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By Adrie Van Wonterghem, Assistant Manager of Education Programs and Ana Page, Director of Education  

Last week, we tackled ways to help manage the challenging behaviors our little one’s exhibit. By looking at the motivation behind the melt downs, we were able to check our expectations and set reasonable limits that our children can understand. Today we’ll go one step further and explore behavioral regression, that is, when children display behaviors they have previously overcome or stopped altogether and discover how a mindset of peace and understanding can restore the calm.  

What is Regression? 

After being home from school for nearly a month due to the COVID 19 lockdowns, my child began sucking her thumb againMy son has started to throw violent tantrums when things don’t go his way, something he hasn’t done in years...My daughter keeps having potty accidents even though she previously was potty trained .. 

These parent concerns reveal the regression that can occur in our children’s development during heightened times of stress and disruptions to routines. It is important to consider what these behaviors are trying to communicate and seek to understand the behavior before responding to it. One such way to meet challenging behaviors head on is to adopt an understanding focused on building a peaceful environment in which your child can openly communicate. 

Tips for building Peace[education] atmosphere 

Peace Corner 

Find a dedicated space where the entire family has access to gather together. It can be a table or a cushion in the corner of your living room. In that space, place a special stuffed animal, river rocks, or a small tray with kinetic sand. This space can help you and your child reframe your mindset on the issue. For example, if your child is frustrated because they are not allowed to go to the park, sit with the kinetic sand and let your child feel it go through their fingers. When your child is relaxed, have a conversation about what they are going through. 

Persona Dolls 

Find a doll or make one out of cloth or paper. Create a persona by writing a background story for your doll. When a regressive behavior erupts, use the persona doll to talk about the behavior and then show ways that the doll overcomes that behavior with specific examples. So, if your child is sucking their thumb again, the doll can role play sucking their thumb while you ask your child what the doll can do instead? If your child does not share solutions, you can prompt them with the doll squeezing a ball instead. 

Every family is different and creates a routine that works for their family. Even though families may have different discipline styles, we are all facing the various challenges of parenting through a pandemic and peace education techniques can support your communication through any challenge. Remember to be patient and consistent. If you need to take a break, take a breather before helping your child through their challenging experience. Introduce a new tool at a time and reflect with your partner or friend on its progress.  

Be sure to check out our parenting webinar series, Let’s Talk Kids! for more resources. 

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