At some point, every parent will encounter their little ones reaching the age where they can become quite challenging, usually when they are learning to explore, when they engage in everything they shouldn’t and they begin to test the limits. All of this is absolutely normal and fundamental to a child’s development, their cognition and learning, their emotions and their physical and sensory development. The thing is, during these magical curiosities parents often find themselves in a constant repetition of using the word ‘no.’ Obviously, it is important to teach little ones right and wrong and especially where there could be danger, however, overusing ‘no’ eventually will result in little or no effect.
Firstly, an understanding of what is going on developmentally for little ones can have a huge impact in how we handle situations. For toddlers the world around them is exciting, it provides opportunities and it encourages little minds to run wild! This can be quite challenging also, the prefrontal cortex in toddlers is underdeveloped. This part of the brain is responsible for critical thinking, impulse responses, cause and effect and critical thinking. This means that they are naturally driven to impulsively explore and find it difficult to understand when they are repeatedly told ‘no,’ often resulting in tantrums or extreme defiance (as we would receive it.) For a little one the thrill of opening that cupboard, climbing those stairs or even repeatedly throwing food on the floor is just too much fun. They want to see what happens, they want to know how you react and they want to do it over and over because they love practising new skills!
We can help little ones to learn by allowing them to still do some of these things but differently and the way we explain this to them is very important too. For instance, set limits for behaviour but allow for their developmental curiosity and avoid punishment.
A couple of examples;
Your toddler thinks it is great to throw food at meal times or tossing the plate over take the distraction away by offering them something they can throw on the floor; a ball and show them how it bounces and encourage them to do it. Explain ‘we don’t throw our food but we can throw the ball, look watch it bouncing!’ By guiding their attention they will still be able to practise this but they are learning the food goes if thy throw it. If you consistently show them this, they will learn there is only one outcome.
Another one could be drawing on furniture or walls, introduce them to a large area to draw on, do it with them and tell them that is for drawing.
If your little one is a climber or jumper set the limits; explain it is not safe in the home to do that but take the time to go and show them where they can exercise these skills safely; toddler areas or trampoline parks.
In time, the upper part of the brain will develop and you will notice your little one learning self –control as they grown. Whenever you can, make your home a place to explore safely by setting limits and offering opportunities to carry out these investigations and encouraging their inquisitive minds!
Laura, Babbaboo Sleep.
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