A pressing, painful truth in our duties as parents is that we almost always forget to be emotionally responsive to our child.
It is one of the most crucial brain-based strategies according to Dr Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. (author of No-Drama Discipline and co-author of The Whole Brain Child) in handling our children’s emotions.
When we are emotionally responsive, we address the emotions first and the behavior later. We try to see what our child is feeling (in moments of tantrums)- whether it’s rational for us or not. Trust that in those moments, the emotion is so real and too big to handle by our child.
Validate and reflect back the emotions
In my previous blog in handling tantrums of children aged 2 plus, we mentioned not to mind the inappropriate non-verbal behavior, but to address the emotions first. Never mind those banging of the door, or the rolling of the eyes, the screaming, or the shouting (not unless, of course, if your child is about to do something that will endanger him or the people around him).
Save your threats of ‘You better stop this, or you’re going to bed early!’
Calm down. Because when we respond calmly- not raising our voice, not glaring at our child or threatening to hold him), then we won’t make them feel bad for expressing their emotions the way they just did.
Wait for the calm
When we acknowledge the emotions, our children become calm. When we meet the rising, angry tide, we also get locked into it and things often always escalate. When we wait for the calm, then we can point out the behavior we didn’t like during the tantrum.
Dr. Tina and all psychologists note that many behavior problems, bad behavioral issues, are often results of big emotions not being expressed in mature or acceptable ways. Our young children are still in that learning stage of managing the emotions, and we are their guides to lead them to what we call mature ways of expressions.
Building a safe, caring environment
In the long term, this beautiful exchange of responding calmly and addressing the emotions immediately builds the brain, making the reactive parts slow down. So imagine, this is the kind of environment we foster at home. The more our child’s brain gets used to it, the more he or she can thrive in other areas of life. We start to build positive, lasting attachment with out child. This is the safe, sensitive and predictable environment we would like to build at home, where everything is consistent and your child feels your love; when y
our child experiences frustration and goes into a tantrum, you always, always respond calmly.
(See future blog: Calmness and executive functions of children with ADHD and other children)
If you would like to read further, you can look up Attachment Parenting.
But if you don’t have the time to read in your busy schedules, come attend our trainings, or better, schedule a personal session with us.
I know much of this theory need practicing, so please find time to practice. I have talked with a lot of parents- professionals, and from all walks of life who always want the best for their child but sometimes don’t know what ‘responding calmly’ looks or sounds like.
We all need to practice mindfulness. Sit with your child and his or her emotions. Forget about the problem-solving, or the bad behavior or bad words you saw throughout the tantrum.
Forget what you know, or how you feel about the reason behind your child’s tantrum.
Just hold your child and help him or her carry those big, scary emotions.