My kids have graduated from toddlers to late preschool and kindergarten. It has been a long and hard journey to get to this sweet spot, a sort of golden age of raising kids. So I thought it would be a good idea to memorialize my observations of conflict resolution with toddlers here.
First, I’d like to give praise to the work of Dr. Ross W. Greene in two books well worth reading for any parent:
- The Explosive Child
- Raising Human Beings
I highly recommend them to all parents, even if you think your kids are “normal”. Those books completely changed my outlook not just on raising children, they inspired me to make a life change in how I approach everyone. As a result of those two books, I now have greater empathy and compassion for others. I never have to take anything personally again, from anyone. Those two books taught me more than any other, that suffering is just a stage of our development.
My experience raising kids has given me new insight into temper tantrums. If you’re a parent, you’ve seen them in all their glory. I’ve seen my kids with tears streaming down their cheeks, arms flailing, ear splitting screaming, and uncontrollable crying. I’ve been there. After reading those two books, and many more in my life, I have learned and applied the skill of talking down a temper tantrum.
Kids exhibit temper tantrums not because they are bad kids, but because they “lack the skills to respond proactively to the demands of their environment” (straight from the books mentioned above). If you think your kid is acting badly, compare that temper tantrum to not knowing how to read. When your kid reads a word wrong, do you spank him and send him to his room? Or do you read the word the correct way for him, to model how to read the word? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.
If we’re tempted to, and do punish toddlers, that’s about us, not about them. But what if we changed our attitude and just looked at their temper tantrum as a mistake, an error in judgement, a lack of a capacity to respond proactively to the demands of their environment? Better to assume ignorance before malice, right?
So when my elder girl was in a temper tantrum, having an upset, I’d just sit at her eye level and talk with her. She’s not going anywhere, and neither am I. I talk with her and let her know that at any time, she can ask for a hug. I remain calm to show…