My 2yo hit me in the face this afternoon, completely without warning (so it seemed).
I held his hands, “I won’t let you hit me.”
He cried, fought against me, tried to get his hands free.
“I love you, and I won’t let you hit me,” I repeated, with a kind tone of voice while I held his hands firmly, but without hurting him.
He cried a bit more, then yelled, “Mama! I need sleep!”, rolled away from me, and fell asleep almost instantly!

When our kids misbehave, it’s so easy to put the fault on either them or ourselves. It’s much more useful to look for signs of PHALTT – do they need to Potty? Are they Hungry? Anxious? Lonely? Tired? Thirsty? Little ones have an even harder time regulating their behavior when these factors are present than we do, and I know I’ve been irritable and acted unreasonably when I’m feeling one or more of them.

The resulting behaviors don’t call for punishment, but for meeting the needs they indicate while modeling respect for both yourself AND the child, by enforcing boundaries with kind words and gentle hands. Before long, you’ll start to see them regulate their own needs and behaviors: my four year old knows to ask for a snack or a potty break when she starts feeling that way, and even the 2 year old asks for a hug when he’s feeling nervous or lonely.

What questions would you add to the PHALTT checklist?

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