Nerida asked via our Facebook page:
What do I do with my whinge-y 2 year old son?
We’ve all had those days as parents where it’s seemed like a battle field at home, with tears and tantrums all around and that can be from the parents as well as the child – when it all gets too much and you want to run away!
The first thing – and this may seem blunt – is to remember that you are the adult here! If you are struggling to deal with this physically and emotionally, and you’re an adult – then imagine how hard it is to feel so overwrought and at 2 you don’t have the capacity to self regulate.
Self regulation is the ability to feel stressed emotionally, and yet be able to manage it rather than lash out, eg when a driver in front of you keeps cutting in, changing lanes without indicating, and is gesturing at you and other drivers. We may feel enraged by this, but generally we’ve learnt that the best thing is to give them space and let them get away. If we react, it may be detrimental! This is self-regulation.
Self regulation a skill which need to be modelled, and taught to children.
At 2 you don’t have the capacity (from where they are at developmentally) to do this. They can’t rein in their emotions – if they are sad, they cry; if they are cranky, they show it etc). At this time, we are the ones who need to help them rein in the emotions. We do this by:
Speaking softly. Think about it – if you are really sad, do you want someone telling you to stop. If you are really mad do you want someone yelling at you?
Speaking softly lowers the emotions, and provides a calm atmosphere for a child who is in turmoil.
Model ‘calm-ness’ – and we all know how much our children learn to mimic our behaviours – both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ones. One way to be able to do this (when you are so frazzled by their ‘constant’ whinging) is to take several s-l-o-w breaths in and out, which calms us down. At another time, when the child is happy, teach them how to breath slowly, and practise it. You may be then be able to utilise it, when they need it.
Be clear – Say to the child (in a calm voice): ‘When you speak nicely, Mummy will listen’. Or: ‘When you speak nicely, Daddy will get you the drink.’
Stay strong – if they were whinging because they wanted something and you said no (for valid reasons) then stay consistent – don’t cave in to their demands. If you do, you’ve just encouraged them to try it again next time!
Console them – when children have ‘lost it’, had their whinge, and then maybe a tantrum when you still said no (to whatever they were whinging about), they may later need a cuddle to get back to calmness and ready to move on with the day.
Role play – this is not done at the whinge-y time but at a happy time. Use teddy to act out teddy whinging a lot , and ask the child: ‘What can we do when teddy is whinging?’ This can be a really useful exercise to help them think through soultions.
Stay calm, and remember the sun shines again tomorrow!
Image by Runar Pedersen Holkestad via Flickr