Toddlers are full of energy and are endlessly curious about the world around them, requiring constant attention. However, as you observe your little one, be mindful of certain behaviors that might lead to problems in the future. If you address them early enough, you can steer your child away from habits that could lead to serious behavioral problems in his adolescent and adult years.
1. Aggressive Behavior
Toddlers are still mastering motor skills as they explore the world around them, including ways to use their arms and legs. This is perfectly acceptable. However, it is not acceptable for them to behave aggressively toward other children -- and sometimes even toward adults -- by kicking, biting, scratching or punching them.
2. Lack of Empathy
Toddlers are still developing emotionally as well, and some might not know how to connect to others around them. While some children might instinctively rush to try to comfort or help another peer in distress, others might not know what to do. If you notice that your child has trouble identifying with the pain of others, consider whether you have modeled such behavior well enough for her to imitate it. Remember, children can't imitate what they've never, or rarely, seen.
3. Disregard for Others
Related to a lack of empathy is a disregard for others. According to the website Prevention Action, researchers in Colorado observed a strong link between such disregard in toddlers and antisocial behavior that manifested as those toddlers grew into adolescents. When they encountered someone in severe pain or distress, such toddlers reacted with anger or hostility. Some also laughed at the person's distress, and others ran away from the person.
4. What to Do
If you notice any of those traits in your children, don't assume that it is a phase that they will outgrow. Instead, take steps to help your child learn how to connect to others in a kind and helpful way. Model polite and empathetic behavior for her, and encourage her to imitate such behavior with others around her. Limit her exposure to violent TV or movies. Help her think through the consequences of her actions by talking about them with her. Consistently and firmly let her know that violent and aggressive behavior is unacceptable.
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