Montessori Babies

Intro To Understanding Infant & Toddler Behaviors

August 05, 2021 Bianca A. Solorzano, M.Ed.
Montessori Babies
Intro To Understanding Infant & Toddler Behaviors
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In Episode 19, we begin to dive into understanding infant and toddler behaviors, such as hitting, biting, hair pulling, and more.! 

We touch on...

  • The Developmental Significance Behind Behaviors
  • Behaviors in Infancy
  • Behaviors in Toddlerhood
  • How to Handle Behaviors from 0-3
  • Positive Redirection & Reinforcement
  • And more!

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Bianca A. Solorzano, M.Ed.
Baby Development & Montessori Consultant
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Bianca: [00:00:07] Welcome to Baby Tour Guide’s, Montessori Babies podcast, I'm your host and baby tour guide, Bianca Solorzano. And for the last decade, I dedicated myself to helping parents, educators and caregivers optimize baby development through a Montessori lens. This podcast is all about evolving our Montessori practice to make our time with our sweet babies easier, relaxed and so much fun. Let's jump into it. Hi, everyone. Happy Thursday and welcome to Episode 19 of our Montessori Babies podcast. This week is a really special week. We are going to be jumping into understanding behaviors. Now, this is a really big topic. It's a topic that I'll take definitely more than one episode. But we're going to start touching on this topic so we can kind of dissect different aspects of it because it's very complex. But I'm so, so excited to be on this topic. It's definitely one that comes up frequently in my work. And it looks different at different stages of development. Right. And so we're going to be touching on mostly infancy and toddlerhood. So I want to start just by saying thank you to everyone who has been showing our show so much love. I'm just so grateful for our growing community and I'm so, so excited that I have the honor of getting to know all of you wonderful parents and educators and caregivers, all of infants, all, you know, working within the magical world of babies. So I'm so, so, so excited. And for everyone who clicked over to the Patreon and looked through the different tier options that we have last week, I am so grateful for my new patrons.

Bianca: [00:01:59] Welcome to our patron community. We will be doing our shout outs in the next coming episodes. I'm so, so excited. And if you haven't checked out our Montessori Babies Patreon, definitely check it out. I have fused my infant development and Montessori consulting business with the Patreon tier structure, so I'm able to best support all of you. So check that out if you're interested. Now jumping into our show. So I wanted to start this topic with a quote, as per usual, or for me, quotes are a constant source of inspiration, and especially when they come from people you know, who have experience or research or history within the field. I'm just constantly inspired by, you know, the literature that I find and the research that I find. And so I hope that it can be that same type of source of inspiration for you guys as well. So jumping into our quote, but I actually have a couple of quotes for you this episode but to start, I want to start with a quote by the wonderful Janet Lansbury. She has a famous quote that I thought would just be perfect to start this episode. So she said, “In my world, there are no bad kids, just impressionable, conflicted young people wrestling with emotions and impulses, trying to communicate their feelings and needs the only way they know how.”

Bianca: [00:03:21] I thought this quote was just perfect because we can really apply this to infancy and to toddlerhood. And the way that we're going to be able to understand where these behaviors come from is by understanding where they're at in their development. Right. And so transitioning into this is topic. So what do I mean by behaviors? What are behaviors? So the behaviors themselves would be things like hitting, biting, hair, pulling, pushing, maybe intense vocal fluctuation, stuff like that. So when it comes to these behaviors, these types of things, they look different at every level but can happen at every level, on every stage of development. And so that's why we're going to start talking about it now, because when we look at what these look like at different stages of development, we can recognize where they are and then set clear and consistent, you know, boundaries while also understanding the meaning behind these types of behaviors and really fosters security within this situation through our consistency and through our understanding and all of that. And so we're going to start touching on it. Kind of like I said, it's a really big topic. But I want to go ahead and start with an idea that we have to keep in mind as we're approaching this topic, and that's that every child is so different. So when we're starting to look at, for example, when these types of behaviors start, it can start in infancy, it can start in toddlerhood, but they look different.

Bianca: [00:05:04] So let's go ahead and talk about. So one of the reasons why an infant may expressive behavior, for example, like hitting or biting, something like that. And to clarify, when I say infant, I mean a child or a baby that's under one before walking, you know. So a non mobile or newly mobile baby. So children at that age are really sensorily exploring their worlds. Right. And so one potential reason that they may express some sort of what we would consider a behavior so like biting or pulling hair, pushing or throwing their Montessori materials or, you know, I'm sure you've seen that. They're little scientists, right? They're exploring. They're exploring. They're exploring. They are sensory seekers and they are explorers. And, you know, they do that through their movement. They do that through their interactions with their environment and typically with an infant. That's a big reason why they would express something like that. Why, you know, they would do something like feel your hair with the fingers and then pull it or, you know, throw, you know, a material they're working with or maybe they were mouthing your arm and then bit down or stuff like that, they’re sensory sneakers. Right. And so really, at that point in their development, a lot of the time and again, each child is very different and the situation is very different. But a lot of the time it's a sensory exploration type of event. Right. And but I will tell you, one of my biggest observations is that the way we respond to that really matters.

Bianca: [00:06:54] And I know, you know, I was taught that over and over and over in my studies. But in the field, in the classroom, working with the babies, I will tell you that how we respond to that really matters. And that's kind of why I had mentioned earlier in this episode about the, you know, setting those clear boundaries from day one and being consistent with them. So also, keep in mind a point that I had made in one of our previous episodes. Babies find a sense of security within the consistency of the limits set by their primary caregivers within their environment, circling back to infants and behaviors, tiny babies. And these types of behaviors can very well be something like sensory exploration. One of the reasons that I mentioned that it's so important to understand how our reactions will affect the situation is because I have seen it where, for example, an infant pulled to their primary caregivers hair. They pulled their parents hair, they pulled their teachers hair, they pulled their nanny's hair, and they got some sort of big reaction. Right. If you think about it like this, what could be happening in their brain at that point is something similar to, for example, the Montessori kicking bell. Right. So when they kick that bell and the bell makes a, you know, a big, beautiful jingling noise, they learn that they can transform their environment through, that they're you know, they make a reaction within their environment.

Bianca: [00:08:28] And like I said, they're little scientists. And so if you think about it like that, it really helps to understand that your reaction to those types of things, even though and I really know it may be shocking in the moment, it may hurt. You may naturally in any other situation say something like, oh, you know, if you stub your toe, you know, you say, oh, but if you can at all possible in those reactions, interactions with your baby, try to be as calm as possible and then just set that limit. You know, that's my body. You know, this is my body. This is my hair. And just, you know, just kind of make it as you would normally talk to them, that positive reinforcement and then maybe redirect to whatever action they had been trying to do. So if it's like the hair pulling, maybe you have the scarf box, for example, the little wooden box with the beautiful, colorful scarves that they can pull out or, you know, something like that that you can redirect to. But just keep in mind that your reactions, especially in infancy, are attractive to the baby. They're attracted to our boys. They're attracted to our animation. And, you know, at that point, it's very common for them to get excited when there's some sort of reaction, especially by someone that they have their, you know, primary attachment to. And so just keeping that in mind, when you do have those first couple interactions with your infant, I have seen it where they. Try to continue to get that reaction or say it becomes a joke with one parent or caregiver and then the other parent or caregiver is kind of like, where is this coming from? Where are they trying to pull my hair? You know?

Bianca: [00:10:05] So just keeping in mind that it's really helpful for everybody to understand that the reaction to the tiny baby doing something along those lines will also affect how it proceeds. You know, and little side note, I definitely know that it is hard to not react. I know it is hard to not react fine. Little story. When I first started in the Montessori school setting, I was hired as an assistant teacher all those years ago. And I was so excited to get to just be in this really beautiful space with all these little bebes, you know. And one of my very first experiences actually had to do with a behavior. So at that time, the school that I had worked at had split their infant program into a lower infant and upper infant program. And so they had three months to walking and then walking to 18 months. And I was in the walking to 18 months classroom initially. So one of my very first interactions in the classroom was this little boy picking up the wooden dowel, the rings on a dowel. Also just the wooden dowel, though the rings were off and chucking it right at my nose.

Bianca: [00:11:36] And of course, that actually, you know, it definitely hurt. And I'm sure, you know, at least some of you have experienced moments where something, you know, is thrown or there's a bite or there's a hair pull and it pulls out a chunk of hair, you know, something. And it hurts. And it is hard not to react. It is very hard not to react. I was so blessed to have an amazing lead teacher at the time who just kind of talked to me about the reaction piece and how we can help this child with the behavior through our reactions. And so we were able to get that sorted out, obviously. But just to let you know, I feel you on the it is hard not to react even as your eyes are tearing up. It is hard, but it's really, really, really helpful to, you know, how that behavior will continue on. And if we're just consistent in what that is, you know, of course, talking to them about how that hurts and, you know, setting that very clear and consistent limit of, you know what, I can't let you throw this. If you want to throw something, you can throw a ball, you know, just something like that. And again, applying it to whatever situation. So those are the main reasons why infants would express some sort of behavior. The last one, I will say, is applicable to infancy.

Bianca: [00:12:55] And this is also in collaboration with everything I have just said. So this can be one reason. This can be all of these reasons. Again, it's really unique to the child. And that's why we encourage things like observation and, you know, you guys know your child best. And so just taking these little tips and applying it to your day to day existence is just what I hope this can be for you. But one thing I would also consider with infants specifically is temperament. So one of my favorite resources is called zero to three, and they describe temperament as a child's personal style. So the way that he or she experiences the world and this can be things like the way children handle emotions, regulate behaviors, approach new situations, stuff like that. So temperament definitely plays a role and behavioral expression. So that's also something to keep in mind. It can also be that they, you know, have this temperament and their sensory occurs and they got a reaction, you know, and so as an infant, it could be all of those things. And so just being very, you know, of course, loving and consistent and clear about, you know, said behavior and how that affects whatever the behavior affected is very, very helpful to your baby. And then just keeping in mind right at this point in your baby's development, they are learning about their world, who they are to the world and who the world is to them. And so just keeping that in mind, setting those very clear and consistent and, you know, very high warmth loving boundaries is really helpful when it comes to these types of behaviors.

Bianca: [00:14:44] So now, you know, we're considering the walking child, right? So a child who's a little bit more aware of their surroundings. So infancy and toddlerhood are in the first half of the first plane of development as described by Dr. Montessori. What's interesting about this is that when it comes to behaviors at this point, another thing that we can consider is expression so many times young toddlers will express behaviors because they're feeling a really big emotion or a social situation occurred, or they're exposed to certain types of frustration because, you know, the number one way that we learn about reaction and stuff like that is through modeling. Right. And so when I label it as expression, obviously there are a lot of different reasons under expression. But this is another thing that we can add in in early toddlerhood and toddlerhood is certain behaviors because they don't quite have the means to express what they're feeling quite yet. And so they go to an impulse. Right. And so, for example, it was very common in a classroom with multiple infants of mixed ages what to have, for example, a say, a cruiser. So 10, 11 month old baby who is interested in a material that a 12, 13 month old baby was using. Right. And so because they're so interested, they go right on over and they pull it right out of their hands.

Bianca: [00:16:26] Right. Because they're still learning about the social piece, the waiting, their turn and the somebody else is using it right now. And those pieces. And they're just so interested in this amazing material that this other child seems so interested in. And so, of course, they're going to go grab it. Right. The other child also doesn't have the means to express it. And so the other child may express their frustration of the material being snatched out of their hands by, you know, leaning in for a bite or leaning in for a hair pull or pulling it back or, you know, just kind of depending on the child. It's all very natural. It's all very normal. And it's just our job to kind of regulate those situations, offer those tools. So they have them basically when it comes to the way that that toddlers and babies express themselves, it's important to observe and to understand the reason behind why the expression is there. Because if we do understand that one, it'll definitely affect the way that we approach it. We can approach it from a calmer place. If we, you know, for example, view the exploration as sensorial or, you know, even especially with the mouthing things, teething is a big reason, you know, so there's a lot of different reasons why different behaviors can be there. So I want you to always keep in mind to this point that I'm about to tell you, especially as you approach behaviors, whether it's your child or your child's playing with somebody else's child or your child's in a classroom setting.

Bianca: [00:18:06] Infants and young toddlers will never express a behavior with the intent to hurt the other child or parent or caregiver. And this point is super important to keep in mind as your child learns to relate to the world. And as you know, you're relating to your child in these moments. Are you relating to your students in these moments or you're trying to, you know, sit in between these two infants who want the same material? You know, it's really important to just keep in mind that behaviors are expressed at this stage, mostly because they don't have the means of understanding what they're feeling and how to express it. And so there are two more quotes that I want to read for you today. I know I mentioned I have a couple of quotes for you. So this next one is by a professor. He's a professor at UCLA and his name is Dr. Dan Siegel. And he said “Say yes to the feelings, even as you say no to the behavior.” So this quote is assuming that this is something more of an expression type behavior versus a sensorial exploration, tiny baby exploring the environment type thing. So I want to touch on this point, because it is really, really important that even as we set these loving and consistent boundaries, we're validating what's happening right now.

Bianca: [00:19:30] You know, we're validating the emotion that's occurring within the experience. So say this child, you know, using the two children, playing together, example, you know, one child is using it and then the other infant is really interested in it. Right. And so the child who's really interested in it goes and grabs the material. And so you can acknowledge that by saying, you know, I see you're really interested in it. He was using this first. So I need you to wait. You can either wait or find something different, you know, so then you're giving him a directed choice, too. And then you also with the child who got the material taken away from them. Obviously, that's very frustrating. You can say something like, I see you are really frustrated that he took that from you. Hitting hurts your friends. If you want to hit something, you can hit the drum. And then obviously in that situation, I would return the material back to that child and have the other child wait for their turn and then that's it. So by acknowledging the emotion that was occurring within that time were giving light to or giving light and giving voice to. Help the child who doesn't yet have that voice, right, but then we're also setting that limit of but I can't let you hit. You know, this last quote is something that really touched my heart. And I think because, you know, we're really our mission is to help children and to learn about them and to optimally support their growth and development as best we can.

Bianca: [00:20:59] And so when there's a child who begins to express behaviors, we look at everything. Right. All of the various situations that could be happening right now. Sometimes kids express behaviors, especially with young toddlers and event shifts or in conflict at home or, you know, just stuff that they're exposed to or situational changes. That can also be a means for expression, not just in the moment, but as a bigger, you know, something that's going on in their existence. And so this next quote is “A child whose behavior pushes you away, is a child who needs connection before anything else.” And that was said by Kelly Barlett. And that to me, it was just such a beautiful quote. And I thought it was a really nice one to end on, because if we think about, you know, when we're working with our kids, so if you're a parent with your child or if you're a caregiver or a teacher working with other people's children, but, you know, you love these children, if you think about those moments and you think about where they're at in their development, that really is when they need us the most, you know? And so the best that we can do is just observe and seek understanding and be consistent with our clear limits. So they find security in that and be on the same page as everyone in the space of the child, You know, knows that that's a consistent limit and that child with warmth and love. And as I'm sure you all do anyway.

Bianca: [00:22:22] That's how we're going to go ahead and wrap up this episode. I hope you enjoyed this intro to Understanding Behaviors episode, and that's pretty much it. Thank you to everyone who tuned in to Episode 19 of our Montessori Babies podcast. As I mentioned in the beginning of the episode, we launched our Montessori Babies Patreon. Last week, I fused the Patreon in tears with my infant development in Montessori consulting. And so go ahead and check that out to get some extra support from me. I will have it linked below. Thank you all for tuning in again and I will catch you in episode 20. Hey, it's Bianca, your baby tour guide here, hopping back in to say thank you again for listening to this episode of Montessori Babies. If you found this episode helpful and would like more information help on over to and download my FREE Montessori eGuide to join our community and receive the latest on optimizing development through a Montessori lens. You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook @ babytourguide. Also, if you found this episode helpful to your Montessori practice, I would absolutely love it if you would leave a review to help other parents and educators find our show. Thanks again for listening and I will catch you in the next episode. Bye!

(Cont.) Intro To Understanding Infant & Toddler Behaviors