All the parenting books seem to say the same thing. A toddler hits because he is angry or frustrated and doesn’t have the verbal skills yet to communicate what he is feeling. This is definitely true for my toddler, but only sometimes. Other times, when children behave badly or even hit, it seems like it’s caused by something else, but I didn’t know what. Then I found an explanation that seemed so simple, I couldn’t believe I never thought of it before.
David Code presents it in his book “To Have Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First.” Code talks about how children are tapped into their parents emotions, maybe even more than their words. Could this be the source of my toddler’s unexplained bad behavior, hostility and need to hit, I wondered. Could it be that my toddler wants to hit to release and communicate emotions that I am feeling?
Most of us know that while a woman is pregnant, everything she does, the food she eats and even how she feels can affect the growth of the baby inside her, but what many of us don’t consider is that once the baby is born, this doesn’t just stop.
During a play date, my toddler’s friend put his feet in some boxes and started walking around pretending to be a monster. Even though my toddler had played with these boxes a hundred times before, never had he donned them as foot apparel, until he saw someone else doing it. He immediately wanted to try out these new shoes for himself and continues to take out these boxes to stomp around the house in them.
This is just one example of what mothers all over will tell you, children learn by imitating what they see. As conscientious mothers, we catch on to this very quickly and bend over backwards to put on a brave face around our children. We shape our behavior and that of the people around us to provide seemingly perfect facades for an impressionable young toddler and growing children to witness.
What we fail to realize however, is that children, even toddlers, can sense when something is amiss. Even a toddler is attuned, that is, a toddler can sense, what is really going on below the surface, and this is what really can scar a toddler and could be the cause of his bad behavior, which escalates to the point that it causes him to act out and hit.
Most parents agree that when your child falls down, to avoid bad behavior in the child, the parent must not overreact. “Oh, you’re okay,” we say. When we say this however, it’s usually only halfway to avoid children’s bad behavior, the other half is to sooth ourselves.
If we, as parents, are feeling stressed out, anxious or worried, or just plain bored even, our toddlers can see it in our faces and hear it in our voices, no matter how much we try to hide it. Toddlers are tuned in to our vibe.
So now, when I see my toddler behaving badly I stop and reevaluate, asking myself, “Is it my toddler that is upset or is it me?”
Sources: To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First. David Code. Crossroads Publishing, New York: 2009