Why do you always have to do this?’
If you have a child who is very inflexible and can’t bear change then you are not alone.
I often work with parents who say their child will have a complete meltdown if something they were expecting to happen does not happen.
Maybe you have said you will take them to the park in the afternoon but then it rains and you can’t go, or a family day out is ruined because your child can’t cope with the fact that the place they wanted to eat at is full, and they have an epic meltdown in public.
You may feel judged by onlookers and wish that your child could just be a bit more reasonable at least some of the time. Don’t despair because there are things you can do to work through this problem although it will take time.
Make time when your child is calm to talk about this and prepare them for the fact that sometimes plans change.
Make sure your child does not feel blamed or criticized as that would be unhelpful.
Acknowledge your child’s feelings and let them know that you understand it is upsetting for them when plans change, maybe talk about your own disappointment when something you were looking forward to didn’t happen and how that made you feel.
Talk through some different scenarios that might happen
Get your child used to the idea that they may have to face this situation from time to time.
It’s all too easy to react in the moment when things are happening, but this sort of planning and preparation is really worth doing.
And lastly but importantly:
Talk things over after the event
If things went well praise your child ‘I know you were disappointed, but you calmed down very quickly.’ If things have gone badly still talk about it but try not to blame or criticize as your child won’t be feeling great anyway and this can make them feel worse.
Instead say something like ‘I could see how upsetting it was for you when we couldn’t…. (whatever it was) what do you think you could do next time something like that happens?’
And next time you think you might encounter a difficult situation prepare your child first and talk it through before you go.
You may think this sound like pandering to your child, but here I’m really talking about children who find it particularly difficult to be flexible and who have really big emotions when this sort of disappointment happens. If you have a child like this you may have tried all the usual reasoning, encouraging, bribing, telling off or using consequences, but to no avail. Now it's time to do something different.
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Why do children always interrupt when you are on the phone?
It must be something to do with them sensing that you have become ‘unavailable’ to them.
I can remember my children doing this when I was trying to sort out moving house, so important calls to solicitors, estate agents etc.
A nightmare at the best of times without having a ‘little’ person appear at your side in desperate need of something within the first few seconds!
Here’s a plan…
Talk to your child at a NEUTRAL time about this rather than reacting when it happens,
‘Why do you always have to interrupt me? You could see I was on the phone!’
You have probably tried this, and it didn’t stop them from interrupting the next time.
Explain the REASONS why you want them to entertain themselves when you are on the phone, keep it simple, keep it friendly.
Get your child to REPEAT BACK to you what you have said using Why, What, When questions:
‘When Mummy is on the phone what do you need to do?’
‘Why do you need to play by yourself?’
‘What could you do?’(suggest some activities)
‘How will you know when it’s ok to talk to?
Have a PRACTICE, especially suitable for younger children, you can make it fun, making a ‘pretend’ phone call. For an older child you could perhaps do a reverse role play where you interrupt their phone call. There’s scope here for having some fun and bringing some humour into it, which is often helpful.
SET UP A SITUATION where you have someone ring you, tell your child that this is going to happen, and have the: What, How, Why conversation again. Keep the phone call short (give your child a chance to succeed)
PRAISE your child for doing it right, even if they did not manage to not interrupt you for the whole call ‘Thank you Archie, you played on your own for five minutes while I was on the phone, let’s see if you can make it six minutes next time!’ Keep things upbeat and positive, children respond so much better to this.
This might seem a lot of hard work, but as with so many aspects of parenting, going that extra mile can make all the difference.
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You can’t be there all the time to help your child make friends, so how can you
support them? Here are a few things to try.
If your child complains that they have been left out, or someone has been horrible to them at school, listen and let them talk.
Then see if they can come up with the answers to the problem themselves rather than you always offering a solution. It can be so tempting to try and ‘fix’ it, no one wants to see their child unhappy, but try and get them to come up with their own ideas for what to do if the difficult situation happens again. Encourage them to try it out, and check in with how they got on. You can’t be there for them when they are at school, but supporting their self- esteem at home and making time for a child who is struggling with friendships can go a long way towards building resilience.
If your child lacks social skills support them with this at home.
For young children. Use role play eg with puppets, teddies, lego figures etc. Get the figures to be gentle, kind, polite, rough, bossy, shy etc. and chat about these qualities with your child eg ‘how do you think Rabbit feels when he is too shy to play, what do you think he should do?’ or ‘If Lego man is too rough what might happen?’
Adapt the same ideas for older children, so instead of playing with toys you might watch TV or a film together, and talk about the way the characters interact with each other, or talk to them about your own experiences, most of us have experienced friendship issues either in childhood or our adult life.
Give children plenty of opportunities to socialise.
Take them to the park, swimming, and other places where there will be lots of children so they have the opportunity to talk to people they don’t know; help them if they hang back, by role modelling good social skills yourself, but don’t pressure. Praise any good social skills you see. Encourage your child to do out of school activities and clubs such as Cubs, Brownies, football etc.
For young children organise play dates, get to know other parents in the area by going to groups or chatting at the school/nursery gate etc
When my son went to a new school at the age of six, he took a while to settle.
I asked him recently what had helped (he is 18 now) and he said that having some sort of connection with other children outside of school eg. playing at the local park, and going to cubs both helped, and it was also helpful when I chatted to the mums of other children in his class as that gave him a connection. He did settle eventually and is now firm friends with many of those children who seemed so unfamiliar to him all those years ago.
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Sometimes when children ‘misbehave’ and become emotional, perhaps shouting and crying, they are not testing the boundaries or doing something deliberately to provoke you, but are just having difficulty controlling their feelings, and expressing their emotions in an appropriate way.
At times like this ‘calm down time’ can be very useful.
Used properly calm down time can be a very helpful technique which can teach your child that removing yourself from a situation, and taking time to calm down is a positive thing to do.
We have all seen what can happen when a child, or adult for that matter, becomes extremely upset and angry or frustrated and out of control. Toddlers lose control when they are having a tantrum. The same thing can happen with older children, although this behaviour is usually referred to as a ‘meltdown.’
Of course, by the time your child has ‘lost it’ it is too late.
The aim of calm down time is to teach your child to recognise when they are in danger of being overwhelmed by their feelings, and to go to calm down time before things get out of control.
Your child won’t be able to do this by themselves straight away without support from you, and you should introduce them to calm down time at a neutral time.
Talk about it with your child, and explain that calm down time is not a punishment.
You are introducing it because you understand what it feels like for them when they are upset and angry, and you want to help them to feel better.
Explain that you will suggest they go to calm down time when you see them becoming upset about something, and talk about some specific situations where this might happen. There will be no specific time limit, they might only be there for five minutes, and it is up to your child to come out when they want to.
Where should calm down time be?
Calm down time should be a quiet area somewhere which ideally you can leave set up.
Give it a name, maybe ‘the calm down corner’ or ‘the chill out den,’ get your child’s input when you are setting it up; it could be in your child’s bedroom, but only if that is the place they choose.
Calm down time is not about being ‘sent to your room,’ or ‘to sit on the step.’ It should not be seen as a consequence for misbehaviour.
Make the calm down space inviting and comfortable for your child, perhaps with a beanbag, some cushions and/or a nice soft blanket or rug. There should be something there for your child to do if they wish, maybe some books, a basket of toys or a CD player so that they can listen to stories or music.
Mind jars (a jar filled with glitter glue and water, that you can shake up and then watch the glitter settle) can be useful for young children and can help to distract, while also having a relaxing effect. There is a lot of information on the internet about how to make them.
If you have a child who gets easily frustrated or angry introduce calm down time and try to use this technique whenever you see emotions beginning to run high.
And don’t forget:
Be a role model.
If you want your child to learn a particular behaviour there is no better way than demonstrating that behaviour yourself.
When your children are driving you nuts, don’t yell at them or lose your temper, take time out to calm down instead.
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Surviving the under five's behaviour.
When my son was three, he was obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. Not far from where we lived was a railway, where real trains had been made up to look like the ones in the story. They were all painted the right colours, blue for Thomas, red for James, Green for Henry, and they had faces too.I can still remember his little face and the delight in his voice:
‘Look Mummy its Thomas!’
We had a lovely afternoon, but then it was time to go.
‘Come on Joe, time to go home now.’
He was having none of it. I tried to bribe him:
‘When we get home you can watch your favourite ‘Thomas’ video.
I tried empathy:
‘I know it’s horrible that we have to go home now, I wish we could stay longer too.’
I tried reason:
‘The station is closing now, we are not allowed to stay any longer.’
It all fell on deaf ears, and at last I had to pick him up and attempt to get him into the car.
Well he had the most stratospheric tantrum. (you may know the sort I mean)
Thank goodness no one batted an eyelid as I tried to peel his hands from the car door and force his little body, which had gone as straight and stiff as a board, down into the car seat, then wrestle to get the buckles done up while all the time trying to duck flailing arms and legs, and keep my cool!
If you are a parent of little ones it’s likely that you may have to deal with the occasional or even daily tantrum, but here is actually quite a lot you can do to prevent / reduce them.
Here are a few tips:
Have predictable routines
Little kids love routine, it makes them feel safe and secure, keep it simple, for example: breakfast, play, time outdoors, more play, story time, lunch, nap, pick up siblings from school, park, home, play, tea, wind down time bath, book, bed.
Of course there will be days that are different, but now you’ve got a tiny human you will most likely totally understand why your friends who were Mums before you, used to be so precious about protecting nap time, ‘Sorry can’t meet you at that time, little Billy / Sophie / Charlie will be asleep.
‘No you can’t have another biscuit, ooh quick look there’s a rabbit in the garden’ (no rabbit? then go outside and look for one!)
This one is really useful when your child is very young, they are usually easily distracted, requires quick thinking though!
Try not to use the word ‘no’ too often.
Being told no all the time is very frustrating, and may lead to more tantrums.
Tune in to your child
Spend as much quality time with your child as you can. Not only will you be meeting a very important need, but it will help you to really tune into your child, and to understand what makes them tick. Children’s more difficult behaviours will often improve when a parent simply spends more time with them.
Look after you.
Children are little sponges, they will soak up the emotions of the adults around them. How you feel can have an effect on how your child feels and therefore on their behaviour. If Mummy or Daddy is stressed, depressed, anxious, or angry it can be impossible for children to understand what is going on, they are only just learning about their own emotions.
Look after yourself is so important, if you are not ok parenting is much harder, so never be afraid to ask for help.
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