Say it, Mean it, Do it!
I get a lot of questions from parents about transitions; they usually involve getting into a buggy, car seat or baby’s cot. Usually when leaving the house; the time comes to get in the buggy. Your child starts to resist. Screaming, hitting, or crying until you give in & decide to walk, or lift them kicking & screaming into the buggy; think arching back, thrashing about the place, wailing like nobody’s business. I think we’ve all been there. Is there any way to avoid this? Well, the answer is yes and no.
First off, all toddlers test. They do it for any amount of reasons; it be tiredness, maybe exploring independence & power, perhaps wanting to be certain that you are the confident leader they need at that time? There are many more reasons toddlers have meltdowns but that last one about leadership is what I’m going to talk about today. Toddlers need to know that you are confident, stable, and believe in what you are asking of them.
And that brings me on to my mantra for transitions and other moments of turmoil: “Say it, mean it, do it.” It’s as simple as that.
Or is it? The say it part can be the easiest to conquer. “We’re going in the car now so I’m going to put you in your car seat and strap you in.” Your child kicks up, what do you do next? Empathise: “I hear you, you really don’t want to go in the car seat, but we have to leave.” Give them a choice: “Do you want to walk to the seat and climb in yourself or will I carry you?” And that’s it, you’ve said it. And you’ve given a little of the power back to your child by offering an option.
Next step - I’m going to skip “mean it” and go on to the “do it” part. If your child kicks up again, if they scream, throw themselves on the floor, first tell them you’re picking them up, then pick them up & as best you can carry them out, strap them in. There may be screaming, there may be kicking, there may be tears; but it’s done. Take a deep breath & congratulate yourself.
This is where the “mean it” part comes in, the most important part of the mantra. You have to believe in what you’re doing. You must KNOW that it’s the right choice. If you don’t, then you might falter or hesitate. Children pick up on that; It makes them feel unsafe & if you aren’t sure about what’s happening then how can they be? “Mean it” does not involve using a stern voice or getting “cross” it requires a lot more of you; keeping your cool, acting unruffled – even if you are, in fact, very much ruffled! The more times you model this confidence the safer your child will feel & the less these incidents should happen. It’s not easy, it takes time. But it works, and it is respectful.
So back to you - How do you cope with tantrums? Have you found a respectful way of navigating transitions? Please share them in the comments.