What anxiety can look like in little ones

“A video of a child of about 18 months using a hammer and peg game in play with his mother shows the mom pretending to be hit by the hammer. The child laughs, and playfully hits her again, but when the mom pretends to cry he looks worried and kisses her finger. Some observers interpret the child’s initial reaction as one of aggression. However, others familiar with observations of young children see the response as one of anxiety.

“Often when young children get an unexpected response to their behavior from an adult they are unsure about what caused it. They may repeat the behavior to try to figure it out. It is as if they are asking a question, ‘What happened? What did I do?’ A familiar example is when a child bites someone for the first time. This brings such a strong reaction from the adults on the scene that it is almost a given that the child will do it again to try to understand the event and its response.”

Good Enough Mothering: What Do Babies Know?