By Bailey Kent, Director of The Children's Workshop in Bourne, MA and mother to Louis
Let’s talk about the time Louis slapped me across the face.
Here’s the scene: Louis wants to have a sip of soda from my cup…. I’m holding him, I said “oh no that’s mommy’s soda, your cup is right here” in the nicest possible voice… he reaches out to grab for his cup (or so I think)… but then WHAM! Right in the face, open palm and all. And it hurt – there’s a lot of force in those chubby little hands. I thought terrible started at two, not at one and a half.
Let’s rewind to the week before this incident when I was at the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s conference on Curriculum Development and Guiding Children’s Behavior, where I was soaking up knowledge from very educated people on how to handle challenging behaviors. I learned that when children exhibit challenging behaviors it is our job as parents and educators to guide them in the right path, that children are not aggressive on purpose, but rather because they haven’t learned impulse control and they don’t know any better. I nodded my head along with the speaker thinking “that’s right, if children don’t know their letters, we teach them. If children don’t know how to tie their shoes, we teach them. If children don’t know how to behave, we teach them.”
These are not the thoughts that ran from my stinging cheek to my head that day. It hurt and I almost dropped him on his little cushiony bum. Instead, I took a deep breath, looked at his angry little face, held it together and said “Louis you look very angry. You need to keep your hands on your own body, you hurt mommy.” Then he hit me in the face again. Did I mention we were at grandma’s house and my mom was watching? So I knew I had to get it right. I put him down and said “No thank you Louis. That hurts me.”
We all know what followed – the kicking, the screaming, the hitting the floor. During his tantrum, I said “You are angry now, but you will feel better soon.” After his tantrum, I handed him his cup again and gave him a snuggle.
Toddlers get angry, really, really, angry – that's no secret. Getting angry and expressing their emotions is a developmental milestone for toddlers. Identifying emotions is the first step in managing emotions. When your toddler is angry, or happy, or sad – help them by labeling the emotion. If they are sad or angry, tell them it will get better. When it does get better, they will start to regard you as an emotional expert (even if you aren’t one!).
As usual, this ended up being more of a learning experience for me than it was for him. I have almost three decades of life learning on how to control my anger and I almost lost my temper, no wonder he got so angry and didn’t know what to do. Poor little guy, he’s got so much to learn – but luckily he’s got calm and loving adults to guide him and help him through. Plus, there’s always good hugs at the end – and who doesn’t love hugs? Thinking about it that way even takes the terrible out of the twos for me…. well mostly.
Great Resource: http://www.zerotothree.org/