What your child needs
At this age, your child instinctively and actively seeks attention and comfort from parents and caregivers. Your child’s prefrontal cortex is immature, and the child depends on external emotional regulators (the parents or caregivers) to stabilise his or her emotions.
- Invest the time – proactively give your child the attention he or she needs. At this age, their attention span is very short, but their need for comfort is a lot more frequent. Make eye contact, sing songs, or talk to them periodically throughout the day.
- Provide sufficient stimulation; with breaks – sensory play is great at this age, let them touch and feel a variety of objects (check out our guide for children aged 0-2!). However, too much stimulation can also result in a very fussy baby.
Child development experts estimate that a reasonable attention span to expect is two to three minutes per year of their age, so give your child a break every now and then.
- Establish a routine – at this age, everything is new and overwhelming. Providing your child with a routine will enable both of you to understand your expectations of each other. Be sure to coordinate with caregivers and be consistent. Even the smallest of things, e.g. the sequence of actions taken / the songs sung during bath time, can make a difference.
- Give your child the opportunity to learn; and reinforce behaviours you approve. Give your child the space and opportunity to demonstrate what he or she understands should be done.
In addition, this gives you the opportunity to re-direct your child away from undesirable behaviours, learn how your child thinks; and invest time to strengthen your parent-child bond. At the same time, your child learns positive behaviours and is more likely to respond appropriately, in future.
At this age, any form of punishment is not recommended, as it only increases the anxiety and stress of the child. The child is not mature enough to separate his or her emotional panic, from the action that you perceived to be “wrong”.
Overly negative or aggressive reactions from the parent or caregiver can overwhelm their fight or flight response; and children either express more distress, or their brain shuts down and blocks out the trauma.
This reaction to stress can persist even in adolescence and adulthood.
We talked about the science of tantrums in our latest podcast here