This post was originally inspired by International Conflict Resolution Day, back on October 19th 2017. The Association for Conflict Resolution started the movement in 2005 to “promote and celebrate peaceful conflict resolution practices worldwide”.
We may not all be trained peacekeepers or hostage negotiators but the chances are that you will pick up some serious conflict resolution skills if you are a parent, teacher or carer of small children!
Tantrums are an inevitable part of child development. It is true that we often see a lot of strong feelings and challenging behaviour between the ages of 18month to 3 years. This is generally because children don’t have the capacity to fully express themselves and can get very frustrated. Reasoning can be difficult as they are not able to understand consequences in the same way an older child can.
The best way to deal with tantrums is to try and prevent them in the first place. Understanding the children we care for goes a long way towards avoiding the dreaded outbursts.
- Check their basic needs are met. Are they hungry, thirsty, too hot/cold, sitting in a dirty nappy. We are all prone to getting cranky if we are uncomfortable.
- Know the best times of day to do certain activities. Taking toddlers shopping when they are hungry or tired is never a good idea and sets both of you up to fail. Similarly, asking them to sit still and concentrate when they are full of energy may lead to conflict.
- Be aware of our own needs and feelings. If we are stressed, in a rush or having a bad day, this is likely to impact on the child. Know where your own line of tolerance is that day and avoid situations that are likely to cause more stress.
Dealing with Strong Emotions
Even if you plan well and are responsive to your child’s needs, there will still be times when you find yourself standing over a prone toddler who is devastated because they got the green cup instead of the blue one, was told they weren’t allowed to eat dog food or is upset because the toy they threw down the toilet is now wet (trust me, these three scenarios happen a lot in my house!). So what can be done?
- Keep calm. It may be frustrating and inconvenient but your toddler is struggling with emotions and feelings and unable to express their needs. We’ve all felt frustrated at times and someone shouting at us doesn’t help.
- Keep them safe. You may need to hold them, take them into another room or out of the situation but remember they are too old to look after themselves.
- Distract them. Distracting generally works with this age group because they easily shift their focus and this enables you to calm them down quickly.
- Don’t bribe or offer sweets or treats. Mainly because you will be setting yourself up for problems as they get older.
- Name their feelings. ‘You are very angry with my right now’, this helps to label their feelings and support the development of their emotional intelligence.
- Support your toddler to calm down. It is our job as parents and carers to guide them through dealing with emotions. Show them how to take deep breathes, give them space or give them a hug, depending on what works for them. Have a cuddly to hand that may soothe them. They are still learning how to cope with their feelings.
Parenting can be overwhelming at the best of times but everyone is in the same boat even if they may look like they have all the answers. Talk to other parents and carers, share your experiences and concerns and be open to suggestions that fit with your style of parenting.
SensoBaby offer parenting classes and P.E.T courses (Parent Effectiveness Training) so you can contact them to find out more. If you are concerned about the behaviour of a child, speak to your paediatrician and get their opinion. Taola Paediatrics in Maru-A-Pula have a great reputation in supporting families.
Try not to worry; the behaviour of a toddler is not an indicator of how they will turn out. Just because yours is the one at nursery or baby group that runs around screaming and bashing others on the head, does not mean they will be a juvenile delinquent!
Find time for yourself, look after your own needs and remember, those trained Conflict Resolution experts have nothing on you!