Teach your children with kindness and compassion

Toddlers learn by exploring and experimenting in the world around them. Unfortunately for parents, part of this natural education involves testing boundaries – persistently and aggressively.

Whether it’s a sudden rage over having dinner served on a red plate instead of a blue plate or absolute devastation that their sandwich has been cut diagonally instead of horizontally, emotions and reactions run high at this stage of development.

As a parent, it can be hard to know how to respond to a toddler’s tantrums. Learn more about positive parenting approaches and how you can use those techniques to create a more peaceful home.

Find the positive

Positive parenting is an approach that emphasizes mutual respect and focuses on learning from misbehavior in a way that will help in the future instead of punishing for actions that have already been committed.

Handling challenges with empathy and respect often results in a better outcome in terms of behavior, emotional development, and academic performance. Consider the following suggestions to practice positive development

Focus on the why instead of the what

When children act out, there’s almost always a reason. The reason may be absolutely ridiculous in your eyes, but it’s valid to your child. Finding a way to acknowledge the reason – even if you don’t plan on submitting to their request – can help your child feel heard, which can go a long way toward eliminating frustration. They may still be upset about not getting their way, but they’ll understand that it’s not the result of a miscommunication. Understanding the reason behind the behavior can also help parents avoid the problem in the future.

Also, make sure that your expectations are reasonable. If your child never seems able to comply with a specific request or behave as you expect under certain circumstances, perhaps it’s not developmentally appropriate for their age or ability.

Model good behavior

Showing kindness is the best way to teach it. It can be difficult to demonstrate patience and compassion during the tension of a temper tantrum, which is one of the reasons it’s so important to do so. Young children learn by observing adults; if you yell, act dramatic, shame your child, or call them names, they’ll do the same when they’re upset.

Maintaining your composure allows the child to calm down instead of continuing the fight. The choice to show kindness doesn’t mean giving in, however. You can still tell a child no, and mean it. Just remain calm and firm, instead of being loud or stern. Setting and maintaining limits and consequences helps children learn what to expect and gives them the chance to shape future behavior.

Identify learning opportunities

Life has its own set of natural consequences, which are helpful learning tools. For instance, if you play with toys roughly and they break, that toy can no longer be enjoyed. Instead of rushing to fix problems, point out what caused the problem in the first place and help children make the connection between the problem and the consequence. Ask what they could have done differently, what they will do next time, and what they should do now, and help them identify the emotions that motivated the behavior.

Disciplining young children is frustrating, regardless of your method or level of experience. Chances are, you won’t experience an immediate and lasting behavioral change. However, effective parenting is a marathon, not a sprint to the finish.

Teach your child how to behave in a way that transcends the “terrible twos” and lasts a lifetime to give them the most successful start possible. The Virginia Infant & Toddler Specialist Network helps improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers through extensive resources, services, and education for caregivers. Learn more about how we can help you improve the standard of care.