A great place to gain key social skills

As mothers ourselves, we’ve seen it all when it comes to toddlers behaviour at Playgroup, from them making friends and playing together as well as the not so great pushing, not sharing, hitting and biting to name just a few things.

Young children / babies crave attention. They learn from their peers and flourish on interactions that help them develop and grow. Play and socialisation in a setting such as playgroup gives a child the chance to navigate social situations such as taking turns, conversation skills, when to join in a game, emotional expression and tolerance of others.

From the age of 0-2 children tend to focus more on toys than other babies / children. Obviously, there is some interaction but generally they are more interested in their parents / carers rather than children their own age. When they hit the age of between 2 – 3 they slowly begin to play independently from their carer and interact with children their own age. This is a great time to introduce them to different social situations. However, be prepared that during this transition period, children may act out. It is perfectly normal for a child to hit, scratch, pull hair and bite another child. This is not to say that this doesn’t cause you as a parent immense stress. But always remember that you are not alone.

Often a child chooses to act this way, as a way of communicating. They are not able to verbalise in the same way as adults, so chose this way to get what they want. As we all know, its not always easy to share! It can be tempting to stop taking your child to playgroup when they go through this phase. Believe me, there were many, many occasions when I thought it would be much easier to stay home rather than taking my biting, hair pulling, hitting two year old to a playgroup! But the only way they will learn to play is to stick with it and continue to put them in social situations. They in turn will learn from those around them. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any techniques you can try;

What should you do if your toddler hits?

· Remove your child from the situation

· Discuss alternative ways to act

· Provide emotional support

· Prevent the hitting before it begins (sometimes there are obvious signs)

What should you do if your child is pulling hair?

· Teach them how hair should be handled

· Ask them how they would feel if they had their hair pulled

What should you do if your child is biting?

· Be calm and firm. Address your child with a firm “no biting” or “biting hurts”. Keep it simple for them to understand

· Comfort the other child to show your toddler that their actions have hurt someone

· Offer alternative ways to interact with their peers

· Remember that biting is a normal part of childhood and not to blame yourself

Obviously, each tactic applies to all of the above. Whatever their behaviour is, get down to your childs level and explain calmly but firmly that their behaviour isn’t acceptable and explain its wrong. When your child is acting out in this way, it’s a good idea to become their shadow within social situations so you can prevent the worst from happening. This can prevent a situation from occurring in the first place and you will learn the cues that you child might react badly and remove them temporarily from the situation.

As a parent / carer its always a good idea to talk to other parents / carers about their experience. It was a huge relief to me to know that other people were going through the same thing. I often just wanted to cry but talking as a Mum of a now 12 year old who did all of the above, I can confirm that they do grow out of it. Its just a hard phase to deal with!

Always remember that here at PACS, we are not here to judge. We are always on hand to lend an ear and offer a hot cup of tea. We’ve all been there and have come out the other side. Now if anyone can help with the pre teen stage, I’d certainly love to hear from you!

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