(It’s not you might think!) and 3 tips for how to handle it without losing your cool!
You might be at home or in public when your two year old suddenly becomes defiant and refuses to cooperate. They might be screaming, “NO!” at the top of their lungs as you scoop them up to carry them to the car.
If you are a parent of a toddler, chances are, you have been in this situation dozens of times. It can be exhausting and overwhelming to try and manage a screaming, defiant child who is physically fighting you to get what they want.
Oftentimes, if you have been raised with a traditional mindset about how parents and children should act and behave, it can be easy to think,
“OMG, my kid is being such a brat!” OR “I wish they would just obey me” OR “My kid is so spoiled, they throw a fit whenever they don’t get what they want!”
If we take a step back and look at the situation without judgement or labels,
we oftentimes realize that the FACTS of the situation are simply that:
My child is upset and disappointed about something.
That’s it. No need to interpret it anymore.
Toddlers do not have the language skills to truly communicate something like:
“Hey look Mom, I get that we have to leave the park, but I’m having a lot of fun. Can we stay for 5 more minutes so I can go down the slide?”
Instead, they shriek and scream and throw a fit. But here’s the good news about that!
What your toddler TRULY WANTS is to be SEEN and HEARD! They want to have AN OPINION about their environment, food, and activities. When we look at it this way, it can be easier to see that CHOOSING to LISTEN to WHAT THEY WANT can actually help CALM THEM DOWN.
Tip #1: Put yourself in their shoes
Imagine being a toddler again and what it must be like to be able to go to a fun park or enjoy a yummy dessert. Really put yourself IN THEIR SHOES and SEE THEIR WORLD FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE.
You can say something like, “You love ice cream don’t you! Ice cream is so yummy! What a fun treat!” This might seem counter intuitive in that you may be afraid to LEAN INTO the issue for fear that you will make their reaction worse. But the opposite is true! Once they feel HEARD, the oftentimes will calm down because you are showing them that you understand.
Tip #2: Offer them support for their perspective
You can show them that their FEELINGS of DISAPPOINTMENT and FRUSTRATION are valid WITHOUT validating negative behavior. It can sound like this this:
“Sarah, you want that ice cream so badly, don’t you? If I wanted ice cream as bad as you, I’d be really upset too!”
Showing them that it is OKAY TO HAVE FEELINGS can help them to know that FEELINGS AREN’T WRONG OR BAD. Feelings are just feelings. They just are.
Tip #3: Tap into their imagination
Children are constantly in a state of wonder. and imaginative play. Why not meet them where they are and use the opportunity to CONNECT with them. It can sound like this:
“Billy, I bet you’d love to have an ice cream cone as tall as our house! How about 100 scoops with chocolate syrup and sprinkles on top? No, how about you have a pool full of ice cream and you get to slip and slide all over it and get really messy in it?”
This step taps into your child’s CREATIVE part of their brain, you can be as playful and imaginative and silly as you like. Most likely your toddler will begin to imagine what you are saying and will join you in the imaginary world. This creates connection and bonding time for you as you really get into their world.
The next time your toddler protests, “NO!” when it is time to go somewhere or get ready for bed, try these steps and see what happens!
Chances are your toddler just wants what we all truly want:
TO BE SEEN AND HEARD FOR WHO WE ARE, NOT FOR WHAT WE DO!