Taming your Tricky Toddler

33 - Copy

  1. You are in the middle of composing an email on a tricky subject to a difficult family member. Your toddler bounces up to you with cries of ‘Mommy, mommy!’ What is your most likely reaction?
    1. Cry out: “Will you let me do ANY work?”
    2. Ignore and keep typing.
    3. Sigh loudly, clench your fists, stop typing and say: “Yes?”
    4. Sigh inwardly, stop typing and attend to the toddler.
    5. Toddler is unlikely to come as you made sure he or she was fast asleep before you tackled this particular email.
  1. You are preparing some snacks for guests who dropped by unexpectedly. Your toddler clings to your legs, demanding attention. What would be your strategy to deal with this?
    1. Tell him or her to get out of the kitchen and bug the guests instead.
    2. Ignore him or her completely.
    3. Say irritably: “Wait till uncle and aunty leave, and I will deal with you”
    4. Give him or her some pots, pans and spoons and allow him or her to play with them.
    5. If guests come unexpectedly, you never bother to prepare fresh snacks; you are likely to serve them something that doen’t need much effort.
  1. Your toddler just threw an object at the maid. How would you react?
    1. Stand on his or her head until he or she apologizes to the maid.
    2. Tell the maid to ignore it completely; if she reacts, he/she will do it more.
    3. Pick up the object and apologize to the maid (when the toddler is out of sight).
    4. Give your toddler a time-out, and then talk to him gently but seriously about how it hurts when we throw things at others and that we can try not doing it again.
    5. Your toddler would never throw anything at anyone because he/she is taught that one only throws balls.

Score Yourself

  1. 1 b. 2 c. 3 d. 4 e. 5
  2. 3 b. 2 c. 1 d. 4 e. 5
  3. 5 b. 2 c. 1 d. 4 e. 3

Your Report

13-15: Excellent. You definitely realize that your schedule needs to follow the toddler. It is also good to note you do not make allowances for others which disturb your toddler. That said, do realize that unexpected and unplanned events happen, and one must be prepared to deal with them.

9-12: Fairly good. At times, you are able to distract your toddler from negative behaviour, but do remember to use time-outs sparingly and at the end, have a chat with the child about acceptable and non-desirable behaviour.

8-5: Good. You mostly employ a strategy to ignore your toddler’s negative behaviour. At times, it is the best technique. However, you need to know when you need to step in and be firm.

4 and below: Oh dear! You seem to be caught up in reactive parenting. Categorize your child’s behaviour into “I can ignore it” and “I can distract him/her”. These two strategies work wonders. Remember toddlers repeat their parents’ oft-used sentences when they start speaking – be positive and inculcate positivity.

Feed Them with Apples, not Apps

“He is too young for that.” This is a common expression that mothers have heard from their elders or other mothers under the banner of free advice. However, I have experienced it to be entirely wrong. We often ignore our toddlers and/ or underestimate their capabilities that Allah (swt) has blessed them with.

It is supported by researches that fetus starts listening and recognizing the voice of his mother while in her womb. This indicates his ability to comprehend and adapt to other clues, when he is just a toddler. Being a mother, I have made some achievements to connect with my son emotionally and most importantly – to connect him to Deen.

Listening skills are finer than speaking at early years. So make use of it by talking to your toddler about things. Describe him the procedure that you will do to make a simple shake or whatever, tell him about the existence of Allah (swt) and angels, who record deeds. Explain him appropriate behaviours and show him emotions by modeling yourself.

Instead of making your child addicted to television and other gadgets, encourage him to listen to Quran’s recitation. A wide range of Islamic Nasheeds are also available online. You can check Kids Land by Dr. Farhat Hashmi – it has Urdu, English, and Arabic Nasheeds that toddlers love to listen. Memorize them yourself and sing with your babies. They will love your actions and voice, and this way you will limit use of computers and television from an early age.

I was astonished to know how quickly these little toddlers pick up visual information. Buy them colorful Islamic books, read them out aloud to them and ask them questions related to the context. Repetition and consistency are the two keys to success. Masha’Allah, my son learned to perform ablution, when he was one plus by just looking at me, while I was making ablution, and with the aid of pictures. I involve him in craft work by making thematic artwork for Hajj or Ramadan and posters on Salah and other pillars of Islam.

pic1

 

pic2

Narrate to them stories at bed time – stories, which talk about good behaviour, Jannah, animals, and prophets. What is worth doing is your involvement in it: the way you narrate, your gestures, actions and tone will make it a fun learning. You have no idea how much impact it can have on his beliefs in later years.

Always offer them choice by giving two or three options. By this you will catch them psychologically, and they will have no way of saying ‘no’ but to accept from the choices given. For instance, ask them which color milk you want? Red (add few drops of red color juice) or chocolate? They will be tied up to the options and will choose one, Insha’Allah.

Make their eatables attractive. Spend some time and effort in preparing healthy foods; and do not leave them on mercy of junk food from an early age. You can make oat muffins instead of normal all-purpose flour; or can bake cookies of various shapes by using alphabet cutters, etc.

I am not in favour of parents who helicopter their kids day and night, but a cold and unresponsive mother will deprive her child from strong psychological and emotional development. The more stimuli you provide in early years, the stronger will be the cognition and response later on. Make wise choices and select good exposure, while your children are small, as it will facilitate their development into better Muslims.

[Part 2] Parenting by the Horns

bull_by_the_horns_9518Based on an Islamic Online University Webinar

When children crib and cry we can tackle them in the following steps:

Step 1: Conflict

Every tantrum starts with a conflict. The moment the conflict appears in front of you, how you deal with the conflict shows what kind of connection you have and the result that you will get.

In life we get a lot of conflicts. How do you deal with those conflicts? Do you panic when a conflict comes? Or are you more relaxed when a conflict comes? In psychology, we call it either you ‘flight or fight’. Hopefully with children we don’t have to do either of the two. We have to reason between the two; we’ll not fight and not run away from them; rather, we’ll face the conflict.

One of the most important rules in parenting is that children do not hear, they see. You can tell a child hundred times do not do this, do not speak on the mobile late, and do not chat late but if they see you calling someone late at night, they see you doing the same thing; hence, they will not obey you.

One of the most important rules in parenting is that children do not hear, they see.

Once there was a huge earthquake in Japan and as the earthquake spread people started starving. Grocery stores closed down and there was a shortage of food. There was one juice dispenser company with different kind of juices. It was dispensing one juice at a time. There was a big queue at that juice company headquarters for everybody to take a juice. There was an American manager in this Japanese firm and he also was in the juice queue. Every Japanese could have taken more than once juice on their turn but they took one juice and went back to end of line to take another one, just so that everyone gets an equal opportunity. This manager was tired and hungry. When his turn came, he got four juices immediately and he went home. Nobody said a word to the manager. A few days later, word spread that the manager was not a man of integrity. He could not lead a team, because the people did not accept a leader like him.

Are we the kind of leaders as that manager was? Or are we like the people who are waiting in the queue to show our children? It is not talk the talk, it is walk the talk.

Conflict usually happens when we say something but we do not implement it. This is one lesson that Luqman Hakeem gave to his son: “And do not turn your cheek (in contempt) toward people and do not walk through the earth exultantly. Indeed, Allah (swt) does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful.” (Luqman 31:18) He is admonishing his son; do not turn away from people and do not walk in arrogance. How you walk shows what kind of a person you are.

Where are our manners? Abdullah ibn Mubarak said twelve hundred years back that today the Ummah needs more Akhlaq than Ilm. What would he have said if he was alive today?

Where are our manners? Abdullah ibn Mubarak said twelve hundred years back that today the Ummah needs more Akhlaq than Ilm. What would he have said if he was alive today? It is our Akhlaq that the children are watching. It’s the way you are driving, not the lessons that you give while you are driving. While I was living in Dubai, a Sheikh once said that Islam will spread faster if we drive a little nicer. Children are noticing the way you flash lights and honk people from behind. Don’t ever think that they are not noticing.

Are you a Tiger Mom?

A tiger mom is someone who is very clear or strict with the child’s upbringing. She wants him to succeed all the time. She wants him to always achieve first position. She wants him to take part in the painting competition, the debate competition, become a Hafidh of Quran – in short, she wants him to be the best at everything. She expects everything from one child – which is why we say please have more children! If you have any of the traits of a tiger mom, please reflect your position. Our children are not trophies. “Oh you know my child knows Surah Fajr or Surah Naba.” Please don’t treat your child like a trophy in front of others; just let them be what they are. This method is not bad all the time, but we don’t want them to be performing monkeys.

The opposite of a tiger mom is a helicopter parent, who is always hovering over a child. You choose their clothes, you choose their toys etc. A tiger mom lets the child take responsibility. We do not want to become roaring, growling tiger moms and make our home an emotional jail, as a child would put it. There needs to be a balance between the two.

There is a great parenting tip in how Muhammad (sa) dealt with young Sahabah. He was not their father but far greater than a father. When the treaty of Hudaibiyah was about to be signed with Suhail bin Amr, Abu Jandal (rta) came running in chains. He escaped from Makkah somehow, from the jail and torture and came running to the best refuge. Now this was the greatest test that a leader can have.

Abu Jandal’s hands were tied. He was still crying, “Please save me. Will you leave me alone?”

Suhail (also the father of Abu Jandal) said: “He is the first example we’ll take and I’ll take him back with me.”

The Prophet (sa) said: “But the treaty has not been signed yet.”

Suhail refused saying: “We’ve agreed to the terms.”

All the Sahabah were looking at him. The Prophet (sa) told him we’ve now negotiated and you’ll have to go back.

Such a difficult decision it was! This is walk the talk. It had a lesson not only for Abu Jandal or the Sahabah but even for the Mushrikeen. Do you not believe in a man who’s keeping his word even for a companion? Did Abu Jandal’s Iman increase or decrease? It only increased. If your children see that their father stands up for principles, they’ll only love you more.

Step 2: Connection

Now that you’ve resolved the conflict, how do you go back and make a connection with your child? In the next verse, after the arrogant part, Luqman Hakeem tells how to make a connection. “And be moderate in your pace and lower your voice; indeed, the most disagreeable of sounds is the voice of donkeys.” (Luqman 31:19)

Please don’t treat your child like a trophy in front of others; just let them be what they are. This method is not bad all the time, but we don’t want them to be performing monkeys.

Please follow the middle path and whenever you see a conflict happening; do not be arrogant. Let’s become a parent of the middle path. The child cannot go out and buy everyday everything that he wants; yet it’s not that none of his demands are fulfilled.

Luqman did not say that your voice is like a donkey. He is not pointing to the child directly. When you shout, children get scared. For example, we say, “You are lazy.” That’s a big thing to say. Instead make Dua that your child is protected from it. Who gave you the right to say so? Our language is not like that of Luqman. He truly was Hakeem.

Dolphin Dad

Fathers need to spend time with their children. A Dolphin dad is a father who is helpful; he is a father who is playful and wants to raise happy children. These are the fathers we are looking for.

Fathers are directly involved in character building. They should use the correct language. The first words that Luqman Hakeem used were “Ya Bunayya: O my Son!” Address them in the best manner.

When you tell your children how beautiful their names are, they feel good.  We give them such good names but do we ever tell them what their names mean?

Do not raise your voice. Do not compare your child to a stupid donkey, etc. Become a dolphin dad and not a complaining dad.

At the end of the day, our mission as parents is as follows:

“O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell)…” (At-Tahrim 66:6)

Parenting by the Horns

bull_by_the_horns_9518Based on an Islamic Online University Webinar

Today we’ll be discussing some of the challenges that we face as fathers and mothers. What does parenting mean to us? How much time do we give to our children? How much time do our children expect from us? Where do we have all that joy in parenting? What we are going to share today is all based on experience and whatever we’ve read and heard.

The first Naseeha that I would like to share with you is what Allah (swt) says in Surah Tahreem. This is what Allah (swt) is saying to all of us as teachers, as students of knowledge and as Daees. He says: “O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell)…” (At-Tahrim 66:6)

Our first responsibility, our first duty that we have, Allah (swt) says is you and your family, save them from the hellfire. Allah (swt) did not tell us to go ahead and save the world because that’s where we have to work on; charity begins at home, Dawah begins from home, good deeds begin from home and it is here we need to start with. We have seen in many families that the husband is a great Daee. He goes around the world talking about Islam whereas his children at home get none of his time. They just keep waiting for him. “When will my father come home? When will my mother come home? When will I get my share of their time?” If only we have to take one Naseeha, if only we have to take one advice, it is this question: “Where are we with regard to our family?” You might be a very polite, fun loving, smiling person outside, but at home people are traumatized with you; people are scared by you. Maybe you are short tempered for a very short time but those short times are very dangerous times. So remember this advice that Allah (swat) gives us. Let us take care of this particular area which is much neglected.

The S4 case study

Let’s go to this case study of a nine year old boy Mubeen and her mother Rashida. Put yourself in the mother’s role now. A lot of relatives have come to visit and like a typical little boy he knows when to get on the mother’s nerve. Mubeen starts howling and crying in front of all the relatives so he can play with the mother’s new S4.

One good advice is not to get any expensive phones. Allah (swt) will save you from this kind of trials. Insha’Allah.

Rashida is now helpless in this case. Mubeen is making havoc and the mother has no idea what to do. What will you do if you are in her place?

Not to create a scene, Rashida handed over the mobile to her son; do you agree or disagree with her?

These situations come up in every home. Actually the built up to this situation was wrong. What we know is that the nine year old is crying. Let us go one scene behind. What was going on in Mubeen’s mind when he started shouting for the s4? Somewhere along the line Mubeen did not get the attention from his mother before the relatives came home. Do you see my point? I am not saying that our children do not misbehave when guests come home; I am just trying to share a parenting technique here. Children know that to get attention we need to create a scene.

There is a rule that during Salah the chest should be facing the Qibla otherwise the Salah is invalid. Although it is a Fiqh rule, the same rule applies to child care. Whenever you talk to children you should be facing them.

There is a rule that during Salah the chest should be facing the Qibla otherwise the Salah is invalid. Although it is a Fiqh rule, the same rule applies to child care. Whenever you talk to children you should be facing them. When you face them when they are calm, they treat you as someone who is caring and concerned. When you face them when they are hyper active and making tantrums, they treat you as someone who is big and bullying them. Remember this golden rule. Do not face them when they are showing tantrums; ignore them or redirect their attention. Give them their due attention beforehand. When children misbehave in public:

  1. Ignore them.
  2. Take them aside and talk to them.
  3. Before going out tell them what you expect from them. A child does not know sometimes what misbehaviour is. Please be reasonable.

Remember that you have to treat the problem, not the child. When you go to the doctor, the doctor diagnoses the disease. Likewise, the child is good; it is not that he is problematic; it is the behaviour that is problematic. Treat the behaviour, not the child.

There was a boy once who said that I love to get lost in the supermarket. His counsellor asked: “What makes you say so? Won’t you cry?”  He said: “No, whenever I get lost, my name is heard on the loud speaker; I love the attention and when I cry, the uncle in the supermarket gives me an ice-cream or a chocolate.” End of the story. Do you realize what children want? They want your undivided attention. This is one simple rule to learn in parenting: children want undivided attention. They want to hear about themselves and they want to be the centre of attention, which actually is the same thing for the spouses, so you can’t become a great father or a mother, before becoming a great husband or a wife.

Children are not absolute little gems that listen to us all the time, that’s why we need to use technique. This is what we call parenting by the horns.

Watch out for Part 2 of this article in which we will discuss two main steps to deal with cribbing children.

Dear Savvy Parent – Jekyll and Hyde

handprintDear Savvy Parent,

I have two questions:
1. At times, it seems my son has two personalities: a well-behaved one (in front of his father) and the typical toddler behaviour (in front of me and any female relatives). Is this normal?
2. He behaves fairly well at home, but at grandparents’ and in public (when his father is not there), he constantly pushes the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. It almost seems he wants to check how far he can go before I snap… Again, is it normal for boys his age?
Thanks

 

Dear Parent,

It is very common for young children to behave differently at home from when away from parents or away from the home. Do not worry that your child has a case of the “Jekyll and Hyde” behaviour, it is normal and I’m sure many other parents can attest to this.

Unfortunately, it’s usually the worst behaviour that is saved for parents and generally it tends to be the mothers that get the brunt of it.

How does one deal with this?

First of all find a strategy to deal with your anger. Ask yourself, what is your breaking point and how can you prevent yourself from reaching it? Figure out what works for you. For example, take a few slow breaths while reciting some tasbih quietly to yourself when you start to feel yourself getting angry.

When a child insists on something or is unwilling to comply with your wishes, it can be tempting to give in, especially if it means avoiding a tantrum, but all children need boundaries, and the best thing you can do to encourage positive behaviour when your child acts up around you is to be vigilant about setting and enforcing boundaries. Do not get into a power struggle with your child. Generally, in the case of a power struggle, parents feel that their power is being tested and challenged by the child.

The more the parent tries to exert power, the easier it is for the child to win simply by saying “no” or making some excuse and then the focus becomes more about who’s in charge rather than the misbehaviour itself. I am sure many parents out there have found themselves in this exact situation. Remember whatever is going on, whatever your child is doing, losing your temper won’t help. It may feel good or like it’s working in the short term, because you have enforced your parental authority and power, but in the long run the child has learned an ineffective lesson about managing conflict. Ask yourself, “How can I best handle that situation and how can I make this work without fighting?” You’ll have a much better chance of resolving this situation effectively.

Your child is old enough and I’m sure has a pretty good handle on what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behaviour, hence the button pushing and testing of boundaries. Again, yes, it is all very normal.

Next, lay the ground rules. Remain firm and consistent; set clear and most importantly FAIR consequences for unacceptable behaviour. For example, if your child doesn’t clean up his toys, then you take those toys away (set a reasonable time limit, such as 2 days). Another example would be, if your child has a nasty attitude around family members, you will send him away to another room (for example). If he can’t be nice to others, he must be alone. Before going out or visiting grandparents, discuss what is expected from him before hand. When deciding on a consequence, avoid situations that put your child in control of others, such as: “We can all go get ice cream after you clean up your toys.” This allows your child to control all family members and does not put any real consequences in place for their behaviour. It will only exacerbate their passive aggressive behaviour.

Lastly, remember the intent of consequences. They should not be to punish your child for the sake of punishment. Consequences should be logical and a form of discipline that parents should use to teach their child a lesson. So when you remove and reinstate privileges, in a calm manner be sure to explain to your child why/how he misbehaved and what you expect of him next time.

Make sure both you and your husband (and any other family members you may be living with) are on the same page with regards to unacceptable behaviour and it consequences. Consistency is the key!

Insha’Allah, I hope this helps. Happy Parenting!!

The Savvy Parent

Ask The Savvy Parent: Overcoming Shyness

handholdingMy son aged 5 years is very fussy with eating. Secondly, he is very, very shy and reluctant at school. Kindly suggest some ideas that can be helpful in resolving these issues peacefully.

First off, you are not alone in this. There are many parents who face similar challenges. We have covered fussy eating last week; you can check it out here: Mealtimes are Wartimes.

Here is the answer to the second part of your question. Shyness is a personality trait/temperament. There is nothing wrong with being shy. First, recognize that you are blessed with a sensitive, deeply caring, reserved child, who is slow to warm up to strangers, approaches social relationships cautiously, but generally seems to be a happy person. It is very common for parents to respond very apologetically to excuse their child by saying, “He’s shy,” especially in front of your child. This is the first thing one should stop doing; in many ways this makes you an enabler vs. empowering your child. Here are some tips:

  1. The more you push the more he will retreat: It is natural for a child to feel socially awkward when meeting adults and especially new people/children. It is a very common practice amongst parents to try to coerce a positive response from the child but in doing so, it is more likely he will retreat and clam up. It is best to help create a comfortable environment that lets his social personality develop. For example, if you are going to visit a friend and you want your child to make a good impression, avoid the standard: “Don’t be shy; say Salam to aunty.” This is guaranteed to make him even more recluse. The child is already self-conscious and this will make him even shyer. Talk to him beforehand about what is expected of him and keep your expectations reasonable, for example, a simple ‘Salam’. Another option would be to have him bring along a toy or activity. This can act as a communication bridge with aunty. It essentially distracts the focus and attention off him, allowing him to ease into the situation and get comfortable on his own.
  2. Avoid putting him on the spot: Your relatives are visiting and you are excited to show them that your son has memorized a short Surah, for example. Rather than putting him on the spot when they arrive, prep him beforehand. Talk to him in a gentle tone saying, “You recite the Surah so well. Can you please recite it for grandma when she visits today?” Some children are natural born performers; others are cautious and need time to become comfortable. Think about, for example, if you were put on the spot to recite Surah Yasin you just memorized in front of a group, with all eyes on you, how would you feel? Even for a social person like myself, it would not be easy; so cut your child some slack.
  3. Create smaller social settings: As a teacher, I have discovered that it helps for parents to have one-on-one play dates with fellow classmates. Are there any children that your child seems to gravitate towards or you feel would be a good companion for your child? Ask the teacher for suggestions. This allows your child to form bonds with other children in a more intimate setting and will help him come out of his shell at school.

How do I know if it’s just shyness or something more?

Mostly, shyness or quietness is not a serious problem. However, in some rare case, it may indicate that your child needs professional attention. Ask yourself the following questions. Does your child cry or throw a tantrum on a regular basis before or at school? Is he significantly withdrawn most of the time, making little eye contact? Does he act violently in school, hitting other kids or teachers? If the answer to these are no, you have nothing to worry about.

Insha’Allah, I hope this helps. Happy Parenting!

The Savvy Parent

Catch more tips by Farah Najam in her article: Working with Shy Students.

Do you have questions for The Savvy Parent? Click here to submit them.

Ask the Savvy Parent: Mealtimes are Wartimes

Image courtesy http://mommabird.net/

Image courtesy http://mommabird.net/

Dear Savvy Parent,

How do I get my 4-year-old son to not be such a picky eater, and also eat on his own without my husband or I having to feed him?

Dear parent,

First off, you are not alone in this. There are many parents who face similar challenges. It is important to remember that picky eating is temporary. If you don’t make it a big deal, it will usually end before school-going age.

Change will not happen overnight. It will take some time for you to see any changes or improvements. Don’t give up and always be consistent. Relax and take it easy. The key is consistency.

Here are some proactive things you can do to deal with fussy eating and help your child learn to eat on his own and try new foods:

  1. Offer the same foods for the whole family. Don’t be a “short-order cook,” by making a different meal for your child. Never cook something for your child that you would not eat yourself. Most children like to eat the meals their parents are eating.
  2. Make sure your child eats with the whole family. There is no point making him or her sit and eat, while no one else is. You would end up fighting a lost battle.
  3. Most kids like to try foods they help make. Encourage your children to help you prepare meals and snacks. Let them help you with the grocery shopping. Teach your child to tear lettuce or add veggie toppings to pizza, for example. You will be surprised what you can get children to eat if they have helped to prepare it.
  4. Try to make meals a stress-free time. Talk about fun and happy things. If arguments often happen at mealtimes, your child may develop unhealthy attitudes toward food.
  5. Offer two choices. Rather than asking “Do you want broccoli for dinner?” ask: “What would you like for dinner: broccoli or cauliflower?”
  6. Use the Bowl of Bites Method to decide the number of bites the child must eat.  At times, trying to negotiate the number of bites can be never ending and lead to arguments. This is where the bowl comes in (explained below).
  7. Your children will be okay even if they don’t eat a meal now and then. Children never starve themselves. If they are not eating, leave them be. Make sure snacks are out of reach, though. Carry on with your meal. Eventually when they do get hungry and want food bring out the plate of food that was not eaten during mealtime. Eventually they will give in and eat it. At this time, give them verbal reinforcement.

Bowl of bites
For some parents, establishing a required number of bites can help. Select a reasonable number of minimum bites, for example, five. Two or three bites are not enough. In a bowl, keep about 10 pieces of small paper, folded in half, with a number written inside them. Have a variety of numbers ranging from the minimum (in this case, six) to about nine. During mealtime say, “Let’s see what the bowl of bites decides for us.” Allow your child to pick out a piece of paper and read the number on it. Whatever the number says is the number of bites that are required to be eaten. If your child is the type to go back and forth negotiating to get his way, the best way to get around such a situation to remove yourself out of the negotiation. These “bowls” can also be adapted to be used in many other situations.

For a child who will not eat on his or her own, the bowl of bites can also help by establishing the number of bites the child has to eat on his own. In this case, the numbers could start smaller such as three. Alternatively, taking turns can help. Your child takes a bite on his or her own and then you feed them the next bite and so on. Eventually, as they get comfortable with this, you can feed less and less bites.

Change will not happen overnight. It will take some time for you to see any changes or improvements. Don’t give up and always be consistent. Relax and take it easy. The key is consistency.

Insha’Allah, I hope this helps. Happy Parenting!

The Savvy Parent

Do you have questions for The Savvy Parent? Click here to submit them.

Ask The Savvy Parent: Aggression in Toddlers

Dear Savvy Parent

My 2.5-year-old son is unable to express himself. He hits continuously till others respond and others think he’s a bully. All I want is to help him but how? How to stop him and what should I do to help him express himself with words, not actions?

When he’s not bothering others, give him lots of attention and praise so he eventually learns that negative behaviour will not work and will not get him any needed attention.

Dear parent

First off, he is not a bully. He is just 2.5 years old and is still learning. He’s not trying to be mean; rather, it sounds like attention-seeking behaviour. If this is the case (and you know best), one should not give any attention when he behaves this way. He seems to be doing it because he can’t get the attention he wants by behaving well; so he misbehaves to get attention. Children will get attention any way they can. They prefer positive attention, but if negative is the only way to get it, they will purposefully do perform actions to get that negative attention. The way to nip this in the bud is to give no attention when he misbehaves. He knows he is doing something wrong; use minimal words and remove him from the situation. When he’s not bothering others, give him lots of attention and praise so he eventually learns that negative behaviour will not work and will not get him any needed attention.

If you are in a public place, such as a park, you have to be more mindful and keep an extra eye on your son. Intervene if he starts to hit another child. Use language such as “Be gentle” and show him how. Sometimes children at a young age don’t mean to be aggressive; sometimes they touch out of love and because they are still learning to control their body it can be rough. So give him a chance to be gentle. If he is really being disruptive, redirect him away from that area of the park to some other area. If he has had several chances and is still not listening, then it’s time to let him know that if he cannot behave, you will take him home. Making sure you follow through with this.

If he is hitting without any reason, then you need to take him away from the child or children he is hurting and find something else for him to be busy with. 

As far as hitting or bothering other children, since they are also young, the adults (you in this case) need to intervene and may need to remove your son from this situation. First of all, try to identify why he is hitting. Did the other child do something? Did he hit him first? If this is the case, then you need to teach your son the appropriate language, such as “Please stop!”, “I don’t like that” and resolve the situation together.

If he is hitting without any reason, then you need to take him away from the child or children he is hurting and find something else for him to be busy with. Have a brief and calm conversation and let him know that this is not kind; if he hits someone again, you will remove him and he will not be able to play with the other children. Don’t elaborate any other reminders; when it happens, you can simply say, “You are hurting (name of child), so now you have to leave and do something else. Redirect him towards something else that he can be busy with. The next time after that, you don’t need any words. After a few times of doing this, he will learn that you are not giving him attention for this negative behaviour.

Yelling at your child will not resolve the issue. One has to be calm and level-headed. 

Remember to give him LOTS of positive attention when he’s not doing this. This way he learns that he gets attention ONLY when he’s behaving well. When he’s misbehaving, don’t say anything and don’t make eye contact because all of this is attention and the point is to NOT give attention in ANY FORM when he’s trying to seek it doing something inappropriate. Depending on the situation you either need to help resolve the conflict or redirect the behaviour. Be mindful of your reaction and tone as well. Children learn by example. Make sure you are using a calm manner to discipline your child. Yelling at your child will not resolve the issue. One has to be calm and level-headed. It is difficult, I know, but take a deep breath before you act and Insha’Allah, it will get easier to handle.

With regard to your son learning to express himself, he is still young and learning language. Teach him appropriate words and the correct language. Be a role model of positive language and help elicit the words from him. For example, short phrases like “Milk, please” “I don’t like that”, “No, thank you”, “I want ____”, “More, please” etc. Have him repeat after you before you do what he wants. Do this throughout his daily route; this way he will begin to pick up the language. Encourage him to use the language and reward him when he does. It is even more important to make sure he at least attempts to use his words, when upset.

Insha’Allah, I hope this helps. Happy parenting!

The Savvy Parent

Do you have questions for The Savvy Parent? Click here to submit them.