Some crazy shit has been happening in our house. Our sweet angelic 3 year old has demonstrated her ability to go from calm to wildchild unleased in 5 seconds and at the most inconvienient times . As I was reaching for the wine glass the other night I remembered that I am armed with the knowledge on how to help out 3 year old to begin her journey towards understanding her emotions and how to self regulate and i’m here to share what I know works.
Looking for signs
When the days are busy and everything seems to be going well you can be taken by suprise when your child begins to cry , shouting loudly and flailing their body around. You do everything in your power to console your child or you may even scold them. No judgement here , it really can be trialling and seem like it came out of nowhere. In order to make a change its time to take out you pen and paper or ipad and make a list of all the begining signs. Thinking about any small noises they may make , fast breathing , expressions or movements and make a list of them. It can take a few observations and the input of another observer to help make a list.
For our three year old the begining signs are – a low groan , increased breathing speed , clenching of hands and rolling of eyes.
Watching the signs to intervene earlier
Use your knowledge of signs to help your child develop self regulation strategies. Frustration , confusion , fear of unknown or failure can all be sources of behaviour outputs that lead to acting out and emotional outbursts . When those first signs are there it is time to model self calming strategies :
- Use a low / soft voice and ask – How can I help you ?
- Say to your child : Lets breathe together. Count down from 10 taking a deep breathe in and out between each number until you get to one then ask your child ” How do you feel ?” If they are still looking unsettled than repeat .
- Offer your child a drink of water ( this can often help them to regain composure )
- Let them know that you are here to help if need
- Let them approach you but stay close by to be available for a hug if they need one or to listen
- When are calm ask them how they are feeling and give them an opportunity to talk about what happened.
Teach your child emotions and use language to describe emotions
Introducing emotions and using words to describe how you are feeling plus using a range of material resources can help children to identify their own emotions.
- Its okay to say ” I am feeling angry because I have hurt my toe right now ” or ” That makes me really happy that you packed away all your toys “.
- Having a visible emotions chart that your child can refer to often and you can also regularly use to ask them to show you how they are feeling. You can download and print this one for free here
- Read books to your child that introduce emotions and examples of how others deal with their emotions. You can find some great books here.
The big question you may be asking is Why is my child doing this? and also, What am I doing wrong ? Time to stop the blame game . Take a look at this clip which explains how the brains structures and the Amygdala (emotional filter) work.
Remember that parenting is a journey and somedays may still end with you reaching for that wine glass.