Over the last few years I’ve come across countless situations were parents feel like they don’t know how to deal with toddlers and preschoolers. Parents get stressed out because of the “bad behavior” and I’ve received plenty of emails from those who feel that they’ve failed at being a parent. If this describes you then I’d like to invite you to enter my world and learn more about how you can take advantage of language as a toolbox for change. Parenting toddlers and preschoolers can go back to being fun again. All you need is a willingness to learn, and an appreciation for new advice.
Remember when your baby was born? Sure, it was stressful at times. It was a huge change in your life. You didn’t always know why your child was crying. But you quickly discovered the main culprits of temperature, hunger, gas, a soiled diaper, or fatigue. Those were rather easy problems to solve, and you didn’t need any special skills. You didn’t have to ask your baby what was wrong. You just learned to figure it out based on “reading” your baby’s behavior.
Then sometime between 12-24 months your baby became a toddler. Crawling turned into walking, and mutterings turned into real words. Your child would point at things, ask for things, and literally freak out if you said “No”. Am I right so far?
I’m going to give you the single most important advice that I think all parents of toddlers need to understand. Ready? Accept that children in the age range of two to four have almost no reasoning skills. Logic is usually a bad way to approach a problem. That’s it. Once you appreciate this, your ability to prevent tantrums will have suddenly skyrocketed.
One of my pet peeves is when people write advice about what not to do, but they don’t give you any useful suggestions on how to replace the old habit. So let me expand upon this statement. Let’s pretend that your toddler or preschooler is messing around in the kitchen and is dragging pots and pans out of the cabinet. You know that you’ll have to clean this up. You want the behavior to stop. Be honest now. In this situation, would you normally just tell your child to “stop” and take them out of the kitchen? If you answered “yes”, then you’ve tried to solve the problem by using logic, or by assuming your child will understand that this behavior is not allowed. Guess what? It almost always results in a tantrum.
So what do you do instead of using logic? Start managing your toddler’s state of mind. Change the focus of his or her attention. Use distraction or confusion techniques to create an opportunity to shift your child to a new activity. There are plenty of ways to deal with toddlers that don’t involve rational explanations or logic.
Here’s a quick way to get your toddler out of a messy situation without a fight. First, enter the child’s world. Say, “I see you are playing with these pots and making a lot of nose. That must be a lot of fun!” Next, start to distract your child with something simple such as a tickle and some laughing. This positions you in positive manner, not as the mother or father about to take away the toys. Finally, change the scenery by carrying your child over to the window and pointing out something interesting. Maybe it’s the squirrel climbing in the tree. Maybe an airplane flying overhead? Young kids have a short attention span. All you need to do is be a bit “sneaky” in changing your child’s focus while maintaining a positive state of mind. Then, following the distraction, give them something new to do.
In nearly every instance, tantrums and bad behavior are the result of a certain (negative) emotional state in your child. If you want to change the behavior, you need to change the emotional state first. Language is a powerful asset that parents can use to steer children into resourceful states. After all, kids don’t tend to misbehave or throw tantrums when they are laughing and smiling.
If you’d like to learn more of these simple and powerful communication strategies, simply visit http://TalkingToToddlers.com