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Caring for a toddler

Understanding Your Baby's Behaviour


"Why doesn't my 2-year-old child behave like my neighbor's child who is so obedient?"

“Why does my child throw his toys around and start crying every time I get on a phone call?”

If similar questions are bothering you, then you’ve landed at the right place. A child’s upbringing doesn’t have to be a challenge for parents. Just like everything else in life, the more you start understanding your baby’s behavior the merrier is the process.

Being a parent in today’s time means being able to efficiently balance work with the demands of bringing up your children. While every child is unique in many ways, children exhibit certain behaviour which can be linked to common thought processes.

We’re here to bring you up to speed with understanding your child’s behavior and this starts with understanding the intent and the cause of their misbehavior.

A child's inappropriate behavior should be viewed in the context of the relationship between the child and the recipient of the behavior. A behavior is not a problem if there is no observer / recipient. A child who screams his head off is not considered having a behavioral problem until somebody has to deal with the behavior or the consequences.

Behavior is relative and subjective to each individual receipt. Hence, each recipient's reaction to a particular behavior would vary. For instance, a child who refuses to pick up his toys may be considered mildly misbehaving by one parent but exhibiting unbearable behavior to another.

Infants and toddlers react to the here and now. When children want something, they want it now or they may scream, bite, kick or nag. They often cannot appreciate the long term implications of their behavior.

Three main interrelated factors often help shape children's behavior. Let’s look at each of them.



First, we look at heredity or a child's temperament. Temperament or a child's genetic make-up, explains why a person behaves in certain ways in response to stimuli. Emotionality, activity level and sociability seem related to the development of undesirable behavior.


Emotionality refers to an infant's response to events in his environment. The sight of a stranger or being spoken to by a stranger may upset one child but may not affect another.


Activity level refers to the energy the child displays in vigorous movement and activity. An active child will find it more difficult to accept the physical boundaries set by parents and caregivers than an infant with low activity level.


Sociability refers to an infant's inclination for interaction with people. A very sociable child who craves attention all the time will more likely demand social contact that an infant who only demands for attention when he is hungry or wet.


Family environment

Perhaps the most important factor contributing to the likelihood of inappropriate behavior. Parents' work schedules, parents' marital problems, and parenting styles may affect the degree, frequency and intensity of inappropriate behavior. Behavioral problems have been a constant complain of working parents. This is because children constantly craves for parent’s attention; parents are their first set of friends. Insufficient time and inattention due to fatigue are the major contributing factors among working parents.


Role of learning and experience

A child learns to interact from the people and the surrounding environment. The interaction between the main caregivers and the infant in the first few months of life often determines how he would react and interact with others around him in the following years. For example, if nagging, crying or screaming will likely result in a sweet, chances are his inappropriate behavior will persist, evolving into different forms as the child grows.

When children misbehave, it is likely that there is an agenda for their inappropriate behavior. There are four main objectives in misbehavior. They are:

  • Attention seeking - sometimes children misbehave to attract attention
  • Revenge - children may seek revenge by being spiteful or doing harmful things
  • Power seeking - children will often challenge their parents to satisfy their desire for power and control
  • Helplessness - children who think of themselves as incompetent or unable to perform tasks often react with inappropriate behavior. When children are overprotected, they easily become discouraged and helpless.

Now all that is understood, but how does one deal with misbehavior? You may ask. Here’s how -  Learning to recognize the purpose of the inappropriate behavior will help you know why children misbehave and hence manage them accordingly. Your feelings, reaction and the consequences of the behavior are some ways you can recognize the nature of the misbehavior.

1. Recognize the misbehavior by how you feel about it

  • Attention seeking makes you feel annoyed
  • Power seeking makes you feel angry
  • Revenge makes you feel hurt
  • Helplessness makes you feel despondent

2. Observe how you react to the misbehavior

  • Attention seeking makes you remind, coax, nag and explain
  • Power seeking makes you fight or give in
  • Revenge makes you retaliate to get even
  • Helplessness makes you solve the problem yourself

3. Observe the consequences for the child who displays the misbehavior

  • Attention seeking causes people to look at and speak to the child
  • Power seeking causes people to stand over and supervise the child
  • Revenge causes people to punish the child
  • Helplessness causes people to look after and protect the child

In the following scenarios, ask yourself how you feel as the parent, how you feel about the parent's reaction and what the purpose of the child's inappropriate behavior was.

Dialogue 1

Mother: Wasn't that a lovely bath, Alex? Now you are clean and dry. There you are, Mummy will put you on your bed for a while. (Toddler Vivian comes along and punches Alex.)

Mother: No, Vivian! You mustn't hit your baby brother like that. You're a naughty boy.

This scenario illustrates revenge.

Dialogue 2

Vivian: Mummy, I can't find my power ranger.

Mother: It is in your toy box where you always keep it.

Vivian: I've looked in there. It wasn't there.

Mother: Go and look again. It was there this morning.

Vivian: (Walking from the toy box) I still can't find it, Mummy.

Mother: For goodness sake (goes to the box). Here it is, just where I've said it'll be. Why is it that no one can find anything around here except me? You're hopeless.

This scenario illustrates helplessness.

Dialogue 3

Mother : Come on, Vivian. It's time to put away your toys now. (Pause), Vivian, put your toys away please. (Pause). Vivian, Mummy will smack you if you don't put away your toys. Come on, I'll help. There, I've put the truck in the box. In it goes …….

This scenario illustrates power seeking.

Dialogue 4

Mother : I'll just ring Aunt Annie and arrange to go shopping with her (dials the phone). Hello? Oh Annie, its Angel here, How about going for a shopping trip this week? (Son starts to cry and bang his toys.) Hold on a minute, Angel (puts aside the phone). Stop it, Vivian! That's being naughty. Mummy's on the phone (puts down the phone). Here's your power ranger. (Returns to phone). I'm sorry, Annie. Vivian always does that when I'm on the phone. (Noise starts again). Oh dear, he broke his toy. Annie, can I ring you back when he's asleep? Bye.

This scenario illustrates attention seeking.

It is always important, when considering misbehavior, to understand the factors involved that resulted in the misbehavior. Knowing why your child exhibits inappropriate behavior and what his objectives are will help you make better decisions about what to do when you encounter these behaviors.

The information published herein is intended and strictly only for informational, educational, purposes and the same shall not be misconstrued as medical advice. If you are worried about your own health, or your child’s well being, seek immediate medical advice. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website. Kimberly-Clark and/ or its subsidiaries assumes no liability for the interpretation and/or use of the information contained in this article. Further, while due care and caution has been taken to ensure that the content here is free from mistakes or omissions, Kimberly-Clark and/ or its subsidiaries makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information here, and to the extent permitted by law, Kimberly-Clark and/ or its subsidiaries do not accept any liability or responsibility for claims, errors or omissions.


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