0-3 years: Understanding children's behaviour

Babies and young children behave the way they do so they can get their needs met, not to be 'naughty' or wind you up.  They don't have the words to tell you how they are feeling or what they want, but they tell you with their behaviour.  Plan ahead to prevent problems.  Don't expect too much of them when they are still only little.  Use love, praise and attention to get them to do what you want.  You'll find it works much better than anger and critism.

  • The hardest time for many parents is when children are between two and three years.
  • Tantrums paek at this age, though they can start earlier.  They tail off by the age of five, when talking becomes easier.

Babies & Behaviour

Looking after babies is hard work, but it is your job as a parent to look after their needs.  They can't help crying or not sleeping or not liking particular foods.

  • Give babies as much love and attention as you can
  • Make your home as safe as possible so they can enjoy challenges without you having to stop them all the time
  • With older babies and toddlers, try and distract them rather than have confrontations


Don't expect too much of young children.  They are learning so much all the time and they can't always do what you want.  If they 'act like a baby', it's because they are still babies!

  • Young children won't behave well if they are tired, ill or hungry.  Try and prevent trouble by making sure they get enough sleep and feeding them healthy food.
  • Have clear, simple rules and routines.  Stick to them so children know what to expect and you will have fewer battles
  • Praise good behaviour all the time and ignore behaviour you don't like as much as possible.  Don't only pay attention when they are doing something wrong.


Realise Why They Happen

Toddlers are beginning to:

  • Know what they want - and have the confidence to say no
  • Get bored and test how far they can go
  • Want to do more than they're able to
  • Have strong feelings they can't describe

Plan Ahead To Prevent Tantrums When You Go Out:

  • Keep them occupied.  Take a toy, book or snack and chat about what you are doing
  • Distract them if you see trouble coming - point out something funny or interesting
  • Avoid outings if they are ill and feed them first so they're not hungry
  • Be clear what you're going out for - don't promise treats with every outing

When A Child Is Mid-Tantrum And Out Of Control:

  • Stay calm, hold them close, speak gently, say you realise it's hard for them, and wait for them to calm down.  don't feel embarrassed if other people stare

If They Scream To Make You Give Into Them:

  • Stay quiet and firm and try to ignore them.  If you're out in public and they carry on, take them to a more private place

After the tantrum's over cuddle and make up, don't go on about it.  Toddlers never plan to 'lose it'.  They probably found it upsetting and they need to know you still love them


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