collect the blocks, and I’ll collect the crayons.”

Developmental Tip: Until about age 12, most children require some direction, instruction, encouragement and help for most tasks.

  1. You are trying to work, and your toddler pesters you to play.
  • Play with your toddler for 15 minutes of your full attention.
  • Interest the toddler in a toy, movie or activity, and get back to work.
  • Join or build a network of parents of similar-aged children. Arrange play-dates.
  • Rotate and pack away toys. Bring out a “new” toy box for each day.
  • Postpone your work until naptime.

Developmental Tip: By age 3, children can play well with other children on play-dates, which can free up your time.

  1. Your toddler says “NO!” to your requests.
  • Offer choices between two or three acceptable options.
  • Reduce your use of the word “No”. Alternatives include “later”, “not now, but you can have…”, “Let me think about it”.
  • Acknowledge feelings. “You seem angry and don’t want to try this?”
  • Don’t expect a child under age 3e to share possessions.
  • Childproof your surroundings for safe exploration and discovery.

Development Tip: The “no” stage lasts from about age 1.5 to 4 years. This is a normal developmental stage for healthy children. Children naturally become more cooperative during the preschool stage.

  1. Your toddler is upset that you are leaving.
  • Acknowledge feelings: “You are sad that Mommy is leaving?”
  • Leave a special item for your child to take care of while you are away.
  • Develop a leaving routine: a special hug, wave.
  • Kiss goodbye, and leave your child in the arms of the caregiver. Don’t sneak out! If you sneak out, your child will feel insecure, and will become clingy.
  • See if your caregiver can come to your house.
  • Try to establish a routine: the same time, same place, same caregiver.
  • Choose childcare arrangements with consistent caregivers, for development of attachment (and don’t worry, you will never be replaced!).

 Developmental Tip: Separation anxiety begins around age 1, peaks at age 2 and fades by age 4.

  1. Your toddler won’t try new foods
  • Provide healthy foods from the four groups.       Offer three meals and three snacks per day, about two hours apart. Leave the food out for twenty minutes and then clean up.       Do not punish for not eating.
  • Offer water \between meals and snacks. Serve milk at meals.
  • Allow toddlers to explore food with their fingers. If your toddler starts throwing food, meal time is over.
  • Food jags are normal, in which the child eats only peanut butter and jam sandwiches for three weeks. That’s okay. As long as it’s a healthy food, don’t worry about nutritional intake.
  • It takes 15 tries to accept a new food. Have a one-bite routine. If the child spits it out, don’t worry, and don’t make it a power struggle. Children have sensitive taste buds, and their preferences will change as they develop.
  1. Your toddler won’t stay in bed.
  • Develop a routine – snack, bath, pyjamas, teeth, book, prayers, bedtime snuggle.
  • If your child keeps getting up, consider two “bedtime excuse” tickets. Two tickets can be used for requests such as a drink, extra kiss, a cuddly toy.
  • Each time, lead the toddler back to bed without talking, and close the door.
  • Spend extra time to talk, read, cuddle and listen as part of the bedtime routine.
  • When you find a routine that works, keep it up.

Developmental Tip: Most children under age 12 try to put off bedtime, because they don’t want to separate from their parents, or to end their day. Parents find that a regular bedtime routine develops cooperation. Some families choose co-sleeping – however the safety of children under the age of one might be a concern.

 

For more ideas on non-punitive discipline for all stages of childhood, check-out Discipline Without Distress.

Purchase Discipline Without Distress on Amazon

For more information on Judy Arnall’s suggestions for effective discipline, click Webinars at http://www.professionalparenting.ca to register.

Next Free Webinar on Discipline is Thursday January 21, 2016   8 pm Register Here for the Discipline Webinar

 

Is It a Discipline Issue or a Development Issue? Part 1 Young Children

Most toddler behaviour is perfectly normal and just a stage
Most toddler behaviour is perfectly normal and just a stage

Is It a Discipline Issue or a Development Issue?

Part 1 Young Children

Effective discipline of young children requires knowledge about the development of children. Normal toddler behaviour is often viewed as “misbehaviour” by parents who do not understand the physical, cognitive, social and emotional capabilities and limitations of toddlers. Research shows that children under age five comply (“listen”) to parent requests about 40% of the time.  This is normal child behaviour for that age, and does not require “teaching”, “discipline” or “punishment”.  This normal behavior will change as the child matures.

Children will develop self-control naturally with age. Until then, parents can child-proof the local environment to make it safer and enjoyable, and can redirect the child.  Children need adult help to calm down, as they have yet to learn self-soothing, which is a learned skill that comes with age and practice.

Toddlers have poor understanding of rules until they reach about age three. Even the word “no” is counterproductive, in that directing the child NOT to do something tends to inspire the child to actually do it!

Toddlers also have poor impulse control. This is a factor of executive function. Even though they understand the rule, they don’t have the self-control to hold back until about age five. They are going through a necessary developmental stage to explore their surroundings with all their senses, and want to taste, touch, and smell everything. Toddlers may seem to be ignoring or deliberately disobeying you, but in reality they are just doing their normal job of exploring, which stimulates development of their brains.

In summary, normal characteristics include:

Toddlers do not possess abstract thinking skills.

    • Rules are abstract, and a “don’t” rule is a double abstract which draws a toddler’s attention to the very action that you are attempting to forbid.
  • Toddlers are in the here-and-now.
    • Memories of rules known yesterday have been displaced.
  • Toddlers cannot multitask.
    • They can only hold a few thoughts in their heads at once.
  • Toddlers are driven to explore.
    • Everything in their being says “touch, taste, smell, look, hear!”
  • Toddlers have almost no impulse control.
    • Their immature brains do not allow them to restrain themselves.
  • Toddlers do not understand cause and effect.
    • They can’t relate their action to Mom’s anger. Reflection skills do not develop until age seven.

The best discipline tool for young children is understanding development and redirecting their behaviour. Child-proofing helps too because when a desired item is out of sight for a young child, it is also out of mind.

 TEMPER TANTRUMS

Temper tantrums occur when your child is overwhelmed and over-stimulated. The child feels frustrated and angry, and expresses those feelings through body language instead of words. Tantrums are part of normal behavior for a child between age 10 months to age 4 years, decreasing in frequency with age.

Prevent tantrums: Provide rest, sleep, food or stimulation as needed. Don’t go shopping with a tired, cranky, hungry child. Watch for and prevent triggers. Change the activity.  If your child is getting tired, hungry, or cranky, offer a juice-box (to raise blood sugar) and a protein snack. Try cuddling on your lap with a good book – a great way to calm down, gain literacy skills and enjoy some connecting quiet time together. Try to meet needs as soon as possible. Sometimes, boredom can’t be alleviated. Get creative and invent ways for children to pass the time.

Handle the tantrum:  It often helps to just ignore the tantrum, and carry on with your activity as if nothing is happening. If you have denied the child some item, this not the time to hand it over! Other methods are to just hold the child, and move to a safe, quiet place. Encourage feelings and expression of feelings. Say: “You’re angry. I’ll stay with you while you calm down. It’s okay to be angry. I know you are feeling frustrated.” Use a gentle but firm voice. Encourage deep breaths.

After the tantrum:  Label your child’s emotions and provide words to develop a vocabulary of feelings. Ask: “Were you angry when you couldn’t have that cookie? How can we express our anger?  Here is something to do.” The toddler usually understands the intent of the question and feels understood, and will later learn to use the words of feelings instead of the body language of a tantrum.

 In any situation that involves discipline of a child, remember three steps:

 Step 1.  Calm yourself – Take deep breaths, drop everything, dress your child, take the stroller and go for a walk, or put on a video, to distract you or your child;

Step 2. Calm the child – Redirect to another activity, or sit and breathe deeply together, or hold the child;

Step 3. Solve the problem: childproof, redirect, substitute, distract, comfort, talk, prevent, and model.

You will make much better parenting decisions when you and your children are calm.

Next week: Stay tuned for Part 2 – Problem Solving

Most toddler behaviour is perfectly normal and just a stage
Most toddler behaviour is perfectly normal and just a stage

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Are consequences a discipline tool or a form of punishment?

CONSEQUENCES AS A DISCIPLINE TOOL

By Judy Arnall

Consequences are the natural outcome from our behaviours.  Every action that we humans do has a consequence. For our children, consequences are a powerful learning tool that tells them if their decision was a responsible one or a careless one. Experiencing the consequence from their action helps them to modify their future behaviour to enjoy better outcomes. Natural consequences are those outcomes that happen without the intervention of parents. Sometimes, letting children experience the natural consequence is too dangerous, such as letting a two-year-old experience the traffic in the street, because traffic may hit them. Logical consequences are arranged by the parents to teach a child the probable outcome of their behaviour and how to solve the ensuing problem. For example, a two-year-old is confined to the back yard because he runs out on the road when he’s in the front yard. This solves the safety problem for the parent and the child.

 

There are several guidelines when using consequences as a respectful and effective discipline tool.

 

Consequences must be related to the behaviour.  For example, a messy room might mean that the floor is too cluttered for Mom to put away the child’s laundry so the child must do it himself. An unrelated consequence would be Nintendo confiscated for a week until the room is cleaned up.

 

Consequences must be reasonable. If a parenting makes the child pay 10 times the cost of an item that he has broken, it could be seen as unfair by the child. Realistically, the child should only pay for the replacement cost. Often, we issue consequences in anger and they are often unreasonable. To ensure that consequences stay reasonable, calm down first, and then ask yourself if the consequence is something that you would expect from a spouse or friend.  If it is, then it probably is reasonable. If a friend breaks your item, an apology and a replacement is something that you would expect. Teach your child the same solution.

 

Consequences must be realistic and you must be comfortable doing it.  Mom telling the child that the play date will end if the child acts up one more time, may not be enforceable, if Mom is enjoying chatting with the other mom on the play date, and unwilling to cut the time short.

 

Consequences must be consistent. Leaving the store in the middle of grocery shopping because of bad behaviour is very inconvenient, but if done consistently, the child soon learns that if they act up, the shopping trip is over.

 

Consequences must not be used as a punishment. How to tell? If you threaten a certain outcome to get compliance, then the consequence is probably being used as a punishment, which could invite a power struggle, resentment, rebellion, shutdown of communication, etc.  The consequence of parents imposing a consequence on children is that children decide to stop talking to parents. Children know that the consequence arises from the parents imposing it, not from the fact that they may have “chose” the outcome.  For this reason, avoid threats.  Just impose the consequence matter-of-factly. If you get push back from the child, then go to problem-solving to remedy the situation. The best consequences focus on teaching restitution, solving problems and making amends. If a child spills a drink because she was careless pouring, she wipes up the mess. A child who hits another child needs to be separated, calmed down, and told the rule. The restitution part might be to offer the other child a toy, hug or an apology after the emotions have been dealt with.

 

Consequences won’t work when the underlying feeling/need of the child is not addressed.   In those cases, a consequence is the wrong discipline tool to choose. For example, a child who consistently refuses to wear a bike helmet even after having the bike locked away several times may have a good reason for not wearing it. Perhaps he is being teased because it looks babyish. Locking away a child’s bike for a week for not wearing his helmet might be too severe and the child could perceive it as unfair. A sit down problem solving talk to find out why the child is not wearing his helmet, can help to get buy-in from him to find a solution to the problem. He must wear a helmet, but there are many alternatives available when child and parent get together to brainstorm. Does he find the helmet too nerdy? Does he wish to pay half on a new one? Can he borrow his siblings? Can he buy a cool second hand one?  Either solution will mean that the bike still doesn’t get used without a helmet, but brainstorming provides other options.

 

Listening and mutual parent-child problem-solving are better tools used to uncover and address the underlying need. When used properly, consequences teach children appropriate behaviour in a positive way and should be in every parent’s discipline toolbox.

 

Judy Arnall, BA, DTM, CCFE is a professional international award-winning Parenting and Teacher Conference Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling book, Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the new DVD, Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the digital generation for health, safety and love as well as the new book, The Last Word on Parenting Advice http://www.professionalparenting.ca, jarnall@shaw.ca, 403-714-6766