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Hugs, Hugs, Hugs!

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This is a Tool Card, created by Jane Nelsen and Adrian Garsia.

This is a Tool Card, created by Jane Nelsen and Adrian Garsia.

In a recent 3-part parenting workshop where I shared Positive Discipline parenting tools, this was one of the biggest hits!

The tool is simple – use hugs in difficult moments. Here is 1 mom’s report after our first class where she learned about how to offer your child a hug when they are throwing a tantrum (see the details on the card to the left):

“I have to admit I really thought the idea was kinda silly and unlikely to work with my son. But I tried it the next time he threw a tantrum, and…. it worked! I simply got down to his level and opened my arms and said, ‘I need a hug’. He had the most surprised look on his face and was stopped in his tracks. He came and gave me a hug and we both left the situation smiling.  It was awesome!”

Sometimes you don’t even have to use words. When your child is having a meltdown about not getting his way, you can simply offer comfort by getting down to his level and stretching out your arms. Be sure that you don’t change the limit you just set because that could send the wrong message. The intent here is that you can still offer your child empathy, even when you have set a limit. Empathy is always the gateway to bringing a child from where he is (emotionally), to where you want him to be.  (Learn more about this idea by reading “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child” by John Gottman).

How to help a 1-year-old having a tantrum

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validating feelingsI absolutely love Positive Discipline! Click here to visit Positive Discipline If you haven’t checked out any of their books or website – do it now! They have the best advice (in my opinion) for how to help behaviors in a  way that is kind AND firm at the same time.

Positive.Discipline.validate_feelings

Positive Discipline Tool Card about Validating Feelings

Today, I want to share some ideas on how to help a 1-year-old when they are starting to cry or scream about something they don’t like (using Positive Discipline’s “Validate Feelings” tool card.  I don’t know about your child, but mine cries often over very small things.  If he could talk, he would likely be saying things like, “I don’t want to sit there”, “I hate putting my coat on”, “I don’t want to get in the car”, “I’m not sitting in this high chair”!

Since he can’t talk, he screams or cries.  Recently I read something that totally helped me understand this better.  Crying is most of the time a form of communication for children 1-2 years old.  It doesn’t mean you have to stop what you are asking them to do (unless it’s a cry about physical pain), or give in to their plea for a cookie, etc .  Just try to translate what the cry really means into words.  So, if he is crying, I stop myself from responding “don’t cry about this,”, because that would be like saying, “Stop telling me you are frustrated with this.”

Instead, seek to hear their cry as a way to communicate frustration and then respond accordingly with empathy and firmness:

“Oh boy. You are frustrated that we are getting shoes on right now. You do not like putting shoes on. I hear that (while child is crying screaming). It’ ok to be frustrated.  Take a minute to just be frustrated about that. I’m here.  I’ll give you a hug. I don’t like doing things sometimes too.”  Meanwhile, I pause the putting-on-shoes process to just connect with a  hug, cuddle and soft voice, hoping my calmness can wear off on my child. Usually this works to calm his cries screams within 1-2minutes.

In a moment of screaming 1-2 minutes can feel like FOREVER, but it’s really worth the wait.  It’s not that long at all when you think of the lifelong benefit you are giving your child, helping him to feel their feelings are valid and helping them understand and manage their emotions.

Empathy has the power to really take the sting out of most difficult situations.  It doesn’t make it perfect. The child isn’t going to smile and say, “Ok. I am completely happy now about getting my shoes on”.  BUT, they are more likely to be able to move past the emotion to a level of calmness where you can distract them with something else to focus on and move forward.  Once that initial flare-up has died down, I then say something like, “Here. Could you hold my keys and be a helper?” (while then putting the shoes on).

Hope you see great results!  

**Disclaimer: Remember, this is not a 1-time fix.  This is a tool to use over and over again throughout the tantrums years for better results towards helping your child understand and manage their emotions.  Expect to repeat these steps 5-20+ times a day (depending on the day!);-)  Would love to help you trouble-shoot if you aren’t seeing it help your 1-year-old’s tantrums.

Author: FLORA

I am a post-career SAHM (Stay-at-home mom), living in Bozeman Montana. I share stories and ideas from parenting with a Montessori and Positive Discipline inspired perspective. Also, I LOVE DIY projects and finding great ways to use thrift store or hand-made toys for my little ones.
Learn more about why I say I'm "Just" a stay-at-home mom.

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