Posts Tagged: toddler behaviour

Losing a Lovey or Favourite Stuffed Animal

Do you remember your favourite “lovies” from your childhood?  You hear stories of parents trying to get an old security blanket down to a small square by having it progressively “shrink” in the dryer, but what if your child’s lovey disappears by accident prematurely?

Have a look at the email I got from Jen describing her dilemma:

“My daughter will turn 3 next month. She has a toy giraffe which she was extremely dependent on. Trouble is, he was dropped out of the stroller and is now lost. It has been 5 days and she is an absolute mess. I don’t know what to do. She is melting down a lot, temper tantrums, throwing things. She never exhibits this type of behaviour.

We are searching for another similar toy, but it’s hard to find. I’ve tried to coax her to talk about him, but she doesn’t want to discuss it. She has spoken about missing him, and wishing she could find him, etc… It is breaking my heart, and therefore I’m not clamping down on her behaviour. When should I expect that she will be back to normal? Any advice on how to deal with this situation? It is tearing me up inside!”

Oh that is heart wrenching isn’t it?

You have to find that fine line between being empathetic for her real sense of loss – and not tolerating her using it as an excuse to behave badly.

We often see this with adults when they proclaim “I am just not a morning person”.  They walk around being grumpy (aka rude) to us.  They expect others to accept their poor behaviour because they supposedly “aren’t morning people”.  Yet we know that if they weren’t with family, they would not act this way.  They would be polite with the folks in the car pool, or to the neighbour.

So, you named it yourself: you are being lax and not dealing with her the same because of this loss. What might she be learning from this experience then?  I suggest you trust your instincts and get on with discipline as per usual and work to help her find a new “lovey”, even though nothing will replace her beloved giraffe.

I hope that is helpful.

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com

Toddler Tantrums in the Doctor’s Reception Area

I was recently asked about how to cope with a public tantrum. I think the description given below will ring true to many parents:

“Yesterday we went to the doctor’s office. My daughter had a bowl of goldfish crackers for a snack and she kept spilling them so I held the bowl for her and she went crazy, throwing herself down on the ground in the reception area. She would not stand on her feet and went completely limp. I took her outside to sit on the step and let her sit on the lower step under me and held her with my legs while she thrashed about. We did this for like 5 minutes while she cried and yelled and I talked calmly to her. After that I let her go and offered her three goldfish crackers and she wouldn’t eat them and threw them down and went crazy again so I held her in a leg lock until she calmed down. Then she sat beside me and I offered her a cookie instead and she was better. This whole process took about 25 minutes. I’m just wondering what you thought I should do? Give her nothing? Or spanked her? Or what? At home it would have been over instantly but in public it doesn’t work that way.”

Here are some ideas on how this might go better for you next time:

1) Why does she do this in public only?
You were astute to notice she doesn’t react the same way in public as she does in private. She has learned from past experience that you are more likely to cave in public and give way to her demands, or that she can seek a little revenge and make you feel small in public by embarrassing or upsetting you.

Rule of thumb – try to have the same responses for behaviour regardless of where you are. I know it takes a lot of confidence, but believe it or not, people really don’t really care as much about you and your parenting as you think. Honest.

2) Toddler Tantrums are usually a form of a power struggle.
A tantrum is a child’s attempt to win a power contest that is being held between the child and the parent. The issue is not the goldfish per se, but rather “who has power over whom?” I recommend parents don’t try to “win” power struggles, nor do I think they should cave and “lose” power struggles. Both winning and losing serve to model to the child that power struggles are a good way to get your way in relationships. We don’t want them learning that do we? Instead, we must work to END the power struggle, by coming to a truce so you can get on with what is required of the situation.

Usually, power struggles get started when a parent steps into the child’s roles and responsibilities. In this case: whose role and responsibilities were the snack? Who owned the problem? In trying to “help her” you accidentally usurped her power to manage herself, her situation and her choices. When she starts to tantrum you have to think back on what got her triggered. What just happened that she perceived you as being dominating or controlling (usurping her power)?

If she’d rather hold the goldfish and continue to drop them, do you really care? I wouldn’t let her eat them off the floor mind you. I might even say “I am worried that you’ll have none left to eat if they all keep spilling and you’ll be hungry.” But the snack is hers to manage, her mistakes to make and her disappointment to deal with.

3) Too Late – Tantrum is on.
Once a tantrum has started, stop talking. There is no value in discussion when the child is in this state. Remain calm yourself, because if the child successfully gets you upset, it serves as “payoff”. She will feel victorious in her tactics to dominate you (your mood) with her tantrum and thus will stick with this successful behaviour strategy.

4) Disengage – Tantrums require you as the audience.
Once a tantrum is on, stop engaging in any way. There are many ways we “engage” with children besides talking. These include looking at the child, holding / hugging / rocking / pinning down, talking to calm them, etc. All of these are interactions between two individuals and it keeps adding fuel to the fire. The parent must disengage. As Dr Rudolph Dreikurs used to say, “You must take your sail out of their wind”.

5) Doctor’s office example.
Once the toddler tantrum begins, try totally ignoring it. Let her fall to the floor screaming. Pick up a magazine and start reading it. Don’t look at her, don’t touch her. Get busy with something else. If she screams so loudly and for so long that it is a public nuisance to the doctor’s office, you can remove her from that environment to finish the tantrum somewhere where it won’t affect others.

You can ask her, “Can you calm yourself or do we need to go outside?” (Or to the car). If she continues, carry her outside, and let her finish her upset out there while you sit and read a magazine from the office. Don’t look, don’t talk, don’t touch until she has calmed herself. You can let her know that, “When you are calm, I’ll know you are ready to go back in.”

6) Success.
Tantrums can be measured in their frequency, duration and intensity. If you are working to eliminate tantrums, be sure to use these objective measures to keep you encouraged that you’re making progress.

7) Positive Power.
Children need power. We want them to find it on the positive side of life namely, in being competent and capable and in contributing their talents to the family. If you spend time training children to manage on their own, they will get a sense of empowerment. Help her progress along the continuum towards full self-competence.

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

Two Arm Technique for Toddler Hitting, Biting, Pushing and Toy Snatching

One of the most common questions I get asked is how to respond when two toddlers or preschoolers are involved in an altercation. If your child has just been hit, had their toy snatched or pushed… what should you do?

My answer is called the “Two Arm Technique,” taught to me by Althea Poulos.

Here’s how it goes:

When you witness a situation when two young children are in a kerfuffle, begin by asking yourself, “Who owns the problem?” In the case of a child having a toy snatched from their hands, it is the child who lost the toy. Our culture likes to label this child the “victim,” and we have very strong personal ideas about helping an innocent victim! Our first impulse is to rush over and console the “poor upset victim” and to admonish the “bully” who overstepped his bounds. We pluck the toy from the “bully,” yell at him for his mean behavior and return it to the “victim” to set things right!

The trouble with this response is that it actually grooms a child to become more likely to be a victim, because they have learned by standing still and looking tearful and upset (under-resourced or being incapable), that someone will come and handle their life problems. The successful outcome shows the child that their approach was a good strategy to solve a problem. This does not hold up well as a life lesson. We don’t want to teach this.

The other faulty notion is to mistakenly believe that the child snatching the toy was in some way being mean and brutal. No, in fact, that child is also deficient in how to solve his real life problems. He wants a fun toy and so he must solve how to get it. Much of what young kids know has come from watching their parents deal with them, and they frequently learn from parent-child interactions that “might is right.”

The child takes the most simplistic model he is aware of in his young age and experience, and goes about solving his situation with his peers in the only way he knows. He has no feelings of meanness, he just wants to solve the problem of getting the toy! If we punish this boy, he may potentially learn that “life is out to get me,” and that he is a “bad boy,” and he will begin to grow and develop in line with that expectation. Our responses will actually foster BOTH the “bully” and the “victim” idea we are fearful of and trying to avoid!

The parent or teacher’s role in these scenarios is to train the children in ways to deal more effectively and cooperatively with this life challenge. It is a time to guide and teach (the real basis of discipline), not to punish. Neither is a victim or bully, they are just two children in need of skills development and in growing their “social interest,” as we Adlerians call it (also known as social feeling – caring for others).

So try this instead:

Drop to your knees so you are at eye level to the children when talking (this is so very important to creating a sense of equality and respect). Being towered over is very intimidating and distancing.

Collect both children up so they are facing one another. After all, this is their problem and their discussion. The teacher or adult should be physically in a position that is neutral (not holding one child or standing beside one child – this gives the feeling of “two against one” and we are NOT here to take sides, or act as police or judge). The name of this communicating technique comes from the holding of each child, one in each of your arms, gently. Hopefully in this position you will feel more like a mediator yourself.

Here is the script for the conversation that follows:

Parent to Crying Child: “Did you like that?”

Crying Child: (Shakes head or keeps crying – often not verbal or pre-verbal)

Parent to Crying Child: “Looks like you are saying you didn’t like it, but you need to speak up. Can you say ‘I don’t like that’? Your friend needs to know. He is a good listener.” (Nice little bit of encouragement there, eh?)

Parent to Crying Child: “Tell your friend, ‘I’m not done yet.’”

Either the child will repeat the words you have just given them, and speak up for themselves saying, “I am not done yet,” OR they will say nothing and you can say the words, but the message is coming from the crying child, NOT from you!

Parent to the Toy Taker: “You friend is saying they don’t like that, they are not done yet.”

Parent to the Toy Taker: “Did you want a turn with the toy?”

Toy Taker: (Nods, or says yes, or looks at you neutrally)

Parent to the Toy Taker: “Can you tell your friend that? Can you say ‘I’d like a turn please’?”

Again – see if the child will repeat your words. If not, you say them – but don’t fall into the trap of talking for yourself. There is a world of difference between “Your friend is asking for a turn when you are done” (correct version – the message is from the child, delivered by the adult) versus “It’s his turn next” (which is the adult’s instruction, and NOT a message from one child to another other).

Parent to Crying Child: “Your friend has asked you for a turn. Can you find him and give him the toy when you are done?” Crying child will either be neutral (take that as a yes) or they will nod or say yes to affirm.

Parent to BOTH children: “GREAT – looks like you two worked it out!”

At this point I might use redirection to help the child left waiting for his turn by asking him what he would like to do while he is waiting.

Did you notice I did not make them hug or say sorry? I’ll have to write another post on that too. But for now, appreciate the idea of helping children learn oral language skills so they can handle these situations without an adult in the future.

If you visit an Adlerian classroom, you will often hear children saying “I don’t like” and teachers saying back “Good speaking up!” If you train children to solve their problems, they don’t need to come to the teacher when discourse occurs. This is great preparation for the big world of school hallways and school yards at recess that are soon to come!

Recap: Two Arm Technique for Hitting

Parent to Crying Child: “Did you like that?”

Crying Child: (Shakes head or keeps crying – often not verbal or preverbal)

Parent to Crying Child: “Looks like you are saying you didn’t like that, you need to speak up. Can you say ‘I don’t like that’? Your friend needs to know, he is a good listener.”

Either the child will repeat the words you have just given them, and speak up for themselves saying, “I don’t like that,” OR they will say nothing and so you can say the words, but remember that the message is coming from the crying child, NOT from you!

Parent to the Hitter/Pusher: “You friend is saying they don’t like that.”

Parent to the Hitter/Pusher: “We need to feel safe in (house /classroom/play group). Your friend might like to play with you more if he knew he was safe. Can you tell your friend he will be safe? Can you say ‘I won’t do that again’?” (Notice this is a plan or promise for future behaviour and not an apology for past behaviour.)

Parent to the Hitter/Pusher: “Is there something you could do to make your friend feel better?” (This is restitution and healing since someone was hurt.) Hitter/Pusher probably will look blankly at you since they have never done this before.

Parent to Crying Child: “Would you like a hug from him?” (It’s okay for them to say no… but if they say yes…)

Parent to Hitter/Pusher: “Your friend is saying they’d like a hug – would you like to give one?” (It’s okay for them to say no… but usually they do just hug.)

Parent to BOTH children: “GREAT – looks like you two are ready to play together safely again!”

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

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