Monday, May 8th, 2017
My daughter is two and a half and beginning to experience her new found independence as a tiny human. There are days when everything is so easy – she’s agreeable, follows directions, very happy. And, there are days when everything is a struggle – from putting on clothes, to eating, to emotional outbursts over me putting blueberries in her oatmeal. It’s tough not to take it personally, but they are just toddlers and they are just doing what every toddler does – testing the limits to see your reaction. It’s how kids learn to operate in this world. “If I do this, what will happen next?” “Does mama respond the same way EVERY time I do this?”
There are probably zillions of child development books focused on behavior. This dizzying array of advice is often contradictory, many times leaving you with more questions than when you set out. When Haven was about a year old, I set out to find some gentle, effective methods for dealing with this burgeoning independence. That’s when I discovered RIE (pronounced “wry”) and the basic idea that infants are whole, competent humans from birth and they should be treated with respect and trust. It sounds straightforward and obvious enough, but once you start looking around you realize that many parents don’t do this and kids are often told to just “be quiet and don’t touch” or “big kids don’t cry”or are held from knowing the truth so as to not upset them. These subtle messages can actually negatively shape a child’s psyche by telling them that their feelings don’t matter, or not to show emotion, or even to be mistrustful. Our goal is to help our children grow into confident, autonomous individuals!
In doing my research I discovered Janet Lansbury. She has a blog with all kinds of advice on how to be an effective, loving caregiver to children of all ages, taking into account the developmental milestones at every age. In addition she has written two books, which I HIGHLY recommend to parents both new and experienced – Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting and No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame. The former is targeted more for children under 1 year of age and the latter is for children over on year.
Here’s how Janet recommends you help a toddler through a tantrum. In a calm, unemotional voice…
Every single time your toddler will experience the emotion and move on, trust me. That’s the beauty of this method. It may take longer sometimes than others, but it always works. The key is acknowledging, consoling and then moving on. The worst thing you can do is minimize the child’s feelings or make them embarrassed that they are emoting. That will have long lasting negative effects for years to come. Going through the process with allow your toddler to learn how to deal with emotions and understand that they won’t always get their way and they will survive!
Here’s the funny part. The entire time I was reading this book, I’m thinking to myself, “Wow, this is a pretty effective method to deal with all kinds of adult conflict, not just toddlers!” HAHAHAHAHA. Shocking, I know. I guess that’s an added benefit of the book as you can unlock how to deal with emotional toddlers AND emotional spouses all at once. Efficiency at it’s best. It’s funny how something that seems so glaringly obvious is sometimes difficult to remember and put into practice. It’s something we can all do a better job at practicing and something that will definitely produce healthy, respectful relationships with spouses, children , and friends.