It’s always difficult to admit when we’re having trouble with M, which feels like most of the time at the moment. He’s so so emotional, says no and fights us about everything and even when he’s in a good mood it feels like we’re walking on eggshells incase we say something wrong and lose him again. The hardest part is how clingy he is to me and his dad’s efforts only seem to make him worse.
It’s pretty exhausting.
We’ve done endless amounts of reading into how to deal with his behaviour in a gentle way, we’re very much child led in our parenting and I want all of us to come out the other end relatively untraumatised.
So this is how I deal with my two year old’s emotions:
Patience and empathy.
It sounds obvious but when you’re in the full throws of an often public meltdown, it is very difficult to remain calm. From our experience it only makes him worse getting angry and shouting even though that’s exactly what you’re doing inside. In my head I want to throw him out the window for embarrassing me like this. Instead, I pull him to one side and let him be upset. It’s so important children learn that it’s GOOD to express their emotions. I’m right there cuddling him but he needs to let it out, it’s no use telling them to stop crying, what they’re experiencing probably feels like the end of the world to them as ridiculous as it seems to us. I always make sure I tell him I understand he must be feeling cross/frustrated/sad and I’d feel exactly the same if I wanted pudding before my tea but I wasn’t allowed..
We got him a fantastic book for Christmas called In My Heart: A Book Of Feelings and it’s great to explain what all his different emotions are and how they make you feel. He tells me ‘me happy’ all the time which just melts me.
We very, very rarely do time out and when we do it’s usually for our sake rather than M’s. Sometimes I need to get him out of my face for 2 minutes before I lose my cool. We do time in instead. Most of his difficult behaviour is when he’s shattered, so we sit and cuddle, or if he isn’t getting enough of our attention so we put down what we’re doing if we can and give our attention to him even if just for a few minutes.
Proactively dedicating time for fun and play.
Following on from the previous point, rather than reacting to this behaviour it’s obviously better to avoid these situations in the first place. I’m so conscious about being distracted when we’re together, keeping my phone away and really concentrating on him and I can tell he’s so grateful for it.
Firm but fair.
It’s hard to get the balance between firm and fair as I don’t like the idea of adults being the ‘boss’ and children just there to do as we say. However, give M an inch and he takes a mile so we find putting boundaries in place stops him pushing and pushing and prevents tantrums altogether. He obviously doesn’t like being told no but once he gets one thing he can’t understand why he can’t have more and I think why did I bother letting him get his own way in the first place. He needs to hear no sometimes.
I believe ‘me time’ is so important when you’re a parent; it’s so easy to get bogged down with housework, shitty nappies, cooking, nursery run, snotty noses and bed time stories but I feel like a new woman when I’ve had a bit of time to myself. Whether it’s a bath and face mask or a night out, I’m always ready to come back and give M my full attention again.
I’ve found Gentle Parenting Facebook groups worth their weight in gold, they’ve helped me so much to understand what’s going on in M’s head and how to keep my cool in the most stressful situations.
I’m absolutely not trying to be an expert but these are just a few things that work for us so I hope they help someone else!
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