8 toddler behaviour questions answered

Our health visitor tackles your toddler behaviour dilemmas, including pooing in the bath and watching too much TV

You can wean you tot off watching too much TV by gradually reducing the time you have it on

1) My toddler wants to be carried

Q. My 3-year-old son wants us to carry him everywhere. He’s too heavy now, and every outing is difficult. Any advice?


A. By 3 most toddlers find a way of attempting to exert their will, and this may be what’s driving this behaviour. You’ll need him to stay in the buggy for some trips, just for safety and ease.

However, maybe he can be encouraged to walk independently in certain settings – the park or particular quiet pavements if you think it’s suitable. Building this up as him being a big boy and getting him to ride his scooter or trike at these times may also distract him from wanting to be carried.

2) Is being ritualistic normal?

Q. My 3 year old likes his routines and gets upset if we change our daily activities at short notice. He also likes the same story/DVD/place to sit at the table, etc. A friend described him as ritualistic and now I’m worried. Should I be?

A. There’s a wide gap between a toddler enjoying the predictability and security of daily routines, and one whose anxiety is raised to unbearable levels at even small changes in his day-to-day experiences.

On one level you have a toddler who likes to know were he is and on the other you may have concerns about autistic spectrum disorder.

Most pre-schoolers like order in their day. Often at 3 years old, they’ll be in a nursery fairly regularly where they have very little control over what happens.

It’s not surprising that on returning home they like things to be familiar, and ‘ritualistic’, to give them a sense of control again. I suspect this may be where your son is.

However, have a talk with your GP and health visitor who’ll be able to review his development with you, and advise you about your concerns.

3) Is pooing in the bath normal?

Q:My daughter keeps pooing in the bath, and then gets upset. Bedtime routines are becoming a nightmare. Is this normal?

A: It’s definitely not usual, so it’s time to think about her toilet routine to get to the bottom of this. My immediate thought is that pooing in a warm bath is easier for her, so do you think that she may be holding on to her poos through the day? Perhaps she may have got a little constipated, passed a harder poo than normal, felt uncomfortable and now be worried in case it happens again.

Try increasing the amount she drinks through the day, offer her more fruit and fibre too, and plenty of running about, to stimulate bowel activity. Another option is to have the potty on hand and let her use it in the bath for a while. This may be a good halfway point until her bowel movements get easier.

4) Shy toddler

Q. Our 2-year old is confident at home but less so at toddler groups. Is this normal?

A. Some toddlers jump straight into group activities while others will stand back, preferring to listen, observe and join in if and when they’re ready to do so. Whatever their approach, the children are still benefiting from the experience of being in a social situation.

Encourage your child by reassuring him that it’s all right if he just wants to watch. Then on the way home talk with him about what he enjoyed. He’ll probably surprise you with what he learned there.

As he seems to find one-to-one fun more enjoyable, try mixing his socialising outings with opportunities to play with just one or two other children. A wide variety of play options will help him to find his feet.

5) How do I deal with bullying?

Q: My 4-year-old daughter says a child at nursery keeps pinching her and calling her names. How do I deal with this in a responsible, adult manner?

A: It’s important for us parents to listen to our little ones when they tell us about being bullied or picked on so that problems don’t get overlooked and escalate. Even the littlest youngsters need the reassurance of seeing that their parents take them seriously and are willing to act on what they say and any issues they have.

Talk to her teachers and be open about your concerns. Perhaps the teachers haven’t witnessed anything, but now that you’ve mentioned it they can keep an eye out. Agree to review how things are going in a week or two. Give your little one some suggestions on how to act if she gets picked on, such as walking away and telling a teacher, so she doesn’t worry about what to do if it happens again.

Build up her friendships outside of nursery with playmates you know are kind and caring, and give her lots of hugs and reassurance.

6) 100mph tot! – could my child be hyperactive?

Q. My 18 month old doesn’t sit still for a second. Could she be hyperactive?

A. Only a small proportion (around 2 per cent) of children are truly hyperactive, so it’s more likely your daughter is simply full of energy. Try to build 5-10 minute slots into your day where she has your complete focus. That way, she won’t misbehave for your attention. Also, include plenty of outdoor ‘running around’ opportunities. Finally, keep a behaviour diary for two weeks to identify what helps keep her, and you, busy and happy.

7) Hair-washing battles

Q. My toddler hates getting water on his head, so baths and hair-washing are a nightmare. What can I do to make it easier for us both?

A. This is a common problem, but try and take a relaxed approach for a few weeks and keep hair-washing to the barest minimum while carrying on with baths.

In the meantime, play with water in the garden or at the sink and make it fun. Use bubbles, straws, water pistols, jugs and plastic bottles and encourage as much exploration as you can. Then transfer this water play to the bath.

Take baths together, so you can show your toddler how you wash your hair with special shampoo that doesn’t sting the eyes. Let him wash your hair, too. Give him lots of positive attention when he tolerates water being splashed on his face and head,
and ignore him when he makes a fuss about hair-washing. With a little encouragement, he’ll get there.

8) How do I wean my toddler off the TV?

Q. My daughter watches too much TV. How can I wean her off it?


A. Gradual reduction is the answer. Put the TV on for half an hour less for the first few days and cut back more as she gets used to it. Instead, get out to playgroups, the park or to see friends. Check out your local children’s centre, too. Borrow from the library some CDs of children’s songs and stories that she can listen to while you get on with jobs at home. And spend a little time each day playing together, to help improve her concentration.

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