Kids are people too. Seems obvious, right? Well, sometimes not so much. You can forget this small fact really easily in the heat of the moment—like when Little Sally is screaming her lungs out in the middle of the otherwise silent library and all you want to do is toss her over your shoulder, tell her to shut it, and haul her out to the minivan.
But before you follow your completely understandable instincts, take a moment. Is that how you would treat a peer?
Granted, Little Sally is not your peer. She’s five years old and she wears pull-ups at naptime. I’ll give you that.
On the same note I’ll also admit that sometimes you don’t have the time or the patience or the luxury of pausing in the middle of your kid’s tantrum to be Parent of the Year. It’s totally acceptable to yell at your kids when the situation warrants that reaction. I’m just saying that there are times when it’s more effective to take another approach.
If you’re willing and able to give it a shot, read on. If not, NO judgment.
When your kid is throwing tantrums or misbehaving in other ways, you might get through to them by following a few simple steps:
1. Help your child cool down. Even the best of us get worked up when we’re frustrated. But it’s never easy to talk about things when one party is wailing or kicking or shouting. I like to suggest that the kid take a few deep breaths. That’s how I try to relax and it works for a lot of people, though not everyone. Find whatever works for your kid.
2. Initiate a dialogue. When a friend is mad at you, the most direct way of solving the problem is to first find out why. So ask questions: “What’s bothering you?” “Why did you feel like kicking me?” “Is something wrong?” Kids may not be rational, but they are normally forthcoming. They will often tell you right away what went through their minds.
3. Express sympathy. Offer a hug, a kiss, whatever feels right. The child may not accept the gesture, and that’s okay. But you might be surprised at how grateful they are for a little loving. Just demonstrate that you care about their feelings.
4. Enact discipline. While you do want to be sympathetic and mindful of your kid’s needs, you also want to teach good behavior. After the child has calmed down, explain that whatever they did was not okay. Ask how they might have better solved the problem. Help them learn to self-correct!
Basically, remind yourself that even when kids seem crazy and undecipherable, they can occasionally be reasonable human beings. Living with that principle in mind has helped me connect with the children I care for and has also changed (for the better) the way I interact with them.