How can we help our little ones regulate their emotion?
The amount of energy that comes out of the bodies of little children can be absolutely amazing and overwhelming at the same time. There are many times when we end up saying..”would you just stop” when your child is getting angry, whining, or not getting their way. This is similar to putting a lid on a boiling pot.
A child that is asked to stop and is not given the chance to let get of the pent-up feelings and energy is a recipe for an explosion (otherwise known as a tantrum). Does this mean that we should not say “stop”? In a perfect world that would be the case.
Since this world is far from perfect let us be real about this for a few minutes. There will be times when you will have to quickly deal with a situation and then move on. This will happen when you are shopping, at a restaurant, running errands, or just do not have the patience. Therefore; in this case, you will be putting a lid on your child’s emotions.
We all know that putting a lid on a boiling pot is a temporary fix. If the pot is still on the heat it will boil over. When your child is just suppressing the emotion the explosion will happen over the next thing that causes frustration, anger or upset.
If you are feeling overwhelmed as a parent just imagine what could be happening inside that little human’s body. So what can you do…
The first step is to connect with your little one. Stop what you are doing and really pay attention to your child. This can take just a few seconds. Make eye contact and use a calm voice when chatting with your child. Getting down to your child’s level or bringing the child to your level will have a huge impact.
The next step is to empathize. “I see that you are angry (insert proper emotion here), it is hard to be ____”.
Offer a hug or just sit with your child.
Help or Give Space
Then offer to help them if they need help. If they are just having a moment, let the moment happen. Your little one may need to just express the emotion. Yes, I am saying let the tantrum happen.
I often compare a tantrum with an adult dropping an “f bomb”. It feels really good to verbalize the frustration. Our children struggle with verbally expressing themselves. They will use their behavior to express themselves until closer to age 8 (even then talking can be tough). Once the tantrum is done they can move on and feel really good about it.
Move on?? Don’t consequence??
This is when I hear lots of people say “is that not going to spoil a child, there needs to be a consequence”. Stay firm on your expectation but there does not need to be a consequence (being firm is consequence enough). The lesson in this process is that your child can express themselves; however, you still hold firm to your expectation. Your child will earn that you will not change your mind and they are still expected to follow through with your request.