Last lockdown, my then 6 year old surprised me by revisiting some behaviours I thought I’d waved goodbye to with his toddlerhood…
I heard from a lot of parents who also reported much more ‘neediness’; Kids talking in baby voices, claiming to be incapable of long-since mastered tasks, difficulties with sleep, swinging between anger and ‘wanting to be a baby’ etc.
These behaviours can be confusing, worrying or just plain frustrating.
Why is your kid behaving like this? Do you tell them to behave more appropriately or treat them like the infant they’re presenting as?
There’s no right answer, but know this; Regression is perfectly normal. It happens to kids of all ages; from infancy to adolescence; and here’s why…
Even though their upstairs ‘thinking’ brain is registering all of your reassurances, their downstairs ‘survival’ brain is still reacting to all this unexpected change.
This primitive brain doesn’t operate with conscious awareness so your kids really aren’t pro-actively choosing how they behave a lot of the time.
They’re just trying to feel safe in a world that doesn’t feel very secure anymore; that’s lost its sense of consistency & predictability.
Sometimes, we all get so overwhelmed that we miss the message in our kids behaviour (*note to self; “All behaviour is just a form of communication”) but here’s three straightforward ways to respond some of the most common regressions.
Clingy, needy ‘I want to be a baby’ behaviours
Don’t worry about explaining ‘you are safe’, or that your kid is old enough to ‘know better’; Chronological age is irrelevant. Clingy, needy behaviour isn’t a call for ‘Tell me I’m safe’, but ‘Make me FEEL safe’. Keep giving reassurances little & often, even if your child isn’t outwardly asking for it. When the world feels safe, their thinking brain can do more of the work it’s made to do.
Resistance to bedtime, especially falling asleep by themselves, is usually resistance to separation more than to sleep itself. Yes, we ALL need our adult time but *slightly uncomfortable truth* it’s not a kid’s job to make our life as adults easier.
You’re not taking a step backwards if you just lay down with your child until they fall asleep. You’re just meeting their needs in that moment. (If that sounds like a nightmare to you, there’s a free workshop in my Facebook group here on how to support kids back to independent sleep.)
Unexplainable anger & frustration
Does anyone else have a child who seems to be waking up angry most days? Mine is continually accusing me of things I haven’t done, and misdemeanours like having lunch ready ‘too quickly’ are daily occurrences.
This is the primitive brain in charge again; reactive 100%, rational thinking 0%.
Of course, encourage your kids to manage their frustration, and to communicate appropriately, but if you can, avoid being drawn into arguments or defending yourself. It’s not personal.
Take a deep breath, remind your child that you feel more like helping when they talk nicely, and move on. 😊