“When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” – John Lennon
Pre-schoolers are an unpredictable lot. You don’t know what is going in their minds from the start as they struggle to mix with an overwhelming environment especially when they start school or childcare. Their frantic bouts of laughter and wailing may seem too much for you to take. Was your child fine and then suddenly moody and refusing to cooperate? What was the incident that made them that way?
Some common triggers are:
- a sibling getting attention
- told to do an undesired activity (i.e. homework or chores)
- being reprimanded
- told to stop doing something fun, like come inside to eat and say goodbye to friends
Once you identify the trigger, do not feel like you have to solve it!
In fact, unless its hunger (where it’s probably in your best interest for the long haul to give him or her a snack), let it be. Knowing the trigger is for your benefit at this point. You can address the cause after your child has calmed down. But be patient and breeze through the following tips to understand them better.
If your child’s moods and aggression sometimes makes you despair, just remember that you are not alone. Talk to other parents and share your experiences. You will feel much better when you see that there are other parents going through the same thing.
Help them communicate better:
2-year-olds know few words and often get confused when we expect them to answer our playful queries. Similarly, they can’t express their needs all the time and become anxious. As a parent, you should give them options by asking them to look at particular items around such as toys, by making eating gestures or pointing towards the toilet and let them respond. Your animated interaction with children will also improve their communication skills as children imitate elders.
Arrange their tasks in sequence:
Pre-schoolers love routines and can’t shift their attention easily, to two completely different activities done one after another. Thus, you should arrange the daily activities for your toddler in a seamless way to help retain interest in tasks. For example, don’t interrupt a routine of learning letter sounds and storytelling with playtime as that confuses the children and they end up under-performing.
Hungry or sleepy, attend them without fail:
Pre-schoolers spend a lot of energy while interacting with the family. When awake, don’t urge them to do so many tasks that even playtime tires them and makes them hungry every few hours. Make a balanced diet of tasty and healthy food items for them. Let them decide how much or how little do they want to eat. Also, create a sleep routine for morning, afternoon and night to sort eating habits and time properly.
Tantrums don’t work always, let Pre-schoolers know that:
Truth be told, Pre-schoolers find more ways to get what they want from you if you yield to all of their requests. They will throw tantrums or behave oddly if you suddenly refuse them. So, observe them first. If they react by throwing away articles, temporarily keeping away their favourite toys may serve as an effective warning. You may also remain silent and pretend to be hurt so that Pre-schoolers realize that they can’t always get what they want. Stick to your boundaries.
Even though you need to be understanding, you also need to stick to your boundaries. Our children will often try to test us to see how far they can go. Our response will show them how far we will allow them to go. You need to make clear what kind of behaviours you going to tolerate and stick to your decisions.
Encourage empathy early:
As cognitive and social skills of Pre-schoolers improve, they will be drawn to emotions. If they see someone cry, they may either start crying or try to comfort the sad person. Guide them to develop emotional intelligence by narrating stories of forgiveness, goodness, benevolence and other noble attributes. You can also watch with them some children’s films or TV or web series that convey such messages.
Hearing them out:
From 5 years of age, children show signs of confidence in communication and thus, want to be heard out by their parents, peers and teachers. As time passes, parenting or treating children should also mature. Be it a toy, food or a friend, listen to what they have to say instead of ordering them like they are still a 3-year-old.
Create a happy place.
Create a happy place for your children. A place where they can go when they are feeling upset. It can be a simple chair in their room where they can read their favourite books, or maybe listen to some music. Their happy place will easily make them calm when they are feeling moody.
Remember these simple steps and you will have a good time with your child despite the mood swings. Also, always have one thing in your mind: you are the person your children need the most, even if they are not showing that!
If you teach your children how to cope with their emotions now, that will help them for the rest of their life.