Updated: May 13
Struggling to manage toddler tantrums? Maybe you’re wanting to develop a deeper connection with your child but can’t figure out how. Between the defiance and trying to stop yelling so much about the same things, perhaps you’re finding yourself more angry and aren’t sure why? You are not alone.
No one tells you that you’ll have to reparent yourself once you become a parent. The unexpected [emotional] triggers, the hopelessness, the feeling like a failure when you completely lose it. Parenting is exhausting and there’s no way around that but parenting CAN BE FUN. When you have the necessary tools in your parenting toolbox, managing those tough challenges can help parenting feel much lighter. We’ve been conditioned to believe that children are the problem. If our parents were never given positive tools and we were never given positive tools......see where I’m going?
It’s hard to break centuries of conditioning without the proper tools.
“We want to work with and not against our kids. They deserve equal respect."
Parenting on auto-pilot, dreading bath time, leaving the house, the tantrums, the sibling rivalry, the food aversions and the list goes on, makes parenting feel more like a chore. We already know what to expect. How many times have you told yourself, “I already know how this is going to go.” Probably 11 zillion times.
We want to work with and not against our kids.
We are raising humans who are in the developmental stage of childhood. They deserve equal respect.
How do we connect?
Before we discuss how to connect with your toddler, it's important to set realistic expectations. Toddlers do well when they can. They want to make us + themselves proud.
1. Give options
Toddlers want to be in control of things that concern them. They want to be involved. They want to have an opinion. They want to be able to say "yes I want that" or "no I don't want that."
"Put on your shoes now!" might cause an "I don't want to!!!!" tantrum, while "Would you like to wear the red shoes or the blue shoes?" invites cooperation.
2. Pause then approach
Pause. Just pause. Take a deep breath before you react. Access the situation and backtrack. "OK, he knocked over the cup because he tripped and didn't see it" or "she's screaming and crying because it's lunch time and she didn't eat much breakfast" or "how can I make this moment a teaching moment without feeling guilty about it later?" That one pause could help you begin to regulate your own emotions before stepping into the situation.
3. Hold space
Sometimes we forget that something small to us is huge to toddlers. When things don't go as planned, when they have to stop what they're doing, when things are taken away, etc., it is emotional for them. They are human with valid reactions + emotions and when something "big" impacts them, their day, their mood, they need help processing those tough emotions. Holding space is understanding that they are allowed to be upset, angry, and disappointed. Our job is to help them express themselves in healthy ways. "I understand that you're upset because you couldn't have that toy. Being upset is normal. I can't allow you to hit me but we can stomp it out or hug it out instead." They don't have to immediately suppress their emotions but you can still hold space, set the boundary, and walk away if you need to.
4. Encourage them
How many times a day do you find yourself saying "good job!" It's so easy, rolls off the tongue, and you move on. But what is a good job? It can become very robotic. While praise [good job] is appropriate in some instances, getting into the habit of encouraging our toddlers gives them more confidence. Encouragement invites self-evaluation. "Wow! You worked so hard. You must be so proud of yourself." When children feel encouraged, they have a greater sense of feeling as if they belong and it gives us a chance to connect before correcting. "You tried so hard to pour that glass of milk, you must be so proud of yourself. It's OK that some of it spilled. We can clean it up together."
Like anything in life, nothing happens over night. Parenting is a journey. Some days are easier and others are more challenging. With the proper tools in your parenting toolbox, you'll be able to make small but helpful changes to help you work with and not against your child even on their worst day. The goal is to recognize + acknowledge that their brain can only handle and remember so much. They lean on us for support during their challenging times.