Ask parents what their biggest challenge during toddlerhood is and chances are pretty good that most will tell about a whopper of a tantrum.
Young children's brains are developing at such a rapid pace that sometimes there has to be a meltdown — the infamous tantrum. And they can be doozies, with screaming and throwing little bodies about during the most inconvenient time or place.
The can turn our sweetest, most compliant child into a writhing pile of demonism.
As parents, we hope our child will never display this behavior, but in reality, a tantrum is a normal part of development and a great learning opportunity to emotional awareness.
Early childhood is a prime time to understand a critical part of maturity. This is a time to understand the wide range of emotions, how they feel and what we do about them.
Toddler and preschool emotions are huge, so they react in huge ways. They are reacting to things they can't control. While these are normal young child reactions, it's also a great time to learn different and appropriate ways to handle these.
Three simple strategies can go a long way to preparing your child with these skills.
1. Acknowledge emotions and name them. The easy ones are happy, sad and mad, but there are so many more. Brush up on your own emotional vocabulary and expand on those three common ones.
2. Share your own emotions.Verbally label the emotions you have out loud. We know kids learn best by watching us.
For example: "I'm so frustrated that I can't get this computer to work! I think I'm going to walk away for a few minutes and come back to it."
Your child will hear this and internalize it. Instead of yelling, slamming the computer and stomping a way, show them how you'd want them to react.
3. Talk about emotions after an incident.For example, after a tantrum has quieted down, talk about how your child felt. What made him feel that way? What could he have done differently to either get what he needed or accept that he wasn't going to? These are big growing up skills for big emotions.■
Jeanne Labana of Milwaukee has been an educator for more than 25 years.