As parents, or carers, adults often get caught in the embarrassing traps of their child’s antisocial behaviour. By this we are talking about biting, bullying, hitting, yelling, fighting, and those sorts of incidents!
So why do toddlers do these things? They could be frustrated at their lack of communication skills, perhaps feeling as if they’re not understood. They may also be learning these things from other children; my mother removed me from pre-school when I was four years old because I came home dropping the f-bomb after learning it from another child that day – I had no idea that it was wrong, in my mind it was just another new word. Behaviours such as these can be habit forming, and as adults we can help combat those habits by understanding the reasons that these events happen in the first place. If combatted early on, it can hopefully prevent future antisocial behaviour from occurring.
Here are a few ideas as to what may trigger embarrassing or antisocial behaviour, and also what parents/carers can do to try to help their child:
Scenario 1: Frustration from Lack of Communication
This is by far one of the most common reasons for children up to about 18 months old. When learning to interact with another person, the child can get frustrated, lashing out when they don’t happen to get their own way.
So what can we do? First and foremost, we go about correcting the behaviour, we can also teach the child/person to say “no” and “stop” which would give you time to intervene before the situation can get worse. Saying “no” and “stop” can empower the child and reduce their frustration, additionally teaching them hand gestures for these words with also increase their communication skills. Improvement can usually be seen in conjunction with the development of better communication skills. Reading to, and speaking to the child more may expedite communication skills.
Scenario 2: Teething / Growth Spurts / Illness
Even as adults, we know that when we aren’t feeling well, we can be extra snappy with those around us. Pain thresholds are different for everyone, and the level of pain or discomfort being experienced cannot be underestimated. Growth and hormonal changes can vastly effect children’s moods, regrettably lashing out physically can be a by-product of this,
What can be done? If referring to teething pain, and with appropriate medical advice, there are various medicinal solutions which can be tried for your child. You may also want to try a chilled teether to chew on which can numb the pain and hasten the tooth cutting process. In terms of growth spurts, physical activities which tire them out, along with sufficient amounts of sleep can help regulate mood swings. Finally, as with adults, if your child is unwell, allow them to rest and keep them away from other children.
Scenario 3: Copy Cats
Child see; child do! Sometimes a child may witness rough behaviour in others and think that it is acceptable to behave in the same way (or use bad language as in my earlier example with my poor mum). This kind of behaviour can be learnt anywhere, even through movies or TV shows. If a child has been observing someone be rude to a teacher, or perhaps another child for example, they may think it is perfectly appropriate to mimic that same behaviour themselves.
What can be done? Saying “be a good role model” probably isn’t the best advice, as stated this kind of copying behaviour can be learnt from anyone and from anywhere. Instead it could be suggested that if your child is replicating bad behaviour they have witnessed, address the issue promptly. Don’t brush the incident aside, explain to them why what they have said, or how they have behaved, is wrong.
By addressing these issues promptly, it helps your child understand that the situation could have been dealt with in a better way, and hopefully weeding out negative behaviour. It may take a few tries for them to understand why their actions are wrong, but perseverance is key.