If I have learned nothing else from being a parent, I can most certainly say that I am at least ten times more patient than I was before I became one! I will always be blessed by the gift of parenthood. I guess it is all a process from trying to deal with all the non-verbal signals a baby exhibits, trying to learn their “language” and just knowing when and how to discourage inappropriate behaviour.
After the first 8 months of a child’s life, children leave their ‘cradle months’ behind and steadily get more mobile and independent. They become more adventurous, more energetic and naturally more expressive. On the other hand the parents of the energetic toddlers seem to tire more easily. As a parent, you find yourself watching, listening, and constantly chasing after this little person - always exploring around your house with boundless stores of energy.
When your child is between one and three years old, they will probably be interested in everything and everyone, especially if it is new or different. They will want to be part of whatever you do. They will try to imitate you. They will also insist on trying to do many things by themselves. But the child is not yet old enough to determine what will be safe or not.
Sometimes they will strongly resist your help and as a parent you will have to battle with the child’s frustrations and appropriately childlike emotions. Between one and three years of age children still have little control over their emotions and their primary form of expression is not tempered by patience or reason. Screaming, crying, kicking, hitting and sometimes even biting are a common way of expressing frustration when a toddler is denied their heart’s desire.
When faced with a toddler tantrum I have found that showing my frustration doesn’t help. What children need is the reassurance that everything is ok even though they cannot always have their way. They have to learn that sometimes they have to be patient and wait for what they want. Alternatively, that they can ask calmly and use non-verbal cues like pointing at what they want.
If children absolutely cannot have what they want, say a knife, I find that holding them still, looking into their eyes and firmly stating that you understand their frustration but that they cannot do that anyway has a calming effect on the building tantrum. Use a crooning voice when you do this. It works.
Children look for empathy just the same as adults. A crooning voice is especially calming. To croon is to speak (or sing) in a soft, gentle soothing manner. When you use this tone of voice you are saying to the child “I am not doing this to frustrate you. I understand you. Everything will be ok.” In effect you are reassuring the frustrated child with positive signals. These are also elementary lessons in patience and self control for you to practice with your child.