Development FAQ: 18-24 months – Behaviour

My son of 22 mths constantly wants attention all afternoon.

Despite eating a good lunch and having a solid nap afterwards I find my 22-month-old son’s behaviour every afternoon very wearing.

Didier also has a twin brother and a sister who is 3.5 years old, so life is quite busy for me. Didier is a very active, and entertaining little boy. He is also very sensitive, sweet and caring to his brother and sister. He is quite hilarious, wearing silly hats, jumping around and putting on funny voices to make everyone laugh. The flip-side to his character is that he is very demanding, and voices his discontent (about anything in particular) in an extremely loud way.

Every day he eats a good lunch (12:30-1pm) as he likes his food on the whole. A typical lunch would be 4tbsp chicken casserole or fish pie, 1 small potato and 1-2 tbsp green vegetables. He then settles down (with a bit of fuss) for his nap. I wake him after 1.5 hrs as he was beginning to be difficult to settle in the evenings. I always let him wake up naturally but as soon as he is awake he is cranky and demanding snacks. He loves bread sticks and rice cakes and would happily eat them all afternoon if I let him. He spends most of the afternoon shouting “STICK!”, “RICE!” over and over again. I try to divert his attention and this sometimes works for a while, but then he is screaming, clinging and whining for more “sticks” and “rice” until teatime. He normally eats a good amount at tea so his snacking doesn’t seem to be spoiling his appetite. I try to limit his snacks, and even ignore him, but I am not sure what method to use. I am not certain whether he is: either really hungry and therefore may need something a little more substantial as snack, or does he have a behavioural problem? Dealing with two other small children as well, means he cannot have my attention all the time.

Dealing with three young children such as yours can feel like a never ending demand for attention. As all children have different temperaments and characters some will always be more demanding than others, but in a family they need to learn they cannot always have your time and attention.
To work out what is Didier’s problem try two things: when he wakes up after his lunchtime nap and asks for a snack, show him that you have put them where he can freely help himself. As he usually eats his tea well, try not to become concerned about his appetite being ruined. Let him have as many bread sticks and rice cakes as he likes. These snacks are not unhealthy so don’t worry too much right now about him eating too many. If he helps himself throughout the afternoon but his demand for attention disappears, you will know that it is hunger causing this behaviour. Rather than introducing a bigger or more substantial snack, increase the amount of protein that you give Didier for lunch. This should have the effect of him not feeling so hungry as soon as he wakes up.

Should his rather demanding behaviour for attention still continue, you will know that you have to find ways of helping him to share you with his siblings. Get them all involved in an activity such as cooking or sticking. Use one large bowl for mixing up some cookie dough. Let each child have a specific task; one adds the flour, one the sugar, one the butter, so they are all equally involved in the process. A joint sticking activity, could be work on a collage-type picture all together. Point out what fun it is when you all work together on something and how each child is needed to complete the project.

It is never easy to give each child individual time, especially when they are closely spaced or twins but whenever possible, try for a short time each day, enlisting the help of your husband if possible.