You are trying to get your toddler to follow your instructions, but instead of complying, he says “NO!” and it soon escalated into a screaming/crying tantrum. Does this sound familiar? As mums ourselves, we’ve been there! Many of us might succumb to shouting back at them or snap and tell them to stop screaming, but will they listen? Most likely not! However, our kids are not intentionally being "terrible", it is just that we might not be talking to them in ways that they'll listen! In this post, we share our favourite tips and techniques that you can use to communicate to your kids. We don’t claim to be experts, but are regular moms striving to implement these tips in our daily communication with our kids as well!
1. THE ONLY WAY TO GET THROUGH A CHILD AND CHANGE THEIR BEHAVIOUR IS TO ACKNOWLEDGE & VALIDATE THEIR FEELINGS
Instead of blaming your child for bad behavior, what can you do to pacify the situation? Often, kids don’t listen to their parents because their feelings aren’t being acknowledged. A child’s behavior is tied to how he or she feels, and often when we communicate with a child, we don’t address this. Demanding that your screaming child who is demanding for food/toys to be quiet overlooks his feelings. He is probably communicating his frustration or it could be that his basic needs are not being met e.g. he could be tired or hungry.
I recall occasions when I was insisting my 2.5 year old daughter to take a shower before bed and she starting screaming (what is it with kids and bath time?) After 15 minutes of trying to coax her into the toilet, I decided to change strategy, squatted down and patiently asked her, “I see you don’t want to bathe, why?” After some guessing by asking her directed questions like, “is it because you still want to play?” “Do you want to bring your toys into the bath?” I finally hit the nail on the head when I asked, “do you want me to carry you?” Turns out she wanted to be carried to the toilet like her baby sister! So I did just that and she happily took her shower. It took 15 minutes to guess what she wanted, but at least I had a happy child after that.
The next time your child is throwing a tantrum, squat down, look him in the eye and ask, "I know that you are feeling upset because you _____ (e.g. cannot get to play with the toy truck). Let's see what other interesting toy we can find to play with!" Acknowledgment and validation of your child's feelings establishes an emotional connection and communicates to your child that his feelings are heard.
2. GIVE THEM A HUG
Hugging triggers the immediate release of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone, lowering the stress hormone (cortisol) and calms down the nervous system of both parent and child, avoiding an emotional crash. When we hug our children during meltdowns and tantrums, we are not reinforcing their behaviour but are instead helping them to calm down their overreactive primitive brain, getting them out of the flight/fight response so that they can hear us better. Some children may not want to be hugged or touched during tantrums and that is okay. Accept that this is part of their temperament and follow up with hugs and verbal validation of their feelings when they are calmer.
3. OFFER CHOICES OR COME TO A COMPROMISE