Parenting young children

Navigating bedtime battles, aggression and body exploration

Navigating bedtime battles aggression and body exploration

Parenting young children is full of love and joy, but it also comes with inevitable challenges.

In fact, according to research conducted by The Goddard School, 83% of parents of children 6 years old and younger have concerns about their children’s behavior. The most common concerns are sleeping habits and aggression.

When it comes to sleep, aggression and another top-of-mind topic for parents of young children – body exploration – understanding what’s to be expected and the appropriate steps to take can mitigate negative experiences for parents and children alike.

To help parents dealing with these situations, Dr. Lauren Starnes, senior vice president and chief academic officer at The Goddard School, and Dr. Jack Maypole, pediatrician at Boston Medical Center and member of The Goddard School’s Educational Advisory Board, offer this guidance and reassurance.

Bedtime Battles
Sleep deprivation and parenthood often go hand-in-hand, especially during a child’s first 12 months. It may be a surprise to some families that establishing sleep routines for preschoolers can also be challenging. For toddlers and 2-year-olds, the difficulty may be in their newfound freedom of toddler beds. For older preschoolers, the struggle may be the child’s burgeoning imagination – having scary thoughts, bad dreams or fear of being alone.

For young children, one of the most important elements at bedtime is establishing consistent, predictable sleep routines and not reinforcing sleep disruptions with unintended positive reinforcement like extra attention when they sneak out of bed or climb into bed with their parents.

READ MORE: Tips to get preschoolers on a schedule

Aggressive behavior is common among toddlers and preschoolers. It may look like a sudden shove, kick or snatch of an item. As children mature and gain greater self-control, these behaviors can be redirected and eventually outgrown. Toddlers and 2-year-olds frequently show aggression due to communication frustrations or when seeking independence.

Three- and 4-year-olds more readily exhibit this behavior as they look to control their surroundings, as a cause-and-effect experimentation or reciprocal modeling of behavior that they may have seen elsewhere. The root cause of aggression can often be visually observed and the response will vary accordingly.

Body Exploration
Body exploration and self-stimulation is a common behavior seen in older preschool-aged children. In the preschool years, body exploration is done out of curiosity and as a comforting behavior. Self-stimulatory exploration is most commonly seen at naptime, bath time or bedtime.

READ MORE: Help your kids learn about their bodies

Some children may attempt to explore the genitals of others. While the latter may be uncomfortable, it’s important to address privacy, boundaries, consent and respect for others in age-appropriate ways.

To access a wealth of actionable parenting insights, guidance and resources –  including a webinar with Starnes and Maypole that dives deeper into how to address challenges with sleep, aggression and body exploration – visit

(Family Features) 
Photos courtesy of Getty Images

Other articles by HVP News Reporters

  • Understanding 'Warning Strokes'

    What to expect if you experience stroke symptoms, even if they disappear

    Diagnosing a transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a “warning stroke,” can be challenging because symptoms often disappear within an hour. However, it’s important to seek emergency assessment to help prevent a full-blown stroke. read more »
  • Managing your family's year-round health

    Protect everyone from infectious diseases

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccines help create protective antibodies that fight off infections. read more »
  • What to know about Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension

    treatment can help control symptoms and improve quality of life

    Each year, an estimated 500-1,000 people nationwide are diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). While there’s currently no cure, treatment can help control symptoms and improve quality of life. read more »
  • Bring back family bonding this fall

    3 ways to free up busy schedules to spend time with loved ones

    Busy fall schedules often leave little time for the things that matter most – sharing special moments with those you love. This year, as time seems to speed up during another school year, making family bonding a priority in your household can start with a few simple tricks. read more »
  • Top tips for a more organized kitchen

    Save time and money

    Better organization in the kitchen means spending less time searching for the right ingredient or tool so you can have more time for savoring meals with family and friends, and more time for personal pursuits. read more »
  • 6 small, kind gestures to make a big impact each day

    Performing acts of kindness improves individual well-being

    Everywhere you look, you can see moments of kindness. From a friend sending a thoughtful text message to a stranger holding the bus for someone running late or a person paying for someone else’s coffee, acts of kindness happen every day. read more »
  • Keeping babies safe

    Tips to help prevent some of the biggest dangers

    Tips to help prevent some of the biggest dangers for babies include safe sleeping habits, product recalls, baby proofing & car safety read more »
  • Tips to get tour student prepped for college entrance exams

    Help get your teen ready

    Is the SAT or ACT on the horizon for your high schooler? A lot of emphasis is placed on college entrance exams, and your child may be anxious about their scores. read more »
  • More than two-thirds of Americans plan to get a flu shot this season

    CVS Pharmacy® and MinuteClinic® encourage consumers to get an annual flu shot and stay up to date on routine vaccinations

    CVS Health® (NYSE: CVS) is prepared to meet patients' vaccination and other preventive health care needs as flu season approaches. CVS Pharmacy® and MinuteClinic® are offering the annual flu vaccine at locations nationwide. CVS Pharmacy is also offering the new respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine, which has been approved for adults ages 60 and up. read more »
  • 10 phrases to say to children every day

    Instill valuable life skills and boost their self-esteem

    As parents, you play a pivotal role in shaping your child’s character, confidence, and overall development. Every interaction is an opportunity to instill valuable life skills and boost their self-esteem. read more »