Responsive Parenting

Repeating yourself to a young child is rarely going to help them do as you say.

Let’s imagine you’ve asked your toddler to stop hitting her brother and she doesn’t… you demand one more time with increased volume and annoyance in your tone, “I said stop hitting!” 

Photo by Liza Summer on

This child of yours—who was showing with the first hit she needs help—feels more stressed sensing the shift in your state of regulation and hits again, more forcefully.

Cue the tears of hurt and shrieks of pain from both children.

What this toddler was likely needing at that moment was early physical help from a regulated parent or caregiver. When children lash out at others, it can be an indication that their level of frustration has surpassed their ability to contain it. Offering our gentle guidance and prioritising being with them in their upset can help to defuse the conflict.

In these moments we should become mindful of how we’re handling the situation because sometimes we’re inadvertently escalating it and making it more challenging than it needs to be.

Bridgett Miller

As parents and caregivers, we need to understand that young children have low impulse control and act out of the right side of their brain (it develops first).

The next time your young child engages in impulsive behaviours, try responding by saying what you want to say as you offer gentle help at their level.

Most young children respond well to some light physical contact as this helps to ground them when they’re upset.

Bridgett Miller

Forget repeating yourself because seldom are your words enough. Replace “be patient” with “be helpful” and as early as possible help your child to stop engaging in unsafe, impulsive behaviour.

Repeating yourself increases your feelings of frustration, taking you from regulation to dysregulation, and that means you’re joining the chaos instead of offering calmness.

Are you struggling with how to handle moments like this with your child? Schedule a free call with me to share a supportive conversation together.

Supporting parents to step forward into growth is one of my favourite things to do! To learn more about what I offer parents, visit my website today!

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