My youngest daughter has recently acquired a little blue teddy. Blue teddy has become a comfort item to her, one to be prized above all else. He gets his own cot, blanket and even his own meals lovingly prepared in our playroom kitchen. The other day blue teddy was in desperate need of a bath and my elder daughter, with no understanding of just how dear this teddy was threw him down our laundry chute. This provoked a reaction unseen before. My poor younger daughter thought he was lost forever, although due to her age and comprehension could not communicate that to me at first. First we just had a lot of screaming, crying and unfortunately a couple of hits towards my elder daughter. Fortunately I was able calm her down, get to the root of her distress and go for a walk to the laundry and show her that he was ok. She helped me put him in the washing machine and sat patiently watching the teddy go round and round his bath. A lot of early childhood distress and challenging behaviour can be put down to developmental changes, whether it is the fact children can often comprehend more than they can articulate, how they deal with conflict or just how even simple things become just that bit more difficult when we are tired or have a lot going on in our minds. Megan, our radiant Rainbow Room Leader from Blaxland has brought together some useful strategies after several parents came seeking help and advice.
Our 1-2 year olds are becoming independent and confident learners however the thoughts and needs they have are not always easy for them to express as their language skills try to catch up with their thought processes. Therefore this can be quite a trying time (it is a long tunnel but there is light at the end!) It is important to remember that it is good to express our feelings, we are allowed to feel anger, jealousy and sadness but it is how we express ourselves that matters. Here are a few strategies we use in the Rainbow Room to deal with negative emotion and conflict.
- Help express their feelings by giving them the words i.e. “I can see that when John took your truck it made you feel angry.” Your child may not be able to express this themselves verbally but having you say it for them shows their feelings are being validated.
- Give them a positive way of expressing emotion – kicking a ball, play dough, running and jumping are all great ways to let off steam. We also encourage our children to use hand gestures such as palm out (stop) or hands on hips that way the inclination to lash out and hit is redirected.
- Be realistic in your expectations- We need to remember that our little ones are still learning about themselves and the world around them. Through all types of social situations (the good and the bad) we learn how to deal with conflict and what is appropriate behaviour. If your child never becomes involved in difficult situations then how do they learn?
- Redirection – should we expect our 1-2 year olds to share toys, turn –take, follow complex verbal directions and respect the values and needs of others. Redirection is a valuable tool in the Rainbow Room and we use it to diffuse most situations before they occur.
I know all of this sounds great on paper and at Little Miracles we always have multiple staff members around and are able to support each other should a child be struggling with this, however as a parent it is not always so easy especially after a long day. You might be trying to get dinner ready and your 2 year old is lying in the middle of the kitchen floor kicking and screaming (and yes I am having a flashback to my daughter as a 2 year old!) Sometimes it is better to move away from your child for a few minutes (providing they are in a safe environment) and have some space. Your child no longer has you as an audience for their behaviour and you get a few minutes to breathe so you can deal with their needs in a calm and controlled manner. I know these tools may not always work but be reassured that your child is one of millions of toddlers around the world who are all going through this challenging stage!
We would love to hear about what strategies you have successfully used to manage this phase.