Children do bring out our best or worse. When our much-loved little ones turn on the drama with whining or vent their emotions with fussing or (gasp!) throw a full-fledged tantrum, our defining moment has come (perhaps for the 12th time today).
Overall, my goal is to STAY CALM. I focus on controlling my voice, thinking s-l-o-w-l-y, and staying the course. How can I handle the situation in a way that’s effective, gentle, but easy for me? Because, if I’m working too hard, bending over backward to manage the storm, I’m not teaching my child that tantrums, whining, and fussing don’t work. When I find a solution that’s easy on me, I’m able to stay calm and upbeat rather than getting angry.
So, it goes like this. My 3-year-old is learning to dress himself. He’d rather I dress him, not because it’s too hard, but because he’d just rather not do it. But, he does want to get dressed in “morning clothes” the moment he wakes up. So, when he refuses to take off his pajama top, I tell him in an unconcerned, “fine with me” voice, “When you’re ready, you’ll take off your shirt. Mama is going to brush her teeth now. I’ll come back when you’re ready.” And, off I go, able to continue my morning routine while he deals with the inevitable. And, when he’s ready to cooperate, I’m happy to return to his room because I haven’t spent the last 5 minutes threatening, scowling and loosing my mind.
But, how do you find a solution that’s effective, gentle and easy? Oh, that’s the hard part. Author Elizabeth Pantley, whose book “The No-Cry Discipline Solution” is a very worthy read, has some ideas in her article The Big Three: Tantrums, Fussing & Whining. Here are the main points:
- Get Eye-to-Eye
- Tell him what you DO want
- Give Freedom of Choices, within limits
- Validate his feelings
- Teach the Quiet Bunny (a relaxation technique)
- Distract & Involve
- Invoke his Imagination
- Use the Preventative Approach
I do use all of these methods from time to time, even the “quiet bunny” approach with my older child (my son definitely doesn’t grasp the deep breath concept yet, but we should work on that). I guess that telling what I do want them to do is the approach I use most often. But, honestly, it’s a lot more fun for all of us if I can manage to invoke their imaginations instead!