Q: Our 32-month-old daughter has always been outgoing and loves to be around people…until recently, that is. All of a sudden she has started lowering her head when we get together with people she doesn’t see very often and will refuse to say hi or be friendly. Is it reasonable to expect that she say hello? At what age should we start disciplining this behavior?
A: Older toddlers and 3-year-olds — even previously outgoing ones — have a reputation for suddenly becoming “shy”in social situations. I’ve yet to hear a plausible explanation for this, so let’s simply say that it is what it is. At this age, “bad manners” of this sort merit neither concern nor discipline. I can, however, tell you that the more attention you pay to this by coaxing and talking to her about it, the worse it’s going to get. In fact, you and other people may be paying entirely too much attention to her in what are actually “adult” situations. When you introduce her to someone, do so casually, even off-handedly. If she lowers her head, just tell the person “She’s going through a shy phase…we don’t pay attention to it” and proceed with the adult conversation. By not making her the center of attention this “phase” will pass in due time.
Q: My 3-year-old’s tantrums are becoming worse. She is also becoming “passive-aggressive” (whining, arching her back on the floor, refusing to stand or talk) when things don’t go her way. When these behaviors occur, I put her in her room and/or put her to bed right after supper, but that doesn’t seem to be helping. Should I up the ante?
A: Nothing out of the ordinary here, and you’re handling her tantrums just fine. Just remember, doing the right thing in response to misbehavior does not guarantee the misbehavior will go away. In which case, you should just keep doing the right thing. Some kids get it more quickly than others.
Q: I have 6-year-old twin boys who tend to get rambunctious when playing with other boys. How can I teach them to control their behavior when around other ‘wild’ kids? Recently, one of my boys and an especially wild friend were jumping off the bunk beds and my son knocked a tooth out. I talk to them prior to a play date and explain the consequences of poor behavior (and I follow through afterward). This still is not working. Help!
A: Girls play quietly with dolls and dress-up; boys jump off their bunk beds and knock teeth out. If that’s the only injury a boy incurs during boyhood, he must be spending too much time watching television and playing video games. As you’ve discovered, punishment does not override the need for a boy to be wild. When the wildness gets to be a bit much for your comfort level, call a time out. Put them at the table with crayons and paper for fifteen minutes. Let them calm down, then let them at it again. Above all else, put them outside as much as possible. That’s where boys belong anyway.