I have had so many questions recently from parents with babies and toddlers who were either born during, or shortly before, lockdown who are worried about their child’s developing socialisation skills and whether separation from friends, wider family and other babies and toddlers of the same age will have a lasting negative impact on their child’s ability to socialise when lockdowns lift.
Children (whatever age!) are never just “naughty”. There is ALWAYS a reason for their behaviour. Naughty is the tip of the iceberg, it is a wholly inadequate word to describe what the child is experiencing and it sets us on the wrong path of discipline.
Covid and the current restrictions has had a big impact on all of us. Lockdown is likely to have had an influence on how you feel and behave as an adult, it can affect babies and children similarly. If babies and children are feeling anxious, confused, frustrated, bored, scared or disconnected from us (as often happens when we’re so busy trying to work from home and keep everything together) there are five distinct tricky behaviours that can surface:
Too many people believe that tantrums are a sign of bad parenting, but the truth is that young children tantrum because the area of their brain responsible for emotion regulation is very immature.
Have you noticed that your baby or toddler’s sleep is significantly worse during the full moon? Or perhaps you’ve noticed that your own sleep is disrupted? Maybe you’ve found it harder to get to sleep at night, or you’ve woken more than usual? If so, you’re not alone!
So often we over-complicate our discipline attempts. Remember this though – not everything has to be a teachable moment. Sometimes, making a small, simple change, is the best thing for your sanity and your child’s safety and happiness. Focus on something YOU can change, rather than expecting them to change.
Labelling children helps nobody, least of all the child. The words we use about children can and do change the way we think about them. If we call a child, or their behaviour, naughty enough we will start to see them that way, which changes the way we subconsciously treat them. The result? We can encourage more of the undesired behaviour, because we are constantly on alert for it.
September to December usually brings lots of hustle and bustle with open days and evenings held at schools for potential new students. Applications for new places are due within the next few weeks and months (depending on where you live in the world and whether you are using state or private education). Regardless of where you are however, one thing is the same: The likelihood that these important visits to potential schools have been curtailed because of Covid 19. How do you choose the right setting then, if you haven’t ever set foot in it?
When your child pushes your buttons and you feel yourself getting stressed or angry, you should absolutely not discipline him until you are calm. Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and slowly exhale. Repeat as often as necessary until you can think more clearly. Sometimes you have to give yourself a ‘time out’. That is, move away from your child temporarily, so that you can think more clearly.
Help your child to see that it isn’t school as a whole that is scary but instead there are certain aspects they are struggling with. This doesn’t mean that school itself is bad, or that they will always be unhappy there. Spend some time talking about the things at school that they do enjoy, or are looking forward to, with them and focus on building excitement and happiness on these points. If they tell you that they don’t like anything once started, then ask their teachers to let you know what they have enjoyed throughout the day, so that you can bring it up with them. Finally, empower your child by helping them to realise that anxiety isn’t all bad, it’s a sign that they care about themselves and their brain is trying to prevent them from getting into danger.