My tot only misbehaves with me! Why?

Is your child singling you out for his tantrums? Discover the real reason, plus get ways to deal with him…

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You may not realise this, but your little one is smarter than you think. From young, your tot recognises which of his caregivers is strict and who is more tolerant of bad behaviour. Throwing a hissy fit is your mini-me’s way of deducing whom will do what.

Katherine Seah, mother to Dora, 6, shares, “When she’s with me, she sometimes can be quite troublesome but not with her daddy, who is always ready to give in to her. Sometimes, I feel like a punching bag.”

It’s more likely for the primary caregiver — usually mummy or daddy— to be on the receiving end of your little one’s naughty ways. This is because he feels most at ease and comfortable around you.

Explains Dr Hana Ra Adams, a counsellor with the German European School Singapore, “Children need to [relieve] their feelings at times and it is safer to do so at home, with parents [or caregivers] who are caring, accepting and love them unconditionally.”

So, the next time you have to deal with your child’s howling and sobbing, don’t flare up. The outburst is actually a sign that your sweetie feels safe enough with you to be himself. Dr Adams says that junior knows that home is where the rules can be bent further and that you and hubby are also more likely to tolerate his sulks.

“Children need to [relieve] their feelings at times and it is safer to do so at home, with parents [or caregivers] who are caring and accepting and love them unconditionally.”

That said, always being at the receiving end of your child’s emotional outbursts can be trying — especially after a long day at the office. So, follow these tips to stay calm and steer clear of another ugly meltdown:

1) Teach your child to recognise his emotions More often than not, your child’s outbursts are caused by his lack of “emotional vocabulary”. As they don’t know how to express their feelings, so, as early as possible, teach them basic words to describe how they feel ― start with words like sad, mad, glad or scared. Explains Geraldine Tan, a psychologist at The Therapy Room, “Coach [your child] on ways to tell you what he is feeling. Sometimes, telling you [can also manifest as] drawing a sad face, other kids may like to stay in a quiet corner. [You need to] find out what works for them.”

2) Teach your tyke appropriate ways to relieve his negative emotions After acknowledging your child’s emotions, teach them the right ways to relieve his emotions in another manner — for instance: scribbling in a book or drawing. Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre, notes that modelling coping strategies is a good way to teach junior.

Three more tame-your-tot tips coming right up! Read on…

 

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3) Tell them what to expect and what is expected of them Sometimes, your tot’s tantrum could be caused by resentment at being told to do something without sufficient warning. Giving your child a heads up about a planned activity gives him time to prepare for it. Dr Adams suggests, “Toddlers do well with predictability, so before you head out, tell your child what is coming. Go one step at a time since they won’t be able to remember long stretches of information.” Provide him with as much info as you can about the activity to put him at ease. Tell him about your planned trip to the grocery store, what you are planning to get there and what you’d like him to do.

4) Make sure they are fed and well rested before heading out Without food and sufficient rest, your tyke’s going to get restless pretty easily when you are out. And an agitated tot is more likely to rebel against you! So, pack a snack if you are heading out for an extended period.

“That teaches your child that tantrums don’t work and that loud outbursts won’t faze you and that you are in control.”

5) Stay firm and cool to resolve the tantrum You have to stick to your guns and follow through with the appropriate action consistently. When he’s acting up, Dr Adams shares that you shouldn’t cave and pay more attention to your child. However uncomfortable it may get, remember you’ll ride it out eventually. “That teaches your child that tantrums don’t work and that loud outbursts won’t faze you and that you are in control.” Tan adds that your child will eventually learn that since he’ll probably not get his way, there is no point throwing a fit to express his displeasure.

Dr Adams shares two quick and easy ways for you to stay in control whenever junior kicks up a fuss:

*Give him time and space to calm down on his own When you are out, it will be helpful to take him away from the site of the tantrum. A change in scenery or getting some fresh air may give the both of you enough time to calm down. At home, you may consider setting aside a dedicated space — called a “calming zone”; free from any fragile furniture — for him to scream and shout. Then tell him to come out of that space only when he is calm enough to speak to you.

*Give him a stern warning even before he acts out Sometimes, just the reminder and thought of the consequences is enough to stop your child from throwing a fit. Try saying: “I will not tolerate you kicking and yelling at me. Kicking and yelling means straight to the calming zone/punishment.”

Photos: iStock

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