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4/30/20blog post

managing toddler behavior during quarantine

It’s been a long day - meals, diapers, clean-up, stories, play, more clean-up, tantrums, more clean-up and no break to go to the library, Target, or a friend’s house.  Add to that the worry that comes with the recent outbreak of COVID-19 and a husband who is now working overtime stocking shelves at a local grocery store. Now it’s 7:30 pm and you are running some bathwater while your toddler plays quietly in his bedroom.  Upon entering the room, you see crayon all over the wall and a toddler who is smiling with pride over his artwork.  You want to scream at him out of frustration and maybe the thought of swatting his bottom even crosses your mind, but instead you stop and take a deep breath before you respond.

You stop and breathe because you remember that the last time this happened, you screamed and immediately took the crayons away causing your toddler to drop to the ground and melt down. 

Why in the world would he write on the walls, AGAIN?!

What should we expect from toddlers?  To be honest, not much!  Toddler behavior can be surprising and frustrating.  Toddlers lack self-control. They like to explore the world and seek adventure. They spend a lot of time testing limits. 

Remember that these are “typical” behaviors for toddlers during normal circumstances. 

So, what’s going to happen during these abnormal times?  Well, their behaviors may change in response to the stress they feel in the environment.  They do not have the communication skills (words) to tell you that they sense the changes in their environment, so they may have even bigger reactions to small things and test the limits a little more. And these behaviors may drive you crazy when you are stuck inside.

The social isolation, lack of understanding of your child’s developmental level, and various other stressors may leave you responding in a more extreme way.

By understanding what we can expect, we can create an environment that prevents a lot of frustration and potential escalation to resorting to physical discipline and maybe even abuse during these high stress, isolating times.

  • Be consistent with your limit setting
  • Create a “yes” environment – make your home child-friendly which will allow you to spend less time trying to keep him away from things
  • Have a consistent routine
  • Reward and reinforce good behavior
  • Allow time to run and play – especially outdoors
  • Take care of yourself

It’s important to keep your expectations in check and be gentle with yourself as you adjust to the new normal.  You will get frustrated! There is no such thing as perfect parenting.

Dina Thurman, CPNP

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updates on COVID-19

Please use our coronavirus information hub for resources and answers to frequently asked questions about Dayton Children's response to COVID-19. You can also call our COVID-19 parent hotline at 1-888-746-KIDS (5437) from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm for additional questions.