I like to chat about parenting. Obviously. I am immersed in it for the majority of my day (and still occasionally at 2am… zzz). Sometimes I shy away from blogging about it because I don’t want discussion to be confused with lecturing. Now that I have two children, each with their own distinct personality and triggers, I know what works for one child doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for another. Keeping that disclaimer in mind, I’d like to talk about parenting within the framework of what has worked (or not) with my experience in the spirit of sharing and learning for all. After all, I got the idea for those brilliant TV tokens from you!
So let’s talk tantrums. Though Hailey (now 3 and a half) has certainly thrown a whopper here or there, she has been pretty easygoing over all. Still between two and three years old (typical from what I hear), her frustration with being heard and understood became more evident. This isn’t surprising because, after all, don’t we all seek the same thing? A while back I observed her main frustration- having BIG feelings inside but lacking the tools to communicate them, thus leading to growing discontent. Since then I’ve put a lot of purposeful effort into helping her learn to identify her feelings and how to handle them appropriately.
I’ve done this in three ways.
1. I talk about my feelings all the time. ALL the time. So much so that I’ve found it a difficult habit to break. I will be hanging out with just adult friends and realize I am dictating every minuscule emotion which can make me feel embarrassed or ashamed when they point out my habit and laugh (see what I did there?).
But truly, I talk through my feelings, both positive and negative, all day long.
2. I help Hailey to name her feelings whenever I see them. This can either be really fun (I see you are excited and happy because you are jumping up and down clapping your hands!) or tedious (I see that you are frustrated because your seat belt is twisted and won’t buckle) or sometimes just difficult to talk through the tougher feelings (I see you are upset that Kaitlyn took your doll and you are sad because you were trying to put her down for a pretend nap). Though this can feel silly at first, once she has a word to put with her bubbling emotion and knows that I acknowledge it, you can see a release in her. The anger or frustration often turns to tears and a hug. She just wants to be understood.
3. I try to explain that all feelings are ok, but all actions are not. This is a slightly more advanced concept, so it’s a work in progress. I want her to understand that we are responsible for how we act, despite what we feel. I do my best to demonstrate this, especially when I’ve made a mistake. I was angry at the bad driver but I should not have yelled. Then I try and model the correct behavior the next time. I also use this technique when discussing her reactions to situations. I understand you were angry that I said no, but it is not ok to throw toys because it could hurt your sister or break something.
Since her ability to communicate her emotions has progressed, meltdowns have become fewer and further between. They pop up occasionally (usually tied closely with tiredness), but oftentimes a few deep breaths and a private talk off to the side can help. Sometimes a few minutes simmering down in her room before we talk is needed, but we always go back to identify our feelings.
If you aren’t from a feeling-focused family like I was raised in, this surely sounds super cheesy, but cheesy or not, it has really made a difference and my heart swells with pride whenever I hear her do it on her own and identify her feelings or another’s feelings.
Mommy I am fur-us-ter-ated that you won’t read me one more book. We’re still working on pronunciation.
Mommy you are smiling because I make you happy, right?
Mommy, I am so, SO excited that we are going to Nora and Gracie’s house!
…always to be followed by…
Mommy, I am sad that we have to leave Nora and Gracie’s house. Gracie is sad I am leaving too.
Whenever I find a parenting tactic that works (goodness knows I’ve tried plenty that haven’t), I give myself a mental fist bump and celebrate my victory because I tomorrow will bring a new day and another parenting challenge, but that’s part of the fun after all, right?
What techniques do you use to combat tantrums?
What habits have you found to make the biggest difference in your child’s behavior?
Any good tips to share?