Parenting Toddler

Asking ‘Why?’

When young children display inappropriate behaviours, the first response – rather than pointing a finger – can be to ponder the question ‘Why?’ Behaviours are a means of communicating. Are they tired or hungry? Do they need their pace slowed down and special time with you? Too much excitement can lead to undesirable behaviour. Are children in fact being creative and inquisitive, and their loudness or messiness is annoying, but not purposely disruptive? This can be the case. If behaviours tend to repeat themselves, keep a daily diary of when events happen. Asking ‘Why?’ allows you insight and compassion into your child’s life. It stops the parent from reacting harshly, giving time to respond in a compassionate way. The question ‘Why?’ a wonderful question to ask yourself!

Try to see disruptive behaviour as fascinating and try to remain calm. When pondering ‘why’, really stand in your children’s shoes, see and feel how their world is for them in that moment. When my Mum was training to be an early childcare worker she was told this story.

There was once a young boy playing and exploring in his garden. He began to play with the mud near his sandpit. It worked so well with water, he made a ball and put his thumb in, before his eyes it became a beautiful pot. In the kitchen his mum was busy cleaning the floor. The boy was so excited about his new treasure that he had to show the person he loved the most. He went skipping through the open kitchen door, “Mum!” he shouted running up to her. His shoes were still on and a trail of mud followed him. His mother did not see the pot in his outstretched hands or his smiling face, only the footprints on her clean kitchen floor. She screamed, which stopped the boy in his tracks, his pulse beginning to race. “Get out, look at all the mud you have brought in!” The boy turned away in shame, and went outside alone. His mother never did see the pot. Biting back tears, the boy squashed it and put it back in the mud pile where it came from. Confused about being happy one moment and so ashamed the next, he never made a pot to show his mother again.

To change the ending she jokingly could say “It is a lovely pot! Let us put it on the window sill outside and clean up your footprints together. Look at your giant muddy feet!” How often do we blame and shame our children, not understanding the real message of their behaviour? I know I have many times. I aim to live and learn!

I put my hand up high, I have misunderstood my children’s creative actions and got cross, I have witnessed their faces fall from cheerful to suddenly confused. Try pondering ‘why’ yourself to see what their behaviour is really indicating. Is your child really meaning to cause trouble, or merely playing, expressing a need, desire or a special pot?

As a mother I learn the hard way; I shout, get cross, and point a finger. With each incident I feel that there must be a more empowering way to live. A way that keeps my love for my children protected, a bridge built for our futures. My idea is to try to be better tomorrow than I was today. Many practical and inspiring ideas to creatively change behaviours after asking the question ‘Why?’ are covered in my book Turning Tears into Laughter: Creative Discipline for the Toddler and Preschool Years, books available to purchase from this website $12.95 plus $2. Click  Books now.