Welcome to Small Biz Mama, Episode 5: The Most Important Thing to Remember When You're Getting Angry With Your Toddler.
In this episode, you’ll learn why your toddler acts the way they do, how to help them navigate their way through the world, and how to show them how to treat other people.
Toddlers aren’t trying to be bad kids
Most people have a really bad opinion on toddlers. You hear things about terrible twos and how they're awful and terrible and kids are going to be crazy and there's tantrums… And okay, there are tantrums. But I think I want to reframe toddlerhood a little bit. Being a toddler is really all about exploration and learning boundaries. Being a toddler is about learning what it's like to be a human.
Think about that for a second. Imagine that you are walking into a new situation. A new group of people. Maybe it's a new workplace, a new community group, a new church, whatever it is. And you need to figure out what the norms are for that group. That is essentially what your toddler's doing every single day of their life. They're trying to figure out what's okay, what's not okay, what's normal, what's not normal, and how they should behave.
If you think about it from that perspective, then it's much easier to stay grounded. It's much easier to stop yourself before you get angry because, while, yes, what your child is doing may be annoying. They're not trying to be bad. They're trying to figure out what's okay and what's not okay.
I'll put a link to this book in the show notes, but there's a book by Janet Lansbury, and it's called No Bad Kids. You’ll find the show notes at SmallBizMamma.com.
I really enjoyed this book. I actually got the audio and Janet reads the audio, and first of all, she's very calming to listen to. So that's another reason I like the audio. She has a podcast, which we'll also link to in the show notes. But I think that just coming to the realization that my tiny human is trying to learn everything about how to react, interact, and just about the world around them.
I don't know about you, but when I go to a new place, I’m like…OMG… that's so cool, and I want that, and I want to touch it, and I'm 40! Imagine what that's like for a toddler where everything is new and different. Hey, wait. This is in a different place. And, wait, that looks different. And there's different stuff in the fridge. Imagine that every day of your life is new and fresh and different and you're trying to figure out how things taste and how things look and what things are.
That's your toddler, right? They're not trying to be bad. They're not trying to intentionally piss you off. They're just trying to learn to be. And they're also trying to make sure that where they are and who they're with is safe. Your toddler is going to push your boundaries a lot. Because they're trying to figure out where the limits are. And if there are any, because most kids, in order for them to feel safe, there's got to be boundaries in place. The mama and dada are going to stop me before I do something wrong. Before I do something I shouldn't do. Before I hurt myself. My parents are going to be there to enforce the rules.
When we don't do that or when we're inconsistent about that, that's when kids get confused. They're not sure, they feel insecure. So they're going to keep pushing, to say, Mom, stop me. Dad, stop me. Somebody tell me where the limits are.
They are learning how to be humans, including learning limits
Toddlers really need that. Toddlers need order in their lives. And if we don't provide that on a consistent basis, that's where you can see really big swings in behavior. When you start to get angry, just think to yourself, “Where are we right now? Where's my child right now?”
Typically, I find with Erik, when he starts to act out, there are a couple of different things going on.
When I can identify what that is, then we can de-escalate the issue. Typically, when Erik gets upset or he starts, acting out a little bit, it's because there's something wrong. It's like, when you think about it, when most babies cry, it's because there's a need. They don't feel good. They're hungry. Their diaper is wet, their diaper is dirty. They're cold. There's some need that they have fulfilled.
Toddlers are pretty much the same way. If they start to act out, or get rambunctious or have a tantrum, there's typically something that does not feel right for them. Whether that's a limit that they need put in place, they don't feel secure, they don't feel safe. It could be that they're hungry or they're thirsty. They're learning to communicate, and they don't yet have the ability to do that.
I notice that sometimes with Erik, and he has a really high tolerance for this, but if we're out and the restaurant gets loud, or the store we're in gets loud, or there's too much going on, he'll look at me and he's like, Okay. I'm done. If we continue to stay in that environment, he'll start to get cranky because he's overloaded.
We've had that happen. We were in a museum, around his birthday, and he just got to the point that he's like, “Okay, I'm done. I've seen too much. There's too many people. There's too much stuff. I'm done.” And one thing that we did that was really helpful, as we were waiting to leave, we found that they had, I don't even know what they're called, but it's this coin thing… we put the coin in, and it goes around really, really slowly, and then eventually goes down into the center, it drops in. I don't know what it's called, but they had one of those. I gave him some coins and that simple act, he’d watch the coins go all the way down into the center, and then he'd say “again.” That was enough to get him re-centered – for him to stop focusing on everything that was around him and just focus on that. Even though there were still a ton of people around him and there was still all the stuff going on, he focused on that, and it was all good. Once we figured out that this is the thing we need to fix, then it got better.
When Erik is super tired, those of you that have toddlers, you know, this… one thing that I wish people would have told me, before he was a toddler, is that there's going to be a moment where the triggers that tell you your child is tired completely change. It was like overnight it was – poof – completely different.
Erik doesn't do the rubbing the eyes thing anymore. When he's tired, he starts running around like crazy because he wants to show you he's not tired. That's what he does. So when he starts getting really active at night, we're like, okay, it's bedtime. Time to go to bed, because you've had too much.
But it's learning what are the cues? How do I figure out what my child needs until my child is verbal enough to be able to express what they need?
At this point, and this is so cool because he's only 25 months but, he'll tell us now when he's tired. He'll let us know. And that's really cool, because we don't have to wait until he starts going kind of crazy in order to know that he's tired.
So, if you start to think that, okay, my child's just learning how to be a human, how to interact with me, how to tell me what their needs are, and then when you respond, and I think this is critically important – if your child is trying to figure out how to be a good human, how to interact with other people, they're looking to us for the way to react.
It is really important for us as the parent, as the leader in the household, as the figure that is going to teach our child or our children how to be a good human, that we respond in a good way.
For me, this was so enlightening. It is my job to teach Erik how to respond in this situation. If I start to scream or yell, what does that show him about how to treat people? Especially when he's coming at us like, I don't feel good, or I'm tired or, I just don't know what to do here, and as a parent, we yell, or we tell them that they're bad, what does that do to his ability to be a good human and to learn how to respond to other people?
We must show them how to react to other people
When I'm in the store and I hear a kid yell, and the parent yells at the kid, “STOP YELLING!” Okay, you're teaching your child to yell and that you get what you want or you impose your will by yelling. When your kid wants to impose their will, what are they going to do? They're going to yell. I always think It's like it's so ironic when I see that.
I understand that it's really hard, you have days where nothing seems to be going right, you’re trying to get things done, and your toddler seems to need you all day long. Or, they're really pushing you that day to try to figure out where your limits are that day, and again, they're not trying to be bad. If anything, they're trying to figure out – Mom, are you there for me, Dad, are you there for me? Are you going to keep me in check? Are you going to make sure I'm safe? Make sure I'm okay?
It is so important for us to respond with love and kindness and understanding. I know for some of you that's going to be so hard because, “No, I'm the authority here”, and yes, you can be the authority, and you put in the limits. Your kids need you to do that. But the way in which you do it, you can get down on their level and you say No, I'm not going to let you do this, or you can yell and scream, and show them that that's how you get your way.
I prefer the former. I prefer getting down that level and say, No, I'm not going to let you do this. In our house, what we personally do is, we reserve “NO” and raising our voices for things that are important for when Erik is either going to hurt himself or hurt another living being.
If he's being rough with one of the cats, we will usually physically pick him up and move him. But if we're across the room and it looks like he's going to hurt one of the cats, that is an opportunity where I raised my voice and tell him “No.” If he's running to the end of the driveway, that is when I will raise my voice and say “No.”.
But we try to reserve that because the problem is if everything coming out of your mouth is raised voice and “No,” then eventually, your kids just tune that out because it doesn't have any importance. But with Erik, when when we raise our voice and we say no, he stops because it means uh oh, that's got to be something. Mama and Dada don't usually do that. And so that has worked really really well for us, it just has.
I would love for you to check out Janet's podcasts and check out Janet's books. I don't know Janet other than listening to her podcast and reading her book. Her name is Janet Lansbury. The book is called “No Bad Kids.” We'll put the links in the show notes.
I really hope that this episode will help you think a little bit differently the next time you react when you feel like your kids are pushing your buttons.
Thank you so much and Mama's, you have a great week. I'll see you soon.
Thank you for listening to Small Biz Mama with Kristin Ingram.
If you’d like to learn how to create more margin in your life, please visit us at SmallBizMama.com