Parenting demands so much of us, and, believe it or not, our kids can sense it. They know when we're stressed from our tone of exhaustion and frustration. We know how to dial it back (at least most of the time); our toddlers don't know how yet when they're under an amount of pressure. They are still learning to navigate emotions and handling stressful situations. They need to acknowledged, understood, and loved -- and that is why how we talk to our kids is crucial.
We cannot teach and expect children to be able to be able to express themselves appropriately and respectfully if they don't see us practice what we preach. Take a pause and note how to talk to your child in times of distress, like say, for example, a tantrum.
1. "Tell me how you're feeling right now." Emotions are powerful, and it can sometimes get in the way of logic. The phrase above is a good way to instruct your child to use words. It will force him to come up with a word or two rather than dwelling with his emotions.
2. "I know you're feeling (insert emotion), and that's okay." Acknowledge your child's feelings, and repeat her words. It helps validates her emotions that her words aren't falling on deaf ears. More importantly, you are telling her there are no right or wrong feelings. 3. "I understand how you feel." Let them know you empathize. Recognizing that your child feels a certain way doesn't mean you'll give in to what she wants. What it does is let your child know that you're part of her team, and you're not the enemy. 4. "I love you even if you're (insert emotion)." Everybody has off days, and you need to tell your child you still love them despite how she feels or how she's acting. Your assurance of love lets them know that the feeling will pass, and your love for them is constant. 5. "Can I give you a hug?" If you get a yes, it's is a sign she's ready to turn things around. If she's still too upset, give her more time to calm down (it's why it's important to ask). Hugs -- make sure it's a heartfelt one! -- are a quick and easy way to make them feel happy and loved.
6. "Can we start over?" Take a deep breath with your child. Think of it as a reset. The wave of emotions have passed, and you and your kid are finally calm and ready to communicate with words, rather than cries, shouts, or hurtful actions. 7. "How can I help?" Now that we've eased the tension, it's time to offers solutions to the problem. Ask, "How about we (insert suggestion)?" You can let your child choose -- between options where you are both comfortable -- so it feels like she decided on it. 8. "I'm sorry for (wrongdoing). Next time, I'll (promise)." Admit wrongdoing and promise to do better. If you yelled or said something inappropriate, don't let it pass without notice. It will encourage your child to reflect on his actions and try to do better, handle it differently next time. Remember to follow through on your words, though.
The conversation template works for toddlers to teenagers. It’s easier said than done, though, especially at times when everything that can go wrong seems to go wrong. It takes a lot of practice and self-checking on your part, especially if you’re dealing with a toddler. Just remember, you’re modeling how it’s done to your kids, and they’re learning from you.