Yesterday I was sent a link to a site that had an article about “26 effective phrases to calm an angry child.” The person who sent it to me is a newer parent and was curious about my thoughts on it because I am dealing with a toddler now and she thought some of the stuff in the article seemed a bit off. Upon opening the link, I immediately had a sour taste in my mouth, but I couldn’t put my finger exactly on why.
Last night at 2:00 in the morning when I could not sleep because the little guy was having a rough night, my problem with the article hit me: There was no love for the toddler in the article. No understanding of what they are going through, no compassion that this toddler thing is not easy for them either. No realization that when a toddler is having a meltdown or being difficult it is because they had some other (probably previous in the day) circumstances acting on them rather than the immediate moment. In fact, the article was more like “things to say when you are exploding at your child but do not want to sound like a total jerk in case other people hear you.”
The other issue I have (besides no love for your child, which is pretty huge already), is that the article flips the situation from you (parent) exploding at the child to you being so condescending to the child that they would probably be disgusted by you, and so will any other parents who hear you.
I’ll give you two examples, can you see why I have a sour taste in my mouth?
#12. Instead of: How many times do I have to say the same thing???
Try this: I can see you didn’t hear me the first time. How about when I say it to you, you whisper it back to me?
#19. Instead of: I can’t deal with you right now!
Try this: I’m starting to get frustrated, and I’m going to be right here calming down.
My issue with these two examples above goes like this. With the first one, maybe you are not saying it in a way they can understand or remember. It’s an “encoder / decoder” situation, and you the encoder are maybe not presenting the information in a way that the toddler can process. You as the parent are responsible for communicating effectively, so saying the same thing and it not getting thru to them is not their problem, it is yours.
The second one is annoying to me. You should not ever tell your child that they are frustrating you, in my opinion. First, that can’t be good for their self-esteem. Second, they will likely learn the ways to push your buttons, and you will probably have a really weird rollercoaster ride of frustration following you thru your parenting years. Why do you have to tell the child any of the examples in #19?
Admittedly there are more than a few on the site that I like and will probably use . I like these select few because they foster a teamwork attitude with your child, teach problem-solving, and so on. For example, I like:
#9. Instead of: We. Are. LEAVING!
Try this: What do you need to do to be ready to leave?
- I would change this so it was “what do we need to do to be ready to leave” – we are a team, right? then why is it “what do you need to do”?
All-in-all, I think it’s just so important that you as the adult act like an adult. Any time you spout off like a child and say things like “I can’t deal with you right now,” you are not being a mature, loving role model for them. Maybe you can’t deal with them right now, but maybe if you have an attitude where they are on your team, and it is a “we” situation instead of a “you vs them” situation, you will have those “can’t deal” feelings less often.
So at the end of the day if your base parenting style is “we” (a family team) and “love,” then I think you can usually skip these kind of “XX # of ways to stop your toddler from YY” type of articles and focus more on making sure your overall actions and communication with your child show them that base level of support and nurturing that they need. Focus on how to deliver that love and how to set up an environment where weird toddler behaviors are not given any power, and I think you have a winning formula. But what do I know? 😉