Why is My Child Behaving This Way? (A Checklist)

I’m blessed to work with mindful parents, most of whom have ‘sensitive’ and ‘respectful’ down.  They’ve made a concerted effort to develop a quality connection with their children, and their behavior usually reflects that. So they’re understandably thrown when resistant or defiant behavior occasionally crops up anyway. The good news: getting back on track is simple, because all that’s usually needed is a bit of minor tweaking of their approach and responses.

Which is why I thought a parent-response checklist (based on the difficulties parents most commonly share with me) might be helpful.

1. Prevention

An ounce of prevention can save us tons of aggravation. We take preventative measures by structuring our environment and daily life in a manner that limits possibilities for off-track behavior.

Remember: Children learn by exploring and testing their environments. They also express uncomfortable feelings through limit-pushing behavior. So, if we don’t want children jumping on the couch or playing roughly with the baby — and we don’t want to be a broken record constantly saying “No” and becoming increasingly annoyed — we’ll need to minimize or remove certain options (the ones that are going to put us on edge).

  • Does my child have a completely safe, “Yes” place to spend the majority of his or her day? This not only limits opportunities for testing, it also provides kids with the abundance of freedom they need to be able to accept the boundaries we do create.
  • Does the new baby have a protected, age-appropriate place in which to “play” freely and safely? (A playpen or crib is enough for the first  4-5 months.)
  • Is our home life relatively peaceful, our daily routine somewhat predictable? Predictable routines create comfort and foster a sense of security. Routines also make it easier for children to accept our boundaries and directions, because they learn to expect the tooth brushing (for example) that always happens after dinner. Young children greatly appreciate being able to predict what will happen. “After breakfast, my mom (or dad) goes to the bathroom and then the kitchen while I stay in my play area. Then she comes back and watches me play.” Or “When we walk near the road, we either hold hands or my parents carry me.” Of course, there will still be complaints and resistance from time to time, but not as much.
  • Do I spend time observing and understanding my child, give positive attention? 
  • Do we allow, even encourage our child to express uncomfortable feelings?

2.  Confidence

Confidence is crucial and very, very often what’s missing when our responses and directions aren’t working. Confidence is decisive, and often upbeat, not angry or stern. Children sense our feelings and can easily detect whether we believe in our decisions, directions, and limits. And if we don’t, there isn’t a chance in the world our kids can feel comfortable, which means they are far more likely to cry, whine, protest, object, or keep pushing limits.

This is a universal law of parenting: Children can’t approach situations with confidence unless we do first.

A parent I consulted with recently provided the perfect example. We’d spent 55 of our 60 minutes together addressing her three year old twins’ sleep difficulties. They had been resisting and stalling bedtime, employing some classically brilliant toddler tactics designed to stab parents in the heart or, at the very least, create tremendous doubt: “I’m hungry…I’m thirsty… I need to go pee.” And most harrowing of all, “I’m scared.” One of the twins was once startled by a shadow and mom had been concerned, so fear had become a credible and potent addition to their list of complaints. Since there were two of them, they could pass these complaints to each other like an infectious disease and create a double whammy for their poor mom.

With just a couple of minutes left on the call, it suddenly occurred to me to ask, “What about naptime? How does that go?”

“Oh, I just let them know it’s naptime, and I have to go do my work. I close the door, and they go to sleep.”

When I got up off the floor, I sputtered, “Well… Do that at bedtime!”

Truly, it’s all about confidence.

Back to the checklist… So, what does confidence look and feel like? Here are some questions to ask ourselves:

  • Am I being direct, clear, simple, decisive, firm, upbeat, matter-of-fact, even somewhat bored (rather than tentative, ambivalent, wavering, uncertain, or anxious)?
  • Am I feeling calm, capable, unruffled, and on top of this (rather than urgent or emotional)? Remember, toddlers are tiny, impulsive, but non-threatening people.
  • Am I refraining from running when I could stride, shouting when I could be matter-of-fact?
  • Am I being brief and nonchalant rather than pointed? Am I coaching and reminding rather than lecturing? Sometimes it’s just that extra split second we give to correcting unwanted behaviors that can turn them into an interesting experiment for children to continue. They might be feeling, “Hmmm…why is my hitting such a big deal? Can’t they easily stop me? Why such a pointed lesson? I definitely got a rise out of them. Interesting, but also a little unnerving (which, by the way, is why I’m smiling!). Better try that one again to see if these big people can get a better handle on it.”
  • Do I believe in my decision or direction? There’s no reason not to, because if we’ve been too rash, we can change our minds (confidently) later, and that’s great modeling. For example, we might say, “You know what? It is actually fine for you to play for a few more minutes, and then it will be bedtime. I’m sorry I didn’t think that one through carefully.”

3. Early Action

Children understand our words but need more from us when their impulsive, emotionally fueled behavior gets the better of them. This might mean calmly shadowing a child who is hitting; or taking a child aside for a “time in” when her behavior is out of control; or being totally fine with helping a preschooler get dressed in the morning (even though he is fully capable of doing this on his own).

  •  Am I ready and willing to take the actions necessary to help looonnnnng before I even dream of becoming irritated or annoyed by my child’s behavior?

 4. Acceptance

Accept and acknowledge: both of these actions are important, but the one to focus on is accept. Accept is not an urgent, active verb. It is a relaxing one. Instead of struggling to say or do the “right” thing to soothe or calm our child down, accept means letting go and letting feelings be. We are accepting disagreements with the understanding that with toddlers and teens, especially, disagreement is a daily, healthy, developmentally appropriate occurrence, a way of being to allow, acknowledge, even embrace. But not literally, because in our haste to embrace children to make it all better, we unwittingly send an invalidating, squelching (though quite understandable!) message: I’m not comfortable with your feelings and would like them to stop as soon as possible.

  •  Am I fully accepting my child’s feelings and perspective? Just letting them be?
  •  Am I letting my child know I hear the power of her message? Acknowledging is one of the best ways we can do that (more about that HERE), but the acknowledgment must be real, not a tactic we impatiently use to try to soothe children’s feelings.
  • Am I emotionally available, not distant or cut off? It can be tempting to distance ourselves — close off from our child’s emotional outbursts — for the sake of self- preservation, but the problem with this response is that it can make children feel like they’re opening their souls to a brick wall. So they need to keep trying…and trying… to be heard. “I’m scared and angry about sharing you with my baby brother! I feel out of control! Are you hearing me yet?” might be the real reason our toddler explodes when his peas are touching his mashed potatoes. But all he needs is for us to accept his need for this “overreaction” and allow his feelings to safely run their course while we acknowledge, “You really didn’t like that! That bugged you so much.” Children are relieved of their need for limit-pushing behavior when they consistently learn through our words, tone, and actions that we hear them, are unfazed, ready to help, and that we understand, or are at least open to trying.


I offer a complete guide to understanding and addressing common behavior issues in

NO BAD KIDS: Toddler Discipline Without Shame


(Photo by RageZ on Flickr)


Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. GREAT!!! Love this, thanks so much Janet. This checklist really sums it up for me: this is what I (try to) do. This is what parenting is for me. AND it feels like a list to print out and hang somewhere in my hide-out, the place I go to if you don’t know what to do anymore (with my kids, my husband, neighbor or mother(in-law)). I’ll just read the list and I’ll know what was missing. Easy peacy!

    Thanks so much!

    1. 🙂 That makes me so happy, Karin! I love that this feels helpful to you.

  2. Now that our 2 year old is seeing things that he’s scared of, he’ll tell us “I’m scared” and will point to the cat laying in the corner, the frog statue on the shelf, or the (early) darkness outside driving home in the evening. I try to actively listen by repeating back to him what he’s scared of, he agrees, and I try to address it. I’m trying to figure out if I should treat his fear like it’s no big deal, if I should reassure him/explain it to him, or what the best action to do is. Usually I say “It’s okay to be scared.” Any advice?

    1. Is he agitated when he says these things? I’m also wondering what you mean by “addressing it”.

      I would stay right where he is, rather than either diminishing or resolving his feelings. Just acknowledge, “You’re saying the cat scares you.” Keep your tone matter-of-fact and your approach calm and maybe a tad curious. Let that feeling be, and then wait to see what, if anything, happens next. Try not to jump ahead of him or to conclusions… He might simply be sharing passing thoughts with you. Oftentimes, we are the ones who end up escalating these situations.

      1. Thanks for your reply! Let me clarify, when I “address it”, I remove what is scaring him, sometimes it’s as simple as turning on a light, shooing the cat from the corner, or agreeing with him that it’s dark outside and we’ll be home soon. I wouldn’t say he’s agitated, but he does act scared, hiding, running away, and using a high-pitched voice. I will be careful to remain calm and not escalate his fear! thanks again!

      2. Bethany Castellanos says:

        As I read this checklist, I answered “no” to many of these questions.
        What if I don’t have a 100% “yes” space for my toddler? What if I don’t know what to do (respectfully) in response to my child’s behavior…and that’s why I eventually get annoyed or angry? I work hard at being gentle, but find myself often feeling helpless because if I don’t punish my child/ren, it isn’t likely they will cooperate most of the time-especially if its something they don’t want to do in the first place.

  3. Dear Janet,

    Thank you so much for your blogs, they were a godsend to me!
    Coming from an AP approach and being unaware of setting limits almost at all(!), I got more and more annoyed and angry with the little person I love the most in the whole wide world, which broke my heart.
    After an extensive and sometimes desperate search for answers about his behaviour and what to do I finally found your blog a few months ago! Especially ‘following through’ and ‘independent play’ were two of the many eye-openers. Thank you so much!

    My son and I both already started benefitting from these new insights in only a (surprisingly!) short amount of time!

    Despite the initial succes, however, we now seem to enter a more difficult fase again. And I struggle with determining whether I need to set a limit or not, and if so, what would be the ‘natural’ consequence.

    Lately, my 3,5-year old stopped playing independently again and started to be very clingy, wanting to sit on my lap, being around me and wanting to be physically connected to me almost constantly and saying things like ‘I want to play with you mommy/I have nobody to play with/I’m all alone/I’m afraid if I am not with you (standing one foot away from me:))’. (For clarity: he plays with other children at least 3 times a week, there have not been any (obvious) transitions/new situations)

    I read your post on clinginess and accepted and gave in to it. Unfortunately, I ‘m getting overstimulated and quite annoyed again, and I’m wondering whether it is possible that my son is actually testing me here 😉

    Especially since I had an authoritarian upbringing, and used to be a very lonely and fearful child, which of course would be the last thing I want for him. So it could be not just a coincidence that’s exactly what he is saying…

    Reading your post above I think I feel unsure what to do and lack the confidence to really go for my approach, whether it would be setting limits here or giving in to the clinginess and ‘sitting it out’. Do you have any advice for me?

    1. You’re so welcome, Maggie! I’m thrilled to have been helpful to you.

      Hmmm… I have the feeling many misunderstood my “Calming your clingy child” post. My point was to allow children the choice of sitting with you, if that was a perfectly acceptable choice. The example I used was taking your child to a party or playdate and allowing him or her to sit with you rather than socialize. I recommended not trying to coax them to go play, etc. This does not mean becoming a slave to your child. Remember, it is your child’s job to find the limits in his environment. Yours is to be very, very clear and confident about those limits. Your son cannot release you to take care of yourself or do chores, etc., YOU must be the one to do that. And, yes, children usually do know our buttons and soft spots, because they are sensitive and highly aware.

      1. OMG, I did misunderstood your clinginess post, or I guess my child-pleasing radar seems to have picked out only that particular part…

        Don’t worry, I still did my chores 🙂 (although I must admit mostly to get a bit of ‘rest’)

        I hear you loud and clear now, thank you again, appreciate your quick response very much! It’s already working while I type this post! 🙂

  4. Hi Janet,

    I came across your blog and am so happy I did. We have a 19 month old boy who refuses to say any variation of mom. His first word was mama and he used it for a while but suddenly it stopped. He says every possible variation of daddy though. He does not speak as much as some boys his age but his vocabulary is improving daily. He communicates well with sign language, pointing and even uses a few spanish words. When those fail he has a melt down. He is very interested in books and My Baby Can Read along with select PBS programs.

    1. isabelled says:

      Hi Jaimey, you know what my 17 months old doesn’t say any variation of “mom” either (and one of his first words was mama too and he stopped saying it, and yes he says papa and lots of variation of it too). I have never seen it as a refusal but now.. i wonder!

  5. isabelled says:

    Hi Janet,

    Your blog has been so helpful since i have discovered it, a few months ago. And this article was just what i needd. Thank you so much! I will buy your book “No bad kids”.

    I notice that your work is not translated into French. Some authors here have the same kind of approach you have, but their work is different enough for yours to have its place on our bookshelves too. Have you considered finding a publisher in France? Let me know if i can help. I’d love to write your books’ translation!

  6. Hi Janet, I have just started reading through your blogs and have your elevating child are book. Can you point me in the right direction or tell me how we should approach bath time or shower time? Our 20 month old use to be fine and once in the bath or shower he loves it but the last week he has had the biggest tantrums about getting in. The only time he is ok is when he gets in on his own terms which can take ages. Tonight I tried just putting him in anyway and we got the biggest tantrum! Not sure what to do! I ignored his tantrum and let him scream until he came out and had calmed down…


  7. This afternoon my 3-year-old totally freaked out on me when I flushed his poop. He was furious with me, yelling and raging that he’d wanted to do it and I was a bad mama. He’s been potty-trained for a long time now so my first reaction was to laugh it off: “haha, toddlers are so weird!”

    After thinking about it while he raged and screamed, I started to wonder if something else was at play. We’d just dropped off my grandmother (GG) at the airport after a week-long visit and he had developed a meaningful bond with her. I suspected that he was angry she’d left but that he didn’t know how to express it.

    He wouldn’t let me near him so I gave him space but stayed close. When he was ready, I helped him clean up his tear-streaked face and gave him lots of hugs as we talked about missing GG. He was able to accept and manage his anger and grief at his own pace and with the help of a parent who was calm, soothing, and respectful of his big feelings.

    Thank you for this blog and for your guidance, which is helping me to learn how to be the parent my child needs.

    1. Sharon Bale says:

      Dear Janet, I am hoping you can lend some advice. I (like many families these days have my adult daughter and 3yo grandson living with me since his birth. I love my daughter dearly but am having difficulty with her parenting style.
      She is very much a helicopter parent who’s first instinct is to say no and second is to tell, followed closely by time out.
      I myself have always tried to follow the Montessori approach but my husband was quite an anxious parent as well. My problem is that my grandson has become very defiant and stresses everyone out and plays one against the other. I do try to suggest some you tube and online parenting resources to learn about different active styles of parenting however I am now finding it difficult to stay in my lane so to speak. Any suggestions would be appreciated, Sharon

  8. another slam dunk for great parenting. thank you for the check list!

  9. I love your work Janet, thank you for showing me the RIE way, we try to follow many of the guidelines every day..
    Now though, after a really good stint with my 3yo boy…I am not coping very well at the moment. He seems to express everything as an emergency (good and bad minor events through the day) and my nerves have had it…I try to acknowledge, allow feelings and i generally have a calm nature.. but lately i am very reactive, threaten rewards/punishment and just generally controlling and in a serious mood. where has my lightness gone? i am most definitely ruffled!
    I feel like i am spending my whole day holding boundaries that he is just pushing and pushing with massive intensity that i can’t handle, leaving no time to enjoy each other.. something needs to change, but right now i feel very lost.

    1. Hi Corrine,
      I’m not sure how long ago you wrote this, but I just read it and you are describing me and my 3½ year old to a tee! The constant boundary pushing and intensity (on top of pandemic burnout) have left me ruffled, serious and reactive almost all of the time. Just wondering if you could tell me how things are now? Did anything help to improve things?

  10. Hi. I am wondering how to approach tooth flossing and brushing. My 2.5 yr old daughter either screetches, says, “no no no”, tries wedging her body between me and the wall (hiding, face down), etc etc. I have acknowledged her feelings and tried giving her time to feel heard. It’s not helping. I feel conflict with her saying, “I don’t want to” and me saying, “we have to brush and floss every night”. It’s her body and it doesn’t feel right to make her ‘give in’ to my demands. (my head goes to scary pedophile ideas of someone forcing her to do something she doesn’t want to do with her body). What am I missing?! Please help! Thanks!

    1. Julie Brenninkmeyer says:

      Dear Kathleen and Janet,

      I have this same problem with my 2.5 year old. My husband, who is a reluctant father, gets very disturbed at the escalations my daughter and I have ar tooth brushing time. I made a list of our bed time steps and that helped for two nights and now we are back to the “no no no” clenched lips. She sometimes says it hurts, and I try to listen to that because maybe she is teething but i cant skip brushing. I just cant do a 30 minute stare down or a five minute pin down every night! Help!

    2. Sharon Bale says:

      We found a trip to the dentist just for a check up really helpful

  11. dear Janet,

    I love reading your posts and have been trying to apply your principles. The area where I have a problem is that my son of 16mths won’t sleep when it is me putting him to nap or sleep. He goes to sleep or nap with his father without any drama or crying. But when it’s me putting him down for a nap or bedtime, he cries his heart out. I have tried all the techniques of calming him, telling him it is naptime but to no avail.

    I don’t know what to do as I am the primary caretaker at home.

    Please advise.

    thank you.

  12. Hi Janet!

    I’m struggling with my 3 year old saying the F word (yes because he’s heard us say it). I say to him “that word isn’t available for you” or I try “let’s say fudge Rucker instead” I tried taking away toys he likes. I’ve tried time outs. I’ve yelled. I’ve begged. I’ve asked him why he’s saying it. I’ve tried ignoring him. It seems like nothing works. I know it’s our fault because we say it and he’s just mimicking us. He seems to do it until one of us snaps just to get a reaction from us. My husband has a bad temper (and I do too sometimes) and yells and swears and I’m sure that’s where he’s getting the behavior from. I try to be calm but when he keeps doing it over and over and laughs at our attempt to stop him it’s very frustrating. My husband takes it personally like an act of defiance and disrespect to him as a father and gets really angry. He tries time outs and being very stern but it doesn’t work. I feel lost and hopeless and like we are failing as parents. Help!

    1. Hi Maya! Sounds like you’ve given this word a whole lot of power. Yes, this is what happens: “He seems to do it until one of us snaps just to get a reaction from us.” So, the answer is not to react. Just let the word go. It’s going to take some time for the power to diminish, because of the reactions he’s gotten in the past… but be patient, let it go, and this word will mostly disappear.

    2. Hi Maya N.,
      I had a temper and the knowledge gleaned from Unruffled is replacing it. My temper stemmed from a feeling of fear of not knowing how to handle a situation. I usually backed myself into a corner because I wasn’t setting limits and then I would explode. I learned here everything that is keeping “bad” words from flying out of my mouth.

      Last night I felt my anger rising and I was quickly able to remind myself I had been too lax and giving in to tests of boundaries and I said, Pull it together. And I did. My daughter had no idea I had been at the brink. I just constantly replay articles here or podcasts in my head during trying moments: Study everything here, maybe your husband will too.

      My voice now lowers when I am being tested (natural child behavior). Nearly a whisper. I stand strong in my education here and it is soooooo rare to go to bed guilty of losing it.

      Janet is offering, for free, 25 years of experience with children that allows us to learn how to be true adults in the household. I love my role, now, because I do not feel as though I am doing this alone. …even though I am in a new town, no friends and no family support.

      I like myself, more, now, too, because I am proud of myself. No more shame, just tons more fun, love, guidance, understanding, boundaries and thoughtfulness, toward myself and others.

      My daughter no longer uses that word …. (Thanks, Janet!)

      1. Marian, I can’t thank you enough for your kind, encouraging words. And by sharing your experiences and journey you are certain to help others. You are wonderful! x Janet

  13. Hi Janet. I lover your work and feel grateful I’ve come across it as my girl entered toddler years (now 26 months) I’m applying a lot of your guidance which works really well most of the time and struggling with this one I’m not sure where to go with. My daughter spends lots of time with grandma at her house, they have a lovely relationship where she loves the big garden with lots to do. Often times after she has been there for more than several hours (where I have not been there) is furious I have come to join or collect her and yells and in a rage demands ‘go away mummy!’, pushing me towards the front door. I have applied approaches like, I can see you’re angry with me right now but I don’t want you to push me. Or have I interrupted your fun with grandma, I’m just going to sit over here while you guys play your game but my presence infuriates her more and I’m not sure perhaps on a different level she is angry with me I have left her at grandmas, even though she loves going there and is usually quite happy to say bye bye to me (sometimes she gets a bit sad but we talk through it and she quickly settles) could she prefer to be alone with grandma and not have me around?. She is very alert sociable and talks a lot for her age and understands everything I say, can also be defiant loving and also can be very patient. We also have many lovely moments playing and doing daily activities where I try to make it explorative fun and she seems happy when she is with me most of the time. Although grandma is a lot more ‘grandma’ with her spending more undivided attention and has Different approaches to my parenting, I feel that my daughter knows it’s just a little different at home to what it’s like at grandmas. Nonetheless I feel like I’m not providing something and I would love your thoughts. Thanks so much jemma

  14. Hi Janet,

    My daughter Charlotte is 5 and is in preschool. She has always been shy when around new adults and kids, and it takes her a long time to feel comfortable in new situations. She is clingy in drop off and doesn’t say hi to other kids or teachers who greet her. Although lately, I feel like this has been easier. My response is to always be nonchalant and loving as needed. I take my time at drop off and leave when I feel she is settled. She is great on play dates when we invite a friend over, but hides when the friend arrives. It takes a good 5 minutes before I can coax her out from behind the chair or couch! Her teacher has expressed that she has seen some progress over the past month especially in Charlotte trying new things out of her comfort zone in school. But, I guess what I have figured out is what consistently brings out this behavior is any high pressured situation that Char finds herself in. A greeting, teacher looking at her and asking a question, being a leader in prayer at school, a door holder, a lunch helper, and finally, reading out loud to her teacher. In these pressure or “spot light” situations, Char will “shut down” and not respond to her teacher. And there doesn’t seem to be anything the teacher can do to help. For example, her teacher brought Char and another student into a smaller, quieter work room to evaluate how beginning reading was going. The classmate read out loud from the little reader book, but Char refused. The teacher excused the classmate and asked Char to read, she refused. Her teacher spent some time asking Char what was wrong and to describe what she was feeling. Char said she was scared of reading. Her teacher said ok, encouraged her to try again , but no luck…her teacher is concerned about Chars response to when things get tough or challenging that her response is to just shut down. She is prayer leader this week, which is leading the class in prayer, but no surprise, she is uncomfortable doing this!! Her teacher pressed her to just sit in front of class w the teacher for a count of 5 which she did, but really didn’t want to! (The rest of the class hadn’t gathered yet on the rug)
    Her teacher is concerned about next year and kindergarten where it will be more challenging. There will be a lot of testing at the beginning to see where the kids are with reading and she is concerned Char won’t be evaluated correctly. She knows Char is right where she should be academically.
    I am stressing about this transition, and trying very hard not to show it!!! Any thoughts or strategies we can use to help increase her self confidence?

    Sue Burr

    1. Catherine says:

      She is still very young. This seems like a lot of pressure for a 5 year old, even if she is capable. Have you looked into play based alternatives for early childhood like Waldorf? There is a lot of research that shows that pushing reading and academics early on can lead to learning issues later and even a lack of enjoyment for learning and reading. In most European and esp Scandinavian countries academics and reading is started only to be taught at age 7. Good luck with figuring this out!

  15. I can’t thank you enough for this article and so many others! You provide so many helpful tips and suggestions. Your podcast is also amazing. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience. It’s really helping me be the kind of parent I want to be.

  16. My 3.5 yr old son just started preschool. He seems to like it well enough. He’s not the type to be exuberant or readily effusive. He’s been reasonable and helpful and not much of a stereotypical baby or toddler. There haven’t been a lot of issues with picky eating or tantrums.
    Lately though if we get in the car at about the 2 minutes mark he starts to say that he can’t breathe or that he is uncomfortable. I have made every possible adjustment to his seat as possible while still keeping him safe. When he screams and cries the only way to make him calm down is to sing the Wheels on the Bus. Unfortunately, I can’t sing it for 5 minutes let alone 45 mins straight.
    I get flustered and angry when he won’t stop crying. I have tried staying calm and being rational and letting him know that it’s the law that we all need seat belts. He says the straps are too tight but they’re exactly as tight as they are supposed to be.
    We planned a 10 day camping and road trip before this problem started and now I’m worried that we will have to cancel if we can’t figure out what the problem is in the next month.
    Please help! I’ve been listening to your podcasts and I suspect he has some confidence issues along with some control issues. We were attachment parents and he self weaned at 3. He also potty trained himself.

  17. Catherine says:

    Dear Janet,

    Thank you for all your wisdom over the years. I found your blog when my older son, now 5&1/2 was 6 months old and it helped so much! My son was so well adjusted and happy as a toddler.

    Years later and we added a new baby to the mix and in this first year and a half of adjusting to two kids and moving to another state with all family abroad it’s been rough and I somehow lost my confidence and just became a very anxious stressed mommy.

    Last night after my older son was having yet another anxious breakdown (over the idea of turning six in eight months and waiting for me while I put younger brother down for his bedtime) and DH and I wondering if we needed to contact a child therapist, when I turned to your blog as a familiar font of wisdom and yet again I found it! I realised that all his anxiety is coming from my own pp anxiety and my loss of confidence and overreactions to everything and general grumpiness from the stress of moving with two very little kids along with facing a few more years as a sahm and putting personal goals on hold, being far away from support systems and my own issues surrounding my sense of self worth. It’s so helpful to see where it’s all coming from, makes it much easier to help him and work towards becoming a better mom again.

    So thank you again! Thank you so much for all the support and guidance. ❤️

    1. Dear Catherine,

      Thank you so much for your kind support! You’ve done some awesome self-reflecting. Also remember that they may have their own feelings around these changes as well, so it may not all on you.:) But, yes, our feelings are very powerful. Keep up the wonderful work! I’m thrilled to be able to help. x Janet

  18. Love this! It’s so important to go through the list of underlying reasons for a child’s behavior! Sharing!

  19. Rachel Muldoon says:

    Hello Janet,

    I love your articles. I am a mother as well as a speech-language pathologist for little ones (generally ages 18 months-3 years) and have some Spanish speaking families on my caseload. Do you have any of your articles translated so I can pass them to families?

    Thank you!

  20. Laura Yallop says:

    Hi Janet,
    I am wondering if you can help me? I have a 4 year old who has just finished his first term at school. His behaviour at home has been escalating for a while me and my husband have been struggling a little with the best approach it’s progressively got worst. Our main issue is him waking grumpy, tantrums while getting dressed and resisting having his wash, doing teeth in the morning. I am trying different approaches at the moment but nothing seems to be working he complains of his clothes tickling and completely loses it with socks not being on right ~we have tried different techniques to help. He is now talking to us badly at home and seems to be gaining more control than he should. The teacher at school assures me he is fine while there. Yet when I speak to him he says I cant be a good boy at home, I think he finds it tough doing it at school and needs to let it out. My husband wants to take a different approach as do I by being respectful to him. I don’t want to be too hard on him I am conscious of the demand for him to do well at school and the lifestyle change with actually starting school. Can you share any tips for how to listen to his feelings but also share clear boundaries around our morning routine?!
    Thank you in advance

  21. Tanya Van Kirk says:

    I have three yr old BBG triplets. Besides that I have a husband who is a teller so our parenting is inconsistent and I can’t control that. I say that because that might be the main nail in the coffin, if you can’t be consistent the “what to do” might not be effective and I get that.
    All three have spd and one is suspected ASD. The one that might have asd has a lot of irrational fears such as light moving, shadow changing, texture too soft ect.. and it’s always the worst at bedtime even though it does happen when awake or it’s bright out as well. How do I acknowledge those feelings or fears without validating them. If I do validate them, “yes, that is a shadow and I can see why you think the green light is scary” than we hyper focus on that and repeat it 10-20times.. each of those times having me repeat it back .

    Secondly, the other boy is sensory avoidant and has a lot of fear over trying things or change. I know a lot of these “no don’t take this road home, take that one” “even though we take many roads (I try not to make things like that exactly the same and detour on purpose) I know a lot of these have intense anxiety behind them. I don’t want to increase that. An example for the above is “I know your upset mommy didn’t drive home the same way but this road has tractors we can see” the next response is always a “no, I don’t want and whatever I said the reason we did something” until it’s meltdown.
    Lastly, Savannah’s will is very strong and it’s all “I do it myself” which I allow a lot of.. if I am trying to do something girly with her and paint her nails she will say “I do it myself” I will ask acknowledge her need to and say “I know you want to paint your own nails but I have to show you first than you can” she will just repeat and than grab the nail polish out of my hand before I have had a chance to model painting nails on my hand. I will say “before you take something away ask to see if it’s ok” and she will ask and I will say “not right now, it is my turn to paint mommy’s nails” Than she will wither dump the bottle or I will snatch it back because I think she is going to dump it.. and she will meltdown. I will tell her I understand she wants to blah but it’s my turn “ and someone else will break something be into something or fighting and I will just tell her I am moving her body to a safe place to kick and scream and walk away.. sorry for the grammar, I keep falling asleep and mr thoughts are not cohesive. I sleep maybe 3 hrs a night with all the up and downs and sometimes can not manage a sentence. I don’t know if this is the right platform fir all these questions even in hindsight I should have probably sent an email. Hopefully the response will help someone else who feels like they are drowning above water if not, feel free to delete this completely.

  22. vanessa tobias says:

    I have a 3 year old and an 11 month old. We have had the same problem since my youngest was born. My toddler would have melt downs which I used to spend a great deal of time waiting it out next to him should he need a hug, want to talk, or was done running through his emotions.since my 2nd I am having trouble spending that time sitting there since my littlest needs diaper changes, feedings (which we have been breastfeeding exclusively though now I offer other snacks if I have them close), etc. I have a hard time forcing my littlest to sit there and hear screaming when he needs my attention too. I try to have him independent play, but he too gets weary with the prolonged tantrums. Should I be sitting there alongside my toddler the whole time or is it okay to walk away to tend to my other child? I feel like I am neglecting his emotions when I leave, but I also feel like I am neglecting my youngest who is trying to learn to walk. I am torn. Any advice?

  23. Claudia Stuart says:

    Hi Janet,
    We have an almost 4-year old, and a 17-month old.
    Our oldest son drastically changed with the arrival of his brother, but eventually his behavior got a bit better. He started pre-school last year with the purpose of socializing, getting structure into his day, giving us time to be with the baby, and mostly so that he could learn how to share. School stopped for a couple of months due to COVID, and just recently started again the new school year now in pre-K.
    We have been struggling with his behavior at home: not listening, not following instructions, wanting to do only what he wants, pushing boundaries, etc, but now he is starting to misbehave at school too.
    We have tried talking, taking his toys away, time outs, punishment … we have tried everything we know of, and he is simple not faced by anything.
    We are on the waitlist for an appointment with a family counselor, but as you probably know yourself, they are in high demand right now.
    We often question ourselves: are we expecting too much from our son? Is this what a normal 4-year old supposed to do?
    Do you have any advise for this type of situations?
    Many thanks in advance,

  24. Hi
    My potty trained and independent toileting 2,5 LO has transitioned to pre-school class last week and a few days pre transition started to soil himself during the day and at night (both urine and feces). He seems completely indifferent about it and doesn’t want to partake in the clean-up. Obviously this transition is huge for him and I feel so powerless as we can not currently even enter the daycare’s entrance and the dynamic is quite chaotic with educators and such (thank you COVID).
    I try to talk about it showing him compassion and also allowing him to express his anxiety with the transition. I still hold firm about pee and poo not acceptable anywhere else than in toilet. Nothing has improved over last week.
    So, today after nap I stated we were going to the toilet. Toddler insisted on reading a book. I responded by letting him know I needed him to give the toilet a « try » first. When he resisted I offered him a chance to find a solution. Nothing. So I proposed bringing the book to read on the toilet: further resistance. So, I lead him to toilet while stating we would get to read as fast as possible. Then ensued full blown tears and since he wanted to leave the room, I closed the door and blocked it saying I’d wait for him to give the toilet a try (I stayed in there with him ). Tantrum continued with stubborn attempts to open the door. After a while with no calming down he soiled himself. Obviously that stopped the entire situation but left me feeling that perhaps I had created a power struggle that was uneeded.
    Was it? As the adult I know I am right in knowing there was an incoming pee and I could help him avoid a soiling scenario by steering him to the toilet. However, should I trust that he would know to do that (like in the past) and not push it?
    Tantrums are new events as you can probably tell and I want to make sure I set reasonable boundaries while still respecting and showing my trust in my child.
    I really don’t enjoy having to « physically » enforce things like picking him up to get him to move out the door to go to daycare or block a door that he keeps trying to open and screaming about it. I typically give a 2 choice option (toilet and read after versus toilet and read while on potty) but that doesn’t seem to work as well lately.


  25. Allison S says:

    Thank you for the great post! I’m making my way through “No Bad Kids” but recently have a tough time with our 19 month old son. Due to my having a heavier work schedule the past 4 months, we’re dealing with some heartbreaking (for me!) parental preference. When our son is upset or frustrated and I try to talk with or comfort him, he tries to hit me and look to his dad. In this situation my saying “I won’t let you hit me” just seems to make him more upset and he doubles down on looking for dad. I’m getting more work balance now thank goodness but am at a loss on how to effectively help him work through the frustrations without “giving in” to the parental preference issue.

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