Regression: Why Causes Behaviour Regression In Toddlers?

Regression: Why Causes Behaviour Regression In Toddlers?

Many toddlers and young children experience regressions at one stage or another. This can be worrying (not to mention irritating) for parents, seeing their child appear to slide backwards. Although it may look and feel like you’re going backwards with your child’s behaviour and/or development, BellyBelly doesn’t believe in ‘regression’ by definition – everything that happens in our lives is really an attempt to make progress. Thinking about it this way can be really helpful during those trying times

Regression is most common in areas like toilet training, feeding, sleeping and talking and often it’s not a cause for concern, just a normal reaction to whatever is going on in your child’s environment. Child development, like many other things in life, often appears to take the form of a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ approach.

What Could Be Causing My Child’s Regression?

Has your once toilet trained toddler has suddenly started wetting their pants? Or your four year old has decided to communicate in baby talk again? Maybe your formerly independent child has started clinging to you constantly. Regression can be worrying and frustrating but knowing the reason for the change in behaviour can help provide parents with some reassurance and give them some ideas to help their child move on gently to the next stage.

Developmental Milestones

Although there is no solid scientific basis for this, many parents and healthcare practitioners will attest to children going backwards in certain areas while they are developing in others. Language may take a bit of a slide backwards while your toddler gets to grips with walking. Or they may start waking at night again as they leap ahead with toilet training. Check to see if your toddler is going through a wonder week.

Change and Upheaval

Another reason for regression in children can be as a response to change and upheaval in their life. This could be because of a new sibling, a transition in childcare arrangements or a change in family circumstances. It doesn’t have to be a major upheaval to have an effect on your child’s behaviour. Even changes that might not seem significant to an adult can be disturbing to a small child.

What Can I Do To Help?

If you can determine the reason for your child’s behavioural backslide it will make it easier to guide them through whatever is affecting them and help them regain their previous level of maturity. Sometimes it will be fairly obvious (new sibling = your child suddenly wanting a dummy/pacifier again and using baby talk), other times less clear. Here are a few things that might help, depending on the situation:

  • Provide extra reassurance and attention. If you know that your child is facing a big milestone or change, try giving them more cuddles and attention. Sometimes regressing to baby like behaviour can be a way for your child to tell you they are feeling a bit vulnerable and want the attention and cuddles they remember getting when they were younger.
  • Talk to your toddler. If your child is old enough and their language is well enough developed, try talking to them about their change in behaviour or if they are upset about anything. Toddlers understand more than we realise.
  • Give them attention for big boy or big girl behaviour. Parents can tend to give more attention to undesirable behaviour, which inadvertently keeps the cycle going. Give your child plenty of attention for appropriate developmental behaviour and show them the benefits of being a big boy or girl.
  • Allow them to indulge their baby fantasies for a short period of time. Having designated ‘baby’ time may help reassure them that growing older doesn’t have to mean they can’t still be your ‘baby’ when they are feeling vulnerable.

In most cases, regression in behaviour is harmless and a natural part of your child’s development and reaction to their environment. In a small number of cases regression can indicate a medical or developmental issue ” if you are worried it’s always worth getting it checked out further.

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One comment

  1. My daughter is 27 months old and is showing signs of regression, she didn’t walk until 19 months so I just thought she was a late learner and nothing to worry about.
    She did say a few words like mum dad, nan and all of a sudden stopped and she doesn’t say a word now.
    Is this normal?
    I’ve tried introducing flash cards as a speech therapist advised as a way of communicating with her, but she’s not interested.
    What can I do to help?
    Any advice appreciated thanks in advance.

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