Friday, November 2, 2012

2 year old stages of "I want" and tantrums

My son just turned 2 and in the last week he's changed so much! He's learned the concepts of "mine" and "I want it" and has strong reactions when he can't have certain things. He has also learned to hit a bit in anger. Any tools you can offer? Any inspiring thoughts for my moments of despair?

The age two has such a bad reputation. With two years of experience behind observing and creating opinions around things, a child suddenly starts to understand how things work in the world and they want to be more involved. It can often seem unfair to them how we’re in charge of what they can have, what they can’t, and when they can or can’t have something. Quite honestly, your son sounds advanced if he’s fed up with observing already. He sounds like he came eager to take part in the world and being part of the things in your day to day living. With his demands must come with a certain amount of understanding and that very well may be your key.
In my book I call 1-2 years old the Interpretation stage as within that time we take what we’ve observed and interpret how and what it means to us as children and as humans. Therefore, when he asks for something, he’s interpreted that he wants it, and he’s observing how he’s going to get it. You can help him explore differently, because when he’s exploring stuff (just like when he was smaller and would explore the cupboards and the floorboards as he crawled around), he’s interpreting more and growing more, which is what he’s probably wanting. Often people sneer at the power of choices, and many a time I’ve had people tell me I give our children too many choices, but they work. When we listen to what our children want, and if they really can’t have it, we can distract them with a simple redirection of “well, no you can’t have that, BUT you can have this or this, which would you like?” Suddenly, our children can feel part of decisions and how the day is going to work. Same goes with the cry of “I want…” When our children say they want something, they are working for the feeling of what it would feel like if they had a certain thing. We can empower the want by finding something else that will give the same exciting satisfaction, but not the thing we don’t want them to have. For instance, when our son was 2 he loved the blow dryer. He’d tried it out once when my husband was drying something and after that, he wanted it passionately. He then kept finding it, and trying to plug it in. DANGEROUS! It wasn’t a question of letting him have it, but he would flip if we said no. So, first we found a toy one, which was a little help as long as the other one was hidden, but then we let him discover vacuuming. I had a little vacuum that didn’t work too well, and when I vacuumed with the larger one, he followed me with the other. It was the same sensation of the blowdryer, and yet he wasn’t plugging it in, and he was helping me, taking part in the house and doing what grown-ups do. I’ve also notice, that when children are involved on this level, their drive to become involved on this level diminishes, it’s no longer the challenge to overcome, so they head back to their toys or play satisfied.
With the hitting in anger, don’t take it personally. It probably relates to the frustration of not being able to take part in decisions within the day. Before an I want, or a flip out, start involving him with simple things. (“Do you want to wear this shirt, or this one?”) or even asking him to help for simple tasks, like shovelling snow (if you’re doing that yet) or raking leaves. You can also try copying play, such as getting him to wash toy dishes while you do the real ones, or a toy broom. Try to grab a few times in the day where you play with him at a game he likes or he can pick, so you enter his world where he has control and then in your stuff you’re in charge. It means you can make life a team effort, rather than one based on control and hierarchy.
Yes, a child changes when they hit two, and it seems impossible for them to want to be part of life so much for what seems like such a young age. But sometimes a spirit comes who wants to grow fast and they absorb things quickly to get ahead. Sometimes we have to make the leap and just see them as a go-getter and it means treating them a little older than the calendar says we should. That means empowering them a bit and then explaining to them why we say no about other things. (Another example was when our son wanted to play with the blender. I told him no, and then explained how it could cut his hand off if it turned on. After he understood my no, he never asked again.) When we explain why we say no, rather than just sounding like we do it randomly, our children respect them more. They know about getting hurt, when we apply the same concept to things that COULD hurt them, they suddenly don’t want it. Saying no to things like going to the park, or having cake for breakfast can need more of a distraction, although tummy ache is a good try.
Talk with him, play with him and respect where he’s coming from. At the same time, don’t feel you have to give in, just explain why you are saying no and distract onto the next best thing.
Hope this helps. Keep me posted on everything and if you want to chat more or give more information than just say. Be well, happy and thrive.

But what about tantrums?

We tend to feel like our children need to be connected all the time for us to be doing a good job, but really, at the root of it all, it’s not our job to get our kids connected. When they are disconnected from their true selves we can offer options and jumping off points that will help them feel better, but if they don’t want to go there yet, we can love them and hold them, and know their pain, but they have to make the leap. It provides them with the early experience to be aware of how they feel. Tantrums are a great way our children express their offness. Therefore, when your son has a tantrum, and you can’t give in because he really can’t have what he wants and distraction won’t work, it’s because he’s hurting so much from the disconnection, he can’t see his way out. Now often it might not actually be from the thing he’s flipping out about. Often that has come from the emotional journey all day and the law of attraction has brought the scenario to the full blown out state, so therefore it’s not just a question of a quick fix to what he’s flipping out about, it reassuring him that everything is alright, safe and secure and getting him back into the feeling of wellbeing.
Tantrums are a hard one as there’s no generalized rule. It depends on the journey and his build up to it and what he needs.
My favourite tool is to quiet yourself when he’s flipping out, close your eyes and try to feel what he’s going through as you hold him in your arms or sit beside him, depending what he lets you do. Suddenly you can get a sense of what it’s about and the solution falls into place. Also, hold an image or feeling in your inner self of who you know your son really is, that way he can sense it and feel his way back. Not only will the energy shift in the room, but you will be connecting yourself, providing him with the example and also opening yourself up to what’s needed in the moment.
I find that being aware of energy is important in a tantrum moment, as it becomes easy for us to fall into the same feeling space as our children are in. We can get panicky and disconnected. In order for them to feel their way back it’s important for us to stand in a different feeling space, if that makes sense. We can be calm and secure, providing love and warmth, or if it feels right, create a feeling of lightness to balance things out. Often a change of scene is key too, as it shifts the energy that the child is in and pushes the reset button on life. Many a time I’ve rushed a child outside, carrying them in my arms as they flipped out, only to have them connect again in fresh air. I’ve also taken them just to another room and it seems to shift perspective in how they feel. The build up disappears. If we sense that distraction is needed but it won’t work, we can put on a favourite movie or music in another room, which will create a different energy, to see if our children can choose to feel better by joining it.
It’s taken me a long time to come to realize that it’s about feeling spaces and not words and when our children sense a different feeling option they often are willing to quit the one they are in and jump on board. They usually can shift pretty quick when it’s in their feeling vicinity as they don’t have some sense of having to ride the course of a mood like we do as adults. They feel the better feeling option and will jump in quickly. Becoming aware of how we feel is such a valuable tool for life, so it’s important to provide them with the opportunity to feel better rather than something to make them feel better, which so often we are tempted to do.

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