Some days are just hard, and no matter what you do or say, your toddler may not be able to co-operate. Try to remember on those days that your toddler is ‘having a hard time’ not ‘giving you a hard time’, and he needs you in his corner more than ever.
It is never wrong to comfort your child or acknowledge her feelings. This does not mean you have to give in, change your mind, or feel like a bad parent for setting limits and following through. But come on, life is hard sometimes, and your child has the right to be angry, sad, or upset at the limits or conditions imposed upon him, even if they are in his best interests.
Just be honest, and use honest language: “This is hard for you.” “I see/hear that you are upset.” “I’m sorry you are upset, you weren’t ready to leave the park.”
You don’t have to try to make it better by giving in. Just try to be with your child and the emotion in the moment. She might ask for cuddling, a hug, or a kiss, and there’s nothing wrong with providing this comfort- your child is not trying to manipulate you- as the teacher implied at one play class I attended.
Let me give you an example of one child who was having a very hard time co-operating at a class recently. He was hitting other children, breaking into tears every few minutes, and running out the door, despite the fact that his Mom had tried to engage him in the activities, and the teacher had intervened multiple times.
Mom said, “If you run out the door again, we will leave and try again next week.”So when her son ran out the door a few minutes later, she went to him with shoes, coat and hat in hand, and quietly said, “It’s time to go. You don’t seem to want to be at play class today.”
At this point, the little guy started to cry, and was begging to stay. Mom calmly proceeded to dress him, and headed for the car. She said, “I hear you saying you want to stay, but today was a hard day for you at play class. We are going to go home and have a rest. We will come back to play class next week, and try again. ”
This Mom did so much right in this instance- she set a clear limit, gave a choice, followed through with what she said she was going to do, remained calm, and listened to her child.
She later shared that on the way to the car, her child was whimpering and asked to be held. Her question was, “Do you think my child was trying to manipulate me somehow?”
My answer was, “No, this was hard on both of you, and there’s nothing wrong with providing physical comfort and affection if your child requests it. After all, you still love your toddler even if you are less than happy with his behavior on a particular day.”
Toddlers can have bad days, just like we do, and the message you want to convey to your child is that you will step in to help her if her behavior is out of control, you love her no matter what, you have faith in her ability to learn, grow, and move on, and you are always on her side, even when her behavior may be difficult. Always try to acknowledge and allow your child’s feelings, even when you must take action or intervene in a way that she may not like or agree with!
Tomorrow, taking care of yourself so you can take care of your toddler.