Imagine this: no more toddler tantrums, ever.
What would that feel like? Good? Good.
Would you believe me if I told you it's possible?
Psst. Here's a secret: it IS possible. Surprised? Let me explain...
I'm tired of people telling me I'm lucky to have such easy children, or to hear others tell me how hard they find parenting and how bad their kids are.
The truth is; I work hard every single day to nurture healthy behavior. I introspect on myself every single day and I research how I can help my children become the people I want them to be. Most important of all, I act towards my children the way I want them to act with others; that's what educating means.
Kids learn by example, they mimic you, the parent.
Everyone can have easy children. Everyone. You just need to be ready to put in a lot of time, a lot of patience, and a lot of self control. You, the parent.
If you are not patient with your child, he will not be patient with you. If you don't show him respect, he will not respect you. If you yell at him, he will yell at you. If you say no to him all the time, he will say no to you. If you don't value his opinion, he will never value yours. If you don't explain things to him, he will never open up to you. It's quite simple actually, if there's anything you want him to learn, you first have to show him, consistently. If you don't, they will not only be like that with you, but also with others (and it will continue on to adulthood).
So next time you go around saying bad things about your kids, or about how bad today's generation is turning out...I'd think twice before talking...what does it say about you?
Be respectful, understanding, and patient with your child from the moment they are born, not from the moment you think they are "old enough".
What do you think the "terrible 2" phase is? Seriously, think about it. All toddlers hear from the moment they can move is "no, don't touch that", "no, don't go there", "no, this", "no, that". Is it really a surprise to you that when they learn to talk and realize they're their own person they say no? Stop saying no to your child for everything!
You have no control, you never have and you never will. Accept this now and save yourself years of pain and frustration. From the moment they are born, your child is his own person, with his own personality and his own likes and dislikes (he just hasn't learned them yet). You can't change who he is.
Just remember, kids are humans, and just like humans of any age, they need to be treated with love, respect (yes, respect) and understanding. They need to feel that their thoughts and opinions are valued and considered. They need physical contact and opportunities for growth without being held back all the time. They need to feel like they belong and have their basic needs met, like adequate sleep and food.
Don't do to your child what you wouldn't want someone else to do to you.
Love: Be patient when your child cries, embrace your child multiple times a day, give him food at regular times, play with him every day for at least an hour, allow his to help you with chores even if he makes it worse or it takes longer.
Respect: Do not yell at your child, do not grab their arm aggressively, do not humiliate him in public, listen when he communicates with you (be it actions or words).
Understanding: Take the time to figure out what your toddler wants or needs.
3 basic things you need to understand.
1. A child is not a robot.
This may sound ridiculous, but seriously, I can't even count how many times I've heard other parents say things like: "sit here and don't move" or "don't do that and be quiet" or "stop crying or you’ll be punished". When did a child (or any person for that matter) become a thing that is supposed to not move, not talk, and have no feelings? I don't get it.
2. You can't control your child.
Actually, you can't control anyone (except maybe yourself... OK wait, let's not be delusional, most of us can't even do that!). So why you think you can control your child is beyond me, especially when feelings are involved!
3. You're a guide, not a dictator.
I know everyone has a different parenting style, and that's totally fine with me. I'm not here to start a war, or to tell you to do things a certain way. But let's be real here, your child is not a soldier and he is most certainly not a prisoner of war. Your role is to be a guide in his life and to help him through his decisions and experiences, not to stop them from making mistakes and taking the wrong decision.
6 things you can do right now to reduce the possibility of a tantrum.
1. Spend quality time with your child.
The more quality time you spend with your child, the less likely he’ll try to get your attention by screaming, interrupting you while you speak, or rolling on the floor at the store. It’s a good idea to spend at least 1 hour with him daily (and no, watching TV together doesn’t count).
Take action: You can do things like read books together, roll in the grass, run after each other, do puzzles, draw, dance, play hide-and-seek, and if you have no idea what to do, follow his lead.
It's also important to note that everyone, children included, needs time alone. Over stimulation can lead to tantrums just as much as lack of interaction.
Take action: Encourage him to read a book, draw, or do a puzzle alone...and for god's sake, please turn off the TV and keep your iPhone or tablet as far from him as possible. You may think it's giving you a break, but in reality it's creating an addiction, depriving him of an important opportunity to learn patience, and stopping him from developing social intelligence.
2. Plan ahead.
If ever you plan on going out, make sure you explain to your child what to expect.
Case study: For example, when I go grocery shopping, I review the list with my son before leaving and I tell him what I'm going to need his help with. When we arrive, he's in charge of the list and reminding me if I forgot anything. He's also in charge of getting specific items and helping me put everything on the counter to pay. He's been doing that since he was 2 (maybe even a bit before). The fact that he knows what to expect and that he has tasks, keeps him busy and makes him feel valued. He knows there's no need to pull off a tantrum because he's already got everything he could need and he knows what to expect.
Similarly, it's good to plan outings around meals and nap times. Oh, and make sure you always have snacks on hand. That way, you're avoiding the "I'm exhausted and hungry" meltdowns.
3. Limit the times you say no.
Trust me; you don't need to say no to everything. Limit saying no only to dangerous, serious, or really-big situations. It will have a lot more impact and your child will be a lot less frustrated. If you use it regularly, don't be surprised if he learns to tune it out.
Case study: You know the terrible 2 phase where a toddler starts saying no to everything? Where do you think he gets it from? I actually tested that one out, instead of saying no to my children, I said "gently" instead and showed them, by grabbing their hand and helping them, what gently meant (when they would hit the glass table for example, or pulled on my hair). And you know what happened? They almost never said no during the not-so-terrible "terrible 2" phase and were amazingly compliant. Interesting don't you think?
Take action: Here are some examples of things you could say instead of no. “That's mommy's favorite notebook, let's find you a coloring book instead.” “You're so good to be able to take out all the pots and pans, now let's play clean up! Yay!” “This table is made out of glass and can break, let's hit on the floor instead.”
I honestly don't understand why parents say "no" so fast. Is it because they can't be bothered to explain things? Is it because they need to feel powerful? Or is it because it's what everyone else does? I'm not sure, but what I do know is if you want your kids to listen when you say no, then say it less often, a lot less often.
4. Encourage independence.
Toddlers are more capable than we give them credit for. Check out this video and you'll see what I mean.
The more you let your toddler try new things and let him do what he wants to do, the less frustrated he's going to be and the more self confidence he'll have. If he fails, gets hurt, or breaks something, this gives you the perfect opportunity to show him that he can always try again, fix something when it's broken, or simply, that you’ll always be there to comfort him. It's better he learns about consequences at this age when they're insignificant, than later on in life when problems get a whole lot bigger, really fast.
Take action: Instead of saying no to your child the next time he wants to do something you’re not sure he’s ready for, stand back and let him try (like doing the dishes, bringing a glass to the table, or going down the stairs alone). Don't do it for him and don't say anything other than offer help once. Only give help if he accepts. I know you might be scared, but try to control your emotions.
As a general rule of thumb, either follow your child’s lead or hint at things you’d like him to try. Never push, force or impose (you wouldn’t like it if someone did that to you, so don’t do it to him). This will show him that you trust, respect and have faith in him and it develops self esteem and self worth.
5. Give choices.
This is something super easy to do. Orange or banana? Toast or cereal? Walk or stroller? Shorts or pants? Puzzle or book?
Giving your child choices makes him feel valued and important. It's a great way to reduce possible tantrums. Let him participate in his daily activities.
6. Follow and respect a schedule for naps, meals and snacks.
No one is a happy camper if they're hungry or tired, not even adults, so don't expect your child to be. Yes, it's hard to follow a schedule if you have errands to run, or outings to go on, but if you want a compliant and happy child, then you need to schedule everything around naps and meals.
Yes, it's a pain, but they outcome is an easy child as opposed to an out of control toddler.
Skipping a nap once every couple of weeks is probably not a big deal, but just be conscious that you'll probably have to deal with a light tantrum. If it happens, there's nothing you can do. Comfort your child, hug him, and bring him into his room. You can simply tell him he can come down when he's ready to stop crying. If he comes down anyway, repeat the same thing.
Losing your temper will achieve absolutely nothing other than make the situation worse. Just be consistent and continue bringing him back to his room, DO NOT threaten him about bringing him to his room. Threats are not respectful (we talked about that before).
6 easy steps to help your child through a tantrum.
1. Stay calm.
This is probably the one most important thing you can do. No one has ever been able to control their emotions when the person they're talking to loses it. So don't expect your toddler, who doesn't even know what an emotion is, to be able to control his if you go bonkers.
This doesn't mean to pretend you're calm by talking softly while still boiling inside. Kids aren't stupid, they can see right through you, just like we can.
If you want any of these next tips to work, you have to be able to control your own emotions. So take a deep breath (or two). If you can't handle your own emotions, there's no point moving forward, you've already lost the battle. In that case, you better take a short break and come back to address the situation when you've cooled off.
This step is absolutely necessary. Your calmness will help your toddler regain his.
2. Remind yourself that you have no control.
Repeat this to yourself: "I have no control." Starting with that mindset will naturally shift your approach. You might even feel vulnerable and automatically end up showing compassion, which brings us to....
3. Show empathy.
You must do this even if you you're late for work, or in a rush for an appointment. Especially so! Taking 2 minutes to go through this step is a total game changer, I promise.
Take action: Bend down to his level, take his hands in yours and ask him to look at you in the eyes. Do not continue talking until you have eye contact. Once you do, you must give no more than 3 short sentences; toddlers have a very short attention span.
You want to confirm how he feels by saying things like: "You don't want to go to daycare today do you? Would you rather stay home and play with mommy?" or "Are you sad?" or "Do you wish mommy didn't go so fast?"
Before you panic...saying these things does not mean you will do them! It just shows them you understand and it will help them immediately calm down.
This step is very important because it's the very first step in emotional intelligence; by being empathetic towards your child, you are showing him how to be empathetic and you are educating him. The more you do this, the more he will replicate the exact same thing with others and even you!
4. Provide comfort.
There's nothing like mommy or daddy's embrace. Physical contact does crazy wondrous magic. I swear.
Take action: At this point you can offer a cuddle and a kiss. If they don't want to, respect them (again, by respecting them, you are educating them on how to respect others). You can follow with your second sentence, something like this: "I love you." or "I'm here for you." or "Let's figure this out together." If he doesn't want to, don't push it and be respectful of his wishes.
5. Skip time-outs.
There is a lot of parenting advice that says to use time-outs or punishments to handle tantrums. To be completely honest with you, that's the absolute worst path to take.
There's a reason your toddler is acting out. Is he exhausted because he didn't nap? Maybe he's hungry because you forgot snack time. Have you played with him consistently in the past few days? Or maybe you've been in his face all weekend and he just can't take it anymore.
Whatever the reason, a tantrum happens because he has no other way to express his feelings and ignoring him or using threats of punishments only creates more intense negative feelings like anger, sadness and anxiety...It makes you more mad, and it makes it harder for him to control his feelings.
The best thing to do is to find alternatives because when you choose a time-out or a punishment, you are creating a disconnection with your child. He may stop crying the first few times because he wants to be with you (the true intention of the tantrum), but eventually he will resent you for it. This will create one of 2 things; a child with low self esteem that obeys at every threat, or a defiant child that doesn't give a sh*t and gives you a run for your money.
I don't know about you but neither of those options sound good to me. What I want is a child with a healthy level of self-esteem, a reasonable amount of respect and empathy for others, with the ability to openly communicate. By following all the steps I'm showing you today, this is very much a possibility!
6. Be firm + consistent.
Being firm doesn't mean raising your voice, or being verbally aggressive. It simply means to hold your end, respectfully. If your toddler comes out of his bed when it's time to sleep, simply bring him back to his bed and give him another hug and kiss. If he comes down again, repeat. Do this until he understands that no matter what, you will always bring him back to his bed. Yes, it will take time. Yes, you might be there for a while. Yes, you will need a lot of patience to remain calm, but he will understand eventually.
As for being consistent, it means always doing the same thing and expecting the same result, every single time. Like going to bed at the same time, and continuing to bring him back to his bed when he comes out, patiently, every single day. PATIENCE. That's all it takes.
When you're setting all those limits, it's going to take a lot of energy and time on your part. But once they're in place, the rest is easy. He will trust you and feel safer with you. He will look to you for advice and will communicate with you.
BONUS: By being firm and consistent when they're very little (even though it might be long and painful and you might pity your poor crying baby who doesn't want to go to sleep), you are building the foundation for a much easier child and teenager. If you're not consistent now, your child will constantly be testing you, to see if you'll change your mind. I don't know about you but I rather take the time now then have to deal with 20+ years of constantly being challenged.
Congratulations! You've graduated!
You're probably thinking: doesn't all this take a lot of time and energy? Yep, in the beginning it will, more than if you were to use punishments.
Remember though, no pain no gain!
I won't lie to you, you'll feel overwhelmed in the beginning. Especially if you're starting with an older child (you'll have to make him unlearn what he already knows about you before you can teach him about the new you - which is why it's better to start at birth!)
But it will pay off, I promise! And a few months down the road, when everyone else is complaining about how much their toddlers (or kids) act out, you'll be having a mini party in your head. Literally.
Do you do any of the above methods? Does it help? I'd love to know how you handle tantrums or if you have any. Let me know in the comments below!