It doesn’t work anyway.
Peace + kindness + love will always, always win. It’s our human nature by design. If we want to see a world filled with those things, we have to BECOME those things ourselves. Our children are not going to change the future story unless we change ours now.
If you have to hurt other people in order to feel in control, something is wrong. If you have to fall back on prehistoric stories of fear and power based relationship, to get what you want… something is wrong. If you have to use your size and dominance to achieve compliance… something is wrong.
Another childcare centre in our NZ ECE community is under investigation for malpractice at the moment and it truly hurts my heart to think of those babies and what has been happening in their hearts and minds. Irrecoverable damage.
Your words and actions now, are going to become their inner voice. Sounds serious? It’s because it really is.
No, you are not a robot and no you are not perfect. Yes you will have bad days and yes you will be challenged by the little people in your life. But there IS another way and once you find it and re-program yourself, you will never go back.
SO…..What to do instead?!?
Toddlers, I think, are the most challenging (and magnificent) age group to work with! I just love them! I also think, that this is perhaps the age group that we find ourselves least equipped to deal with. We want to have good discipline and effective boundaries, but we also need to pay attention to the delicate nature of the emotional life of a toddler…. Phew!!!It’s tough stuff! So, here are some of my tips for creating and establishing meaningful relationships with these tiny teenagers…
1. Change the lens we see through.
If we are able to learn and understand a little more about the biological nature of a toddler, we are in a better position to help them. Knowing that the toddler brain is undergoing some serious restructuring and simply does not work like ours, can go a long way in helping us to respond with empathy rather than anger. Rather than seeing the toddler as an emotional terrorist out to cause us strife – lets try seeing her as someone living almost entirely out of the emotional brain because of her developmental status right now. A little perspective goes a long way.
The part of the brain that deals with reasoning, self control, temperance etc is literally offline at the moment – so there isn’t much point in trying to work with it. You can’t reason with the unreasonable and you can save yourself a lot of frustration by realising that and adjusting to it.
2. S L O W down!
Our movements, posture, and words really set the tone for what comes next. Try and adopt a relaxed state (even if its a facade initially) that suggests that you aren’t entering into stress mode too. A child who is in stress mode, needs to be met with an adult who can remain anchored (yes, its as hard as it sounds to begin with.
3. The THREE C’s! Calm, Confident, Consistent.
Pick limits and boundaries and stick to them!!! Toddlers are actually desperately looking for boundaries a lot of the time… that is what challenging behaviour is! Testing to find the limit…testing to see what is powerful… testing YOU to make sure you’ve got it all under control. Don’t let a testing toddler down, by shifting your limits and showing that you are rocked by their behaviour.
Just like adopting the relaxed state – adopting the Calm + Confident combo can also be a facade to start with, but eventually can become second nature. Fake it till you make it! Responding with our own big emotions (yelling, getting rough etc…) only adds fuel to the fire and to the toddlers sense of being out of control. If you are having your buttons pushed in a big way by some challenging behaviour, the best thing to do is to send the message that suggests ‘I’ve got this! No biggie!” Our toddlers NEED to know that we can handle their chaos, and meet it with calm confidence.
Developing a mantra can be helpful here. It might be that you repeat to yourself something like “He is struggling, not giving me struggle” or “It’s not about me” etc… Whatever works to help you maintain your three C’s!
4. Be Authentic!
Wait….wasn’t I just telling you to “Fake it till you make it?” Yep! This one is about authenticity in your responses, so that they don’t become robotic and therefore – ineffective. I hear that a lot… the robotic “I won’t let you…” or “I will move your body outside” etc… I think this causes toddlers (and everyone!) to press the snooze button!
We can talk to our toddlers like people, in fact, thats the best way to do it!!! Use calm, confident words in real contexts eg…
Instead of “We don’t bite our friends” try something that sounds like a person to person communication…. “Woah, looks like you feel like biting! That will hurt Millie. Let me help you”
instead of ”Inside voices” we could try saying something like “Your shouting hurts my ears, if you need to shout you’ll have to go outside”.
Do you have a toddler or work with toddlers? I would love to hear some of your experiences, successes and struggles!