From Toddlerhood to the Teenage Years
- By Lauren Douglass
Emotions are expressed in different ways as children age. Finding a way to help your child manage their “big” feelings can sometimes be a challenging experience.Toddlers may use hitting or screaming, adolescents might act out or teenagers could turn to destructive behaviors in order to express their internal environment.
As parents, we want to find a reliable, loving way to help our children handle their frustrations at changing activities or completing learning skills. One such way is with HandInHandParenting.org. It has been so valuable that I can’t help but want to pass this information along to any other struggling parent.
When my daughter was a toddler, her reaction over the most varied of situations left me at times confused, affected and wanting to cry myself. How can my calm, playful child turn into a hitting, screaming alien when I simply ask her to pick up a toy or put on her shoes? Is she hungry? Tired? Angry? What am I missing here? Parenting can certainly be a bit of a minefield and guesswork at times.
But that is where Hand In Hand Parenting comes in. Their core value is my little parenting lifesaver – The Stay Listen!
When your child is expressing their anger or conducting themselves in a manner reasonably unacceptable, The Stay Listen is a parenting by connection and teaches to be mindful with your child through their emotional expression. The following steps will eliminate the struggle every time and faster than any timeout I have ever tried to use.
1. Lower yourself to get on the child’s eye level.
2. Put your hand on their shoulder or lovingly take them in your arms (if they are hurting others).
3. Then explain and repeat the limit you are setting in a calm, compassionate tone of voice.
4. Stay until they have fully expressed their feelings.
It is really that simple. Stay with your child, listen to their crying (as long as that may be, and yes, even in public) and calmly repeat the limit you setting. It is difficult in the beginning, and you are going to doubt the process until you see the results. This is NOT permissive parenting where you let them do as they please. You are still setting and maintaining the limit and defining the acceptable behavior, but you are controlling your reaction to it.
Next time, when your toddler is throwing a fit, say to them, “I know this is hard, but you cannot throw food (insert other behavior), but I will stay with you until you calm down.” Check that you are eye level and having some sort of caring physical contact or sitting close by. This communicates that they are important, you can be trusted and allows a chance to work out their emotional reaction without becoming isolated. An invaluable skill, that we all want to teach our children, is how to manage feelings while completing necessary life tasks.
As our children grow, many times their feelings can come out as outbursts over one thing or another, but that is the exact moment when you get eye level, ask them what is going on and speak in a calm tone. They are looking for that connection because they are flooded with emotions and still learning how to process. Isn’t that when creating an environment where your child feels connected to you most important?
When you cry, if someone listens to why you are crying and gives you a hug, does it make you feel better? Yes – and the same goes for your child.
Make a tantrum a great teachable moment to demonstrate how to work out frustrations in a safe environment and talk about examples to move through feelings in healthy, effective ways. Channel frustration and anger by directing to any physical activity like hitting a pillow, doing a foot stomp or jumping in place – these are good quick go-tos that avoid hurting anyone or anything around. Talking and role playing works well for handling fear. Writing and coloring are great for sadness. Those are the skills we want to teach – not punishing to control their outbursts.
As children age, they are going to continue to challenge parental or social requests at different stages and for different reasons. Maintaining this response of Stay Listening will help you navigate those tricky times and set the stage for an open dialog during the teenage years when communication is vital. I highly recommend visiting the site if you are having a difficult time at any age or in preparation as a parent.
Many age/stage examples, resources, and other parenting advice is available on HandInHandParenting.org.