There are many times as a parent that we see our children falling apart. Tantrums are occurring left, right and center; tears for unknown reasons, and non-compliance for no known reason. Your typically calm and quite child is losing it, your usually strongly independent child is clingy onto you, or your child that is full of energy is a mess on the floor. This is when you Stop, Drop and Connect.
This is when you stop what you are doing for a couple of minutes and pay attention to your child. Put the phone or other electrical devices away and spend a few minutes at your child’s level. Either get down to his level or bring him to your level. Try to include him in your activity or spend time doing another activity together.
Often times tantrums or major upsets can occur in a more intense manner when a child is not feeling connected to his parent. Now one of the biggest concerns I hear when I suggest that people try to pay attention in this manner is “am I not spoiling my child by doing this”. The answer is no. The key is learning the signs that your child needs a bit of attention before the poop hits the fan. These few short minutes can derail a tantrum before it begins.
Now if your child is in a full blown tantrum I would remain calm and remind him you are here for him but give him the space to release the emotion all while holding firm to your expectations. If your child is feeling connected the tantrum will be short lived. If your child is not feeling connected it can take a little longer but be patient and when the tantrum is done you can reconnect. When this happens here with our 5.5-year-old, I offer a hug or he asks for one and then we move on with our day. I then invite him into my activity. For us, the tantrums occur after school while I am trying to get supper. When I can tell he is drained I invite him to help me in the kitchen. Some days he does and other days he will play alongside me.
I understand that this sounds so simple that it can’t be true. I challenge you to try connecting with your child when you can see that he is about to explode.
Another way to connect with your child is to engage in 10 to 15 minutes of child-directed play every day.
What is this? This is when you spend 10 to 15 minutes playing with your child. This is when I hear, “I do that every day”. Here is where it gets a bit different. This 10 to 15 minutes is when you let your child take the lead. Your phone is off and you are focused on the play. The only time you intervene is if there is a safety issue. I have had to run around the house like I was on a spaceship, pretend I am a variety of different Pokemon characters and the list goes on. I can honestly say on the days I have not done this my child is a bit more clingy and not the most compliant.
This can be a great add-on to a bedtime routine. I usually recommend that the routine starts with the child-directed play. Then after the play is complete you will have more fun with the bedtime routine as your child will be more willing to follow the routine as he is feeling connected.
I look forward to chatting with you further about this in the Parenting Foundations Membership forums or by commenting below.