Even when our requests seem fair to us, it is only reasonable to accept that toddlers might react with strong feelings. To ask them to deny their feelings of frustration and disappointment is to ask them to deny their humanity. It also sends the message that we adults are unable to tolerate their negative emotions. But when we handle toddlers’ strong feelings calmly, and refrain from using permissive or punitive strategies to end them, we send a different message: that conflict with a loved one does not mean the end of that love. I believe that it is far more important to provide healthy outlets for expressing emotions than to seclude, ignore, or punish children for having these emotions at all. (more…)
Venturing out into public requires not only patience and creativity, but boldness as well. Julia is likely to protest my attempts at guidance at least once, and because her verbal abilities are still developing, this protest can take the form of an all-out tantrum. That’s when boldness is required. Calmly kneeling beside a frustrated toddler without punishing or threatening her is likely to trigger an onslaught of unsolicited advice and judgment from others. Their usual advice is to ignore or punish the child in order to eliminate these intense displays of emotion. The onlookers, reasonably upset about the disruption, want peace and quiet.
I was standing on a street corner with my wailing toddler as a smiling woman shouted at me from across the street.
Naughty? Was my daughter being naughty because she was crying? Was I being naughty because my child was visibly upset?
The stranger had just witnessed a scene between 18-month-old Julia and me. Julia had wanted to cross the street to get to the toy store, but she wanted to cross independently, without holding my hand. After I’d explained the options for safely crossing the busy street, she sobbed hysterically in protest. The enthusiastic cries from across the street commenced shortly thereafter.