Toddlercalm – week 2

Love me when I least deserve it, because that’s when I need it the most

After understanding more about tantrums and how a child’s brain works, we explored the frequently used methods and theirs pros/cons. Here are some of the highlights:

Time-out: Allows parent and child to calm down. The child doesn’t learn anything and feels loss of connection with his parent. It conveys “conditional love”.

Naughty step / corner: It gives quick / short-term results and doesn’t help the child regulate his emotions. His feelings are repressed.

Ignoring unwanted behaviour: It seems to be least punishing and we don’t have to deal with the situation. However, it does not address the root of the problem and only increases the child’s unmet needs overtime.

Generic praise: Better than no praise at all, makes both parent/child feel good. However, if the praises are not specific, they can turn into “junk praise”, seem superficial, and produce a child with low self-esteem and lacking in inner satisfaction.

Sticker charts: It’s fun, reinforces behaviour and kids love them. It can also be complicated, costly and encourages extrinsic motivation. The child loses interest quickly. Plus, where does it end?

If-then / bribery or taking away: It is least harmful, reflects the real life and works in short term. However, it tells the child that it is not worth doing something unless he gets something and hence, he will be unable to self-motivate.

In a nutshell, these methods are better than hitting, socially acceptable, easy to do and produce quick results. However, they benefit the adults mostly and impact the kids negatively. Additionally, they do not support the long-term goals listed in week 1.

Normally when a child pushes our buttons, it’s a cry for help to balance out the limits and emotions so that he will feel safe and loved.

Toddlercalm Strategies – C.R.U.C.I.A.L

My child is not giving me a hard time, he’s having a hard time

(C)ONTROL
– Empower / make time for them
– Give choices and respect their decision

(R)HYTHM
– Setting a daily routine and try to follow as close as possible

(U)NDERSTANDING
– Accept that behaviours are there for a reason
– Empathise how the child might be feeling

(C)OMMUNICATION
– Name the emotion “upset”, “struggling”, “having a hard time” “I’m here”
– Use sign language
– Speak to child eye to eye, monitor tone

(I)NDIVIDUAL
– Understand that every child is unique, not one size fits all. Each day is different
– Assess the situation and environment
– Be flexible; meet them where they are

(A)VOIDANCE
– Identify and avoid situations that trigger them ie. hunger, tiredness
– Give a healthy balance of food; avoid sugar

(L)OVE– Love unconditionally
– Stating “I love you”
– Hugs, kisses
– Be with them, physically and emotionally, through ups and downs

Recommended reads:
1. Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen
2. Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
3. Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids by Dr Laura Markham

My progress – applying the C.R.U.C.I.A.L method
This week saw a decline in my progress as Xan slept poorly at night and as a result, I was tired and cranky all the time. Some of E’s antics were beyond my comprehension. I didn’t get it. I couldn’t find a reasoning to his behaviour. I lost my patience very easily, yelled and punished several times, though not as frequent as before I started this course.

One particular incident when I was changing him and Xan came crawling to us. Out of a sudden, without any trigger, E placed his foot on Xan’s body and tried to push her with it. I was perplexed and could not understand why. Boiling inside, I asked him what his intention was for many times, and he came up with weird excuses. He finally said, “I don’t know why I did it.”

My AHA moment happened here. I figured that for someone to be aggressive and rough to another person all the time, he/she must be full of anger inside (UNDERSTANDING). Inexplicable anger that builds up over time. His routine (RHYTHM) was probably a little out lately too, with Hubby starting his night shift. E was probably getting adjusted to not having his daddy to put him to bed.

I met him at where he was (INDIVIDUAL). I gave him CONTROL by presenting him choices of managing his anger when there’s an urge for hurting Xan. I showed him a pillow and got him to hit it. I let him put his foot on it. I asked him to kick and toss it around. I demonstrated how to do it. I told him hitting and bullying are not allowed on anything and anyone, except this pillow.

I repeated my love for him (COMMUNICATION & LOVE), saying “Yes, I know you’re having a really hard time adjusting to sharing love, toys and everything with a sibling. It’s difficult getting used to having someone other than just Ewan. I know you probably think mommy and daddy love meimei more but no, we love both of you equally. You’re my favourite boy, she’s my favourite girl – in the whole wide world! Mommy’s here. Mommy can help you. We love you. You’re safe with us.”

I made sure that we did not overschedule the next few days, cut down on sugar and had him take a nap everyday (AVOIDANCE). I became more motivated after that, sitting with him whenever he fussed. If he whined, I acknowledged his frustration and asked what’s upsetting him. I used playful parenting, telling him that I missed his ‘strong’ voice and pretended to look for it. Once he stopped whining and started smiling, I returned to his need and asked what he wanted. We avoided possible tantrum and I validated his feelings/needs. But very honestly, it took a GIGANTIC amount of patience and empathy. It’s definitely a lot easier to burst into anger but that’s not my chosen path. I choose love.

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5 thoughts on “Toddlercalm – week 2

  1. Thanks for sharing what you learnt from the class. As I believe, I need those positive vibes and encouragement and also the ways on how to deal with my 3 year old girl as well. Parenting really not easy.

  2. jun

    We started using Dr Laura Markham’s techniques a few months ago. I’m a great fan of her approach and philosophy… especially love her book, it’s good at filling the reader with hope for their relationship with their children 🙂 haha! Playful Parenting is good too. We’ve definitely noticed an improvement. but as you said, it takes an enormous amount of patience etc. Hugs to you and the kids! 🙂

    1. Good to hear from you, Jun! Even more glad to know that Markham’s methods work. Her approach is sensible and empathic. Once I’m done with her book, I’m going to get Playful Parenting 🙂

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