THOSE BAD HABITS
In his book The Happiest Toddler on the Block, paediatrician Dr Harvey Karp compares toddlers to cavemen. “They pee in the living room. They pick their nose. They put food in their hair… When they get upset, they spit and scream and scratch and throw things.” And parents have the privileged (yet unenviable) task of civilising them.
Toddlers live in the right side of their brains, says Dr Karp. This is the part of the brain that is controlled by feelings, which explains why they are so emotional and impulsive. The left side of your toddler’s brain (which helps control emotion) will only mature at around age four.
As a parent it becomes hard to distinguish between a normal developmental phase, naughtiness and bad habits. Luckily, there are strategies you can use to curb these.
YOUR REACTION IS KEY
Before you tackle any of the individual behaviours that you’re looking to tame in your toddler, examine your own ways of approaching discipline. Often, it is the way you “punish” your toddler that causes her to act out even more.
ACKNOWLEDGE FEELINGS WITHOUT ALLOWING UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR Ann Richardson, author of Toddler Sense and parenting coach, says that your toddler should be guided to verbalise the underlying feelings she is experiencing, while at the same time you are teaching her to limit the bad behaviour. Use words like: “I can see that you are very angry, but we do not hurt people by hitting them when we feel upset.” expected of her behaviour if she’s allowed to do something today and tomorrow she’s not.
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HE’S ASKING FOR HIS OWN BED If your child is interested in having his own bed and you’re comfortable with the idea, go for it. If he is able to verbalise something like this, he is also likely to understand those imaginary boundaries.
The difficulty arises with your eight-monthold baby. At this age babies start to form a more consistent picture of an “object” in their minds that they start to rely on to feed them, calm them down as well as understand what they may be wanting or feeling. At this age that object is you, and when you leave (even if it’s for a short period) the baby may experience separation anxiety. In a normal situation, mothers go to work during the day and then come back home, which the baby
starts to become accustomed to. However, going away for three weeks is more of a significant loss for her. She won’t really be able to grasp what has happened – all she’ll know is that her object is gone. This can cause some emotional difficulties.
When considering both your children’s ages and needs it would be important to rethink your travel arrangements. At most I would suggest a week’s separation from your children.