Being a pedagogue means getting a ton of questions from parents who are most likely never going to practice given advice. This stands particularly for the topic of discipline. An ever-growing number of new parents want to raise children guided by love, without setting any boundaries. On the other hand, parents willing to set boundaries on their kids often receive criticism for being strict. They often feel like tyrants for simply not allowing their children to do what goes against common sense.
The topic of discipline becomes that more sensitive when it comes to toddlers. Just old enough to throw tantrums, and too young for any serious disciplining methods. Yet, the sensitive stage in which toddlers are, that is essentially the very beginning of their moral and significant stage of emotional development, requires a careful approach.
WHY IS YOUR REACTION TO TANTRUMS IMPORTANT?
You might think I have it easy with N. because of my education. WRONG. You see, no book could have prepared me for ways my daughter will choose to annoy me when she feels like it. No book said she will learn to pick my nails, scratch the wall and stick her finger in my eye, all of which can drive me to tears. At twenty months, she already knows how to tickle like it’s no joke. And she throws tantrums like a pro, as well. So, what can a parent do?
While a lenient parent can contribute to their child becoming insecure and fragile, lonely and abandoned for not being able to fit in with the rest of the kids, overly strict parents can mess up their kids as well. Not allowing a child to express his emotions, as well as complain, object and argue, means ruining child’s confidence in a completely different way.
Suppressed emotions of anger and anxiety are just some issues kids can carry from early childhood to adulthood. Other serious issues include the inability to identify and contemplate their true emotions, as well as express them. It is a quite serious thing. By now, you probably know how damaging these issues can be for a person.
Still, parents are left with a choice. What to do when their toddler throws tantrums? They might be easy to ignore if the child is throwing toys on the floor. But, when our toddlers learn what bugs us, and what to do to drive us crazy, remaining a civil parent is a challenge.
All sorts of tantrums and anger manifestations fall under the range of “normal” when it comes to child development. It might not look like it, but your child throwing a glass of water in your face is an important part of building their personalities.
These are beginner stages in developing abilities and skills to identify and relieve the feeling of anger and frustration. And much, much more. But, what’s your role in it, as a parent?
Knowing what to and what not to allow can make your life easier and help your child learn to deal with anger in a functional way.
So, what would these functional ways be?
TANTRUMS THAT ARE OK: IGNORE, EMPATHIZE, REDIRECT, DISTRACT, TALK
1. Throwing toys
As long as they are not aiming at you, throwing toys is an acceptable way for a child to express anger. You should allow your child to do this. But, you mustn’t forget to talk to your child and let him know that you love him no matter what. You said “No”. He started throwing things. Let him have his tantrum, don’t go back on your word.
2. Banging against surfaces, stomping their feet etc.
This is quite a harmless way for a toddler to express anger. Of course, if he is not hurting himself. This is the act of a symbolic “fighting back”. It’s ok. You should let your child “talk back” in his own way, as long as you are consistent with boundaries.
3. Screaming and crying
In general, kids cry for whatever reason, and whenever they can’t get what they want. If you are certain your child is not hungry, thirsty, sick or otherwise in distress, let him “cry it out”. What lenient parents do is go back on their word when their child starts crying.
You need to realize that he is no longer a baby. His crying is no longer an alarm for you do meet his needs. In fact, when a toddler stops being a baby, tantrum-crying is something you should ignore. Jumping through the hoops to entertain him is harmful to his development on many levels.
4. Tearing paper
Unless it’s an important document or a piece of art, let him have it. “No” still means “No”. But if he is expressing his anger in a way that is not harmful to him or the world around him, let him have his moment.
TANTRUMS THAT ARE NOT OK: DISCOURAGE, LET THE CHILD KNOW THEY ARE BEING NAUGHTY, RE-DIRECT, DISCIPLINE
Now, what types of behavior should you aim to discourage?
Not all forms of expressing rage and sadness are functional. Although these are normal to occur, try to direct them into more acceptable forms. Accepting these forms of behavior may have negative impact on your, for reasons that are more than obvious.
1. Playing victim
Kids often turn to another parent, when one won’t allow something. Or they run into your arms if a stranger tells them they shouldn’t do something. There are many examples of kids making themselves look like a victim. Pointing a finger at someone setting boundaries like they are a bad guy is quite common. Don’t tolerate this. Let your child know that he is the one being naughty and that the other person is right.
2. Faking pain and trauma
Never back down on your word because of this. Children will often act like they are in some kind of physical pain to draw sympathy. I’ve also been through this. In the beginning, it might be cute to kiss your child’s pinky every time you won’t let him have something. He will punch his arm against something and act like he’s hurt. Or pretend he had fallen down and hurt his bum, leg or head. Be gentle and loving, but let him know you know he is pretending and that it’s not ok.
3. Being aggressive towards other people and animals
No hurting others allowed. Period. Be strict and decisive about not letting your child hit anything that breaths. It’s ok to be firm and strict in this situation. Taking toys away from them and letting them know you are upset are a must.
I used to think things I’ve mentioned were general knowledge. But, it turned out that parents out there fear that they are not responding to tantrums in a right way. In case you are one of those parents, I hope this post was helpful. At least, I hope it will help eliminate the guilty feeling for not being strict enough, or that you are maybe being too hard on your child.
In this post, I was aiming to discuss issues fro my personal perspective. For great advice on how to react to tantrums, take a look at these articles: