Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Helping My Toddler Manage His Emotions

Last week, Jerome seemed to be lashing out at Benedict more than usual.

If something I did would make him upset, he would turn and push the baby over. Or his aggression toward Benedict would seem to come out of nowhere.

Along with this heightened aggression, he was also much more clingy, especially when I was trying to nurse or care for his baby brother.

I was feeling frustrated and unsure of how to handle this aggression to his new sibling, and I know I reacted in a way that was less gentle, and helpful, than it should have been.

Taking a Step Back from the Behaviour

Thinking about the huge change of a new member in the family, it's not surprising for Jerome to feel out of sorts.

He likely feels:

  • insecure
  • like he needs to test the boundaries and see where his relationship with me lies
  • frustrated with needing to be more patient and having less attention
  • among so many other legitimate reasons for him to express big emotions to me. 

The rude awakening, when I reflected on this, was in realizing the problem lay not in his emotions, but actually in mine.

My toddler learns innately by my example, so in order to help him towards more constructive behaviour, I realized I needed to start with myself.

So I asked myself some hard questions:
How can my toddler be expected to manage his emotions if I do not maturely and confidently manage my own, first? 
Why is it is difficult for me to deal gracefully with Jerome in those moments? 
Why does it make me feel so emotionally charged?

And I realized that there is a lot of fear behind my reactions. Fear that we may be failing to parent in a way that reflects positively on us, and on Montessori. Fear that we are failing to provide appropriate boundaries. Fear he is not well disciplined. Fear of judgement. Fear of an unhealthy relationship developing between my children.

Armed with this knowledge of why I get so emotionally charged in these situations, it has been so much easier for me to give myself time before responding, making it so much more natural for me to react with patience and understanding towards my son's big emotions.

Developing a Strategy that Works for Us

As for dealing with the instances of Jerome lashing out at his younger brother, I was able to settle on a strategy which provided positive results pretty quickly.

Instead of becoming angry with Jerome, putting him on a timeout or otherwise punishing him, we start by physically stopping him, holding his hands, picking up the baby, or blocking him. All the while we try to understand him and the underlying reasons he may be acting out. We let him know this by saying things like:

I will not let you hurt your brother. I see that you are upset with me for telling you that you have to wait until I have changed his diaper before I can read you a book. 

I see that it upsets you when Benedict tries to take your toys. I will not let you grab things away from him. Why don't you get him something of his own to play with?

As well, I have been trying to make sure I include Jerome in the special times I have with Benedict, allowing him to sit with us in the rocking chair, having him help with diaper changes, playing with them together on the rug.

I feel, in time, this will help to assure Jerome that I have time, and love, to spare for both of them.

It is also important for me to spend time alone with Jerome as much as possible when Benedict is asleep, reading, doing work, holding him on my lap for as long as he needs. Reassuring him that our relationship is important and separate from his brother.

Read more about respectful parenting and Montessori with this post on not leaving our toddlers hanging with no | what Montessori says about why toddlers tantrum | and why I don't believe in the terrible twos

Thank you for reading! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. I would also love to hear any suggestions for posts you would like me to write about. And if you are interested in following along in our daily adventures, follow us on Instagram where I post daily.

God bless,
Olivia Fischer

1 comment:

  1. Ah I was just thinking about how I'm probably gonna feel so lost "disciplining" (or I guess teaching? You know what I mean) a toddler. I am going to have so much to learn from you cause you'll be a pro by then! ;) For blog posts I'd be interested in: a post about getting married young, how being Catholic has affected your role as a mom and/or a wife, more stuff on Jerome and Benedict, things that are going on for you in your day to day life (I mean like the most recent post, I loved that one!)