Are you at the end of your tether dealing with tantrums?
“Children in a family are like flowers in a bouquet: there’s always one determined to face in an opposite direction from the way the arranger desires” Marcelene Cox
How can a Positive Parenting approach help you deal with Toddler Tantrums?
Positive Parenting is not just a Parenting Strategy, it is a Parenting Philosophy and as such it is more of a holistic approach to the wellbeing of the whole family. In it’s “wholeness”, it embraces emotional intelligence, emotional resilience and nurtures the mindset and wellbeing of all. It is an approach that looks much deeper into behavioural challenges such as Toddler Tantrums, by addressing the emotions that are fuelling the behaviour and therefore giving children the opportunity to express their feelings and feel heard.
That said, those of you with small children will all no doubt be hearing, loud and clear the screaming ad dabs of a toddler tantrum from time to time, so with that in mind I thought I would write some little Weller Way advice on this topic.
Starting with a word of encouragement , in terms of child development, tantrums are a very normal way of expression for toddlers (I hear you sigh!). This is because, Toddlers feel so excited by life (this is a good thing, compared to our grunty teenagers later on!) One of Toddlers’ main drivers for existence is PLAY, therefore any interruptions to this, will probably provoke a reaction! Our beloved 2 year olds’ however don’t have enough frontal cortex capacity or language skills to be able to comfort themselves when they become upset, or explain to us why they are upset.
One of the biggest traps we fall into is seeing things through how we are rather than how things are. How often is our response to tantrums dependent on our mood, or need for peace, order or routine? By looking at things through a different lense, looking into our child’s world we can see that
Some typical reasons behind tantrums are:
- Physical: Tiredness, Hunger, Thirst
- Environment: Safety, Noise levels, Need for Predictability, Playmates
- Emotional: Need for attention, connection, comfort or belonging. Anger
- Fun: Need for play
- Identity: Acknowledgement of self: Need to be heard or understood, need to have autonomy, need to feel competent.
Once we can zoom out and look at what the particular common triggers are, we can then figure out how there are ways to lessen them.
So what are these ways? Here is a little reminder:
- Set clear limits in advance e.g before you go to the supermarket a reminder that sweetie day is not today.
- Think ahead: Have they been fed and watered before you go to the supermarket? Is a nap going to be interrupted because of an activity?
- Notice trigger times: If tantrums are common after you pick your child up from the childminder for example, have you given enough time to re-connect?
- Give clear instructions about the sequence of events or when something will be ending e.g when you will be leaving the park or going home from a playdate. A 5 or 10 minute warning always helps, and guidance to gradually wind down what they doing, rather than an abrupt end to the play. A little tip here, that if your toddler is really proud of something he has made, or built etc, that they can’t take home, take a picture of it on your phone, so the memory is preserved for them. This can also create a distraction in the heat of the moment if they are upset because they have to leave.
- Change the state of what is present in the moment or when you anticipate a trigger moment. What I mean by this, is making something that you know can be difficult into a game, or introduce a more playful state. This can work well as bathtime and bedtime approach.
- Recognise Power struggles. It helps to accept sometimes that your child saying NO is O.K and that you can accept that attempt as them trying to assert some power in the world. If children grow up knowing that their personal boundaries are honoured as well as ours as parents, this sets them up well for managing future relationships. Obviously, when I say this, it is dependent on the context, and is not appropriate when their safety or other’s is compromised for example.
I hope that these tips help but above all one of the key foundations of Positive parenting is to encourage you to reflect on your mindset and how this affects the relationship you have with your child. When we become continually exasperated, frustrated or even humiliated by those meltdowns, we can often lose grasp of our resourceful states and resort to losing it ourselves. Sometimes we even interpret them as a personal attack on us, and as a result we fall victim to emotional flooding. It is in these moments that we lose all perspective. So I would encourage you to put on your own metaphorical oxygen mask before tackling any tantrum and take a moment to remember that in these moments, your child NEEDS YOU to help him or her to regulate their emotions and organise their feelings because they are too little to do it themselves. Please don’t “lose yourself” in the moment too. So in the next post, I will give some guidance on how to stay resourceful and to use tantrums as learning opportunities for children to develop good emotional resilience and intelligence.
For further tips and tools or to discuss your difficulties in managing your child’s behaviour please do get in touch http://thewellerway.co.uk/contact/