Dealing with tantrums..with love

Stay on your child’s side!  When your child is having a TANTRUM, the ones where they have truly lost it, FIRST help their brain to calm down by:
– staying calm in what you say, how you act & your volume
– offering a hug
– seeing the problem from your child’s point of view, no matter how inconvenient the tantrum!
– identifying with your child & labeling emotions (‘it’s hard isn’t it’, ‘that was disappointing wasn’t it’)
– don’t offer lectures – the lesson learnt can be discussed when your child is cool
– don’t keep saying ‘no’ or ‘rubbing it in’

Whilst your child needs to learn lessons, they also need understanding that their emotions can be BIG and difficult to get over.  No matter much you think it shouldn’t matter!
If you can help your child to regulate their emotions, they will get better at this as time goes on.  And eventually you’ll be able to talk them out of even going down the meltdown road!

I have an emotionally sensitive child

I have an emotionally sensitive child. And it is sometimes hard not to wear his emotions too!

Rather than ‘brush off’ his feelings with comments like ‘it’s okay’, ‘don’t worry about it’, ‘just let it go’, it works much better to identify with his strong feelings. I might say ‘you are really disappointed aren’t you?’, ‘that must’ve worried you a lot’ or ‘I know you wanted a turn first’.

Instead of firing him up more, he relaxes because he feels understood and supported.

This is one of the first steps in helping him to calm down and regulate his emotions. Without an understanding adult on his side, he is pretty much sure to ‘flip his lid’, where he can’t think straight, won’t let anyone in to help him and struggles to calm down for what seems like an eternity.

And of course, a hug to go with it brings even more success!

Who else can identify with one of these little sensitive ones?

10 tips to more peaceful sharing

Come 18 months, your child may be up for the dreaded tantrums and the beginning of ‘mine’.  You see for the first couple of years, a child believes they are an extension of their mother, until through brain development, the little one works out they are actually their own person…..  Bring on Master Independence, Miss No and little Master MINE!  These once innocent children suddenly have their own thoughts, feelings, opinions and honestly believe that everything IS theirs.  It might be hard to believe sometimes, but your child is not trying to cause fights because they want to.  They are not naughty.

So how do you help your child to share and take turns, especially when other children are in the equation?  The first thing to have a think about is the difference between sharing and turn-taking.  There is a difference!  So sharing means that your child may give part of something in their possession whilst they share it with the other child (think ‘here you can have one of my grapes’, ‘you can draw with my pencils with me’).  This can be easier than turn-taking which involves handing treasured items over and spending agonising time waiting for who-knows-how-long.  For this post, I will talk about sharing meaning both sharing and turn-taking.

There may not be a correct answer, but one question I do ask is ‘how much should a parent step in and coordinate sharing?‘ versus stepping back and letting children learn through experience (obviously not to the point of physical aggression).  

Here are 10 points to think about when dealing with children struggling to share.

1. It depends on age.  The way you help your two-year-old to share will be very different to your four-year-old.  You may step in less with the older children and leave them to sort things out of their own accord.  For the younger ones, you will use far less language to help negotiate sharing (think 2 word phrases until you are sure they understand, through repetition, how sharing works).

2. Have a rule on ‘special toys’ that you will always stand up for.  Your child needs to know and understand which toys are their own ‘special toys’ that other children are not allowed free access to (think special present, comforter, favourite book).  The less the better, to avoid extra work for you and your child ‘protecting’ them all.  These are the ones you might pack away when other children come to visit or you will always give back to it’s owner if the sibling manages to get hold!

3. Teach the concept ‘wait’.  Waiting is a very hard concept for a young child to grasp as it happens in many different scenarios (think waiting in line at the post office, waiting for dinner, waiting for a turn on the swing) and it is nearly always for a different length in time.  Sometimes it’s not even clear to the child when waiting has finished (unless you signal ‘finished waiting’).  Learning and defining the sign ‘wait’ (click on hyperlink to see) can be ideal as you will most likely be signing this for a while to come in many scenarios, especially in turn-taking and even when you can’t talk (think mouth full, on the phone).  Signing can also help to distract your child.

4.  Have a rule about ‘no touching’ (snatching) when another child has their hands on a toy and ‘use your words’ instead.  You can reinforce this even for the youngest ones by helping your child to take their hands off the toy being used and model ‘mine?’ (placing their hand on their chest can be a good natural gesture (my/mine) to reinforce the concept).  This is when you sign ‘wait’.  Part 2 of this post will go into more about what to do when the other child says ‘no!’.

5. Ensure a consistent waiting time for each child.  If there are any little ones involved, you might have to stick with ‘two minutes’ for everyone’s turns.  Preschool kids can definitely learn to wait longer such as ‘five minutes’ or ‘until Jack has ridden around the path’ or ‘when Sarah has finished her painting’.

6. Be consistent with the language you use.  Children will share better when they understand how the ‘rules’ work.  Using repetitive language (such as ‘Johnny’s turn, Sarah’s turn next…wait….then Sarah’s turn’) helps to make each sharing scenario more predictable and hence help to keep your child calmer. 

Think about this: The child that can stop and listen to your words about how the sharing scenario will work, and understand that they will have another turn after a short period (say 2 minutes), will be more likely to succeed at sharing than the one that doesn’t understand what is happening and allows their brain to ‘flip it’s lid’ (meaning they get so worked up they then cannot think straight to calm down and understand the situation).  Because of this, it is so important to pick the best words for your child to understand and say them the same way each time.

7. Choose your battles.  Sometimes it is easier just to have two of the same item, when you know it will matter!

8. The more you put in, the more you get back.  It can be hard work negotiating but as I’ve said above, the more consistent you are in setting up the rules, the quicker your children will come around and hopefully transfer this to sharing with others outside the home.  Sometimes you will be just putting in energy not stepping in and seeing how the children learn themselves.

9. Keep in mind personality.  Some children are more easy-going and yes this transfers onto sharing.  They will probably be able to let go of their turn much more easily than the persistent child that digs their heels in and resists transitions (especially without warning!).  Not that you want to treat each child differently, but you will want to give more understanding for these persistent ones ;).

10. Mind the ‘martyrdom’.  This can be a tricky one for some parents.  Does your child really need you to step in and help?

Stay tuned for Part 2 – The ‘sharing’ cartoon strip!

Thanks for visiting I raise my kids! You can also find us on Facebook for more tips as well as posts or on Google+ 🙂 Heidi

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.. WRONG

What nicknames or words have you ever used to describe your child (even if they’ve just been in your mind!)? Are they positive and ‘selling’ words a marketing company would be proud of? Are they words that make everyone look at the positive sides to your child? Do they make you glow with pride? Do they make your child feel worthy and positive?

The thing is, it can be just so hard to always see your child in a positive light and use words to reflect this (especially in the heat of a MOMENT!).  But, there is a good reason for trying do so.  Here’s why…

Labels can and will hurt.  They set up what’s called a Pygmalion Effect.  That is, your child takes on the labels they are given.  So the child labelled ‘naughty’ begins to live up to her name and the ‘wild one’ allows himself to ‘be’ wild, as this is simply what they’re being told they are!  Children learn about who they are from others in their lives, particularly what is said about them.

A child who is told that they are loving, creative and curious, will have an ‘inner voice’ reflecting these positive labels.  On the contrary, a child who is told they are stubborn, impatient and aggressive will have an inner voice struggling to create a strong self esteem.

You might have a child that is quite simple to view in a positive light, but next thing you are given a ‘spirited’ one (see My Child is Wearing Me Out… to find out more about what entails a Spirited child!)…. Sometimes these children just BEG for less than desirable names and titles as they can be more energetic, perceptive, sensitive, persistent and intense!

Taken from the book ‘Raising Your Spirited Child’ by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, here’s a list of a few tags and labels that some of the parents she dealt with had come up with for their kids…

Agressive, angry, never stops, chatterbox, argumentative, explosive, demanding, noisy, nosey, loud, whiny, easily frustrated, picky, wild, single-minded, disruptive, easily bored, self-critical, obnoxious, manipulative, up/down extreme……

But what about if we could see the positive side to each of these terms?  What if we could start to educate our child with a positive term for each of these qualities and help them to understand how it might be helpful to them one day?

The nosey child might be instead called ‘curious’.  The wild one would be called ‘energetic’, the loud one ‘enthusiastic’ and the stubborn one ‘persistent’.  These labels not only change your child’s inner voice and help them to understand their traits but also make you as the parent feel much more positive about your child.  And by changing your own attitude to a positive one helps to increase your tolerance and love for your child!

It is nice to know that it is not all ‘bad’ or ‘your fault’ for having negative feelings for calling your child any of these names.  It usually means you are dealing with a difficult child and behaviour.  And as the book Raising Your Spirited Child explains, dealing with these children can bring up raw and strong emotions for parents – fear, confusion, resentment, shame, embarrassment, exhaustion and anger, in having to deal with these traits.

Whilst it can be quite confronting to actually think about the negative labels you might have used or even thought of towards your child, the next step is to then think about how this trait might be positive for your child as an adult and give it a new name.  Then explain this to your child – ‘remember how I once called you ‘naughty’, how about we change this to ‘curious’ – do you know what this means? Curious means you like to learn about everything, you have lots of interests, it will help you to keep learning throughout your life’.  And then catch yourself when inevitably ‘naughty’ will sneak out at the heightened moments!  But by catching yourself, you will hopefully remember better for next time!  (and it also allows you to explain to your child how you make mistakes too).

And if you get this far, remember to spread the word to the other family members to get the whole family working on focussing on each family member’s strengths and potential!

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I just wanted a map Daddy…

At our recent trip to Underwater World (see Man..door… – other adventures whilst there), Master 3 announced as we were arriving that he’d like an Underwater World map.  This was no surprise as even though we have an annual pass, he likes to collect one each time.  He also has a map from Australia Zoo and about anywhere else we’ve been that has maps. It’s the symbols, the letters/numbers down the sides, it’s the stories he can create himself after the trip…


When we got there, we were surprised to see they had cordoned off the front section for renovations and the lady explained the different entry.  Master 3 called out for a map however the lady at the desk had none left.  I knew this wasn’t great for Master 3 but I had distracted him other times with ‘let’s not waste more paper/you’ve got more at home’.  Today we distracted with a shark stamp on his arm instead.  Off we went.

We had a good time and upon leaving, my husband noticed that Master 3 was quiet and appeared sad in the car.  My husband asked if he was okay and Master 3 replied ‘yes’.  However, it was unlike him to be seeming so sad, especially after Underwater World.  So he probed again.  Master 3 replied, ‘I wanted an Underwater World map’.

We had been so focussed on the trip and what we thought was the point of the outing, that we had not seen what was important to Master 3.  Being persistent, he could not forget about what he had set his mind on.

By this stage, I felt that we had done enough ‘brushing off’.  Option A would be to respond ‘but we had a good time, don’t worry’.  But this was telling Master 3 that his interests didn’t matter.  It was telling him that ‘everything is okay’, even when it’s not.  Option B was to help him to face the situation and the feelings that went along with it.  We talked about how he was feeling disappointed and that this feeling won’t last forever.  We talked about the map situation further to help him to understand, to work through his disappointment.  The truth was, they were most likely not giving out any maps as quite a chunk of the attractions were closed off.  Presenting a map to patrons would show them how little was actually left to see!  And then, we helped Master 3 to work through the disappointment by reminding him he could look at a map when we got home, which was easier for him to accept now that we were halfway home.

Moral of the story – remember to notice what your child’s interests are and sometimes when they say something, they REEAAALLY mean it!  If they can’t have it, explain to them and talk them through their feelings until they are happy to move on.  By ‘brushing off’, it is like we are telling them we are not brave enough to go there and experience their feelings with them.  We obviously brushed Master 3 off too soon and he was left with his feelings of disappointment to deal with.

🙂 Heidi

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I don’t like him Mummy!

Today Master 3 had a different swimming instructor and immediately he worked his way towards terrified and couldn’t think straight.

Whilst the common reaction is to brush him off, say ‘come on, you’ll be fine’ and drag him to the pool, thankfully I had read ‘Reading your spirited child’ (Mary Sheedy Kurcinka).  The chapter on ‘negative first reaction’ actually features a case about a child struggling to get into the pool.  I had also read ‘The whole brain child’ (Daniel J. Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson), a fantastic book in how to deal with children’s growing brains, especially when they are thrown into chaos.

  1.  I gave Master 3 time.  This immediately took some stress away when I didn’t rush him.  I showed him this by pulling him into my lap.
  2. I didn’t say ‘it’ll be okay’. I acknowledged how he felt – ‘it must be scary. You don’t like change do you?’.  He agreed and calmed down much more that he was able to trust me.
  3. Now that Master 3 was calm and much better able to use his brain, we talked about what the other boys were doing and how he had done this before (aiming for him to see that it was nothing different or scary) and whether there was anything in particular about the instructor that was worrying Master 3.  Once I knew there really wasn’t anything and it was probably just ‘negative first reaction’, I decided to work him towards the pool.
  4. I suggested we go sit over at the edge and to distract him about that, I mentioned things he liked doing in that direction (eg. the watering can on the edge and the kickboards they were using).  Master 3 said he wanted to see the watering can, so we went over and I made sure he sat with his feet in the water before he got it.
  5. He played there happily but I knew he would need some more encouragement.  At this point, the swimming instructor came up with moving him to the step which was brilliant as I was struggling a bit by then to think of the next move!
  6. Master 3 happily played on the step and of course was fine after that.
  7. So much so he told the instructor during the class, ‘this is really fun’ and said ‘I liked him’ after.

If I’d started by brushing Master 3 off and rushing him into the pool, his stress levels would have gone through the roof and from previous experience, I would never have gotten him to come around.   Knowing that Master 3 is ‘spirited’, I know that he soaks up stress as soon as there is a hint of it around.  By playing it cool, I was able to get him to think calmly and logically and happily participating in the swimming lesson!

To read more about what makes a spirited child, you can access my post here

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