Q: Little kids seem to lose their tempers a lot and my own young son is no exception. Do you have any suggestions for dealing with this?
Jim: You’re right that this is a common occurrence — we hear from a lot of parents who face this challenge. My own two boys have been known to engage in some epic tantrums on occasion.
Often, it’s simply a matter of helping your child learn how to be more self-controlled. Author Lynne M. Thompson has developed a list of what she calls “anger busters for kids.” Here are a few of them:
• Moms and dads need to model anger management for their children. Don’t expect your kids to keep their own tempers in check if you fly off the handle every time something goes wrong. When tensions are high, parents need to take a deep breath and compose themselves.
• Show respect for your child when he or she gets mad. An angry outburst might not be appropriate, but the underlying causes for it should not be overlooked or dismissed. Try to understand why your child is frustrated.
• Identify with your child’s pain. Recall a time when you faced something difficult, and share it with your child. For example, “I remember when I was your age and I didn’t get invited to a party. . .”
• Do what you can to provide a cooling-off period for your child when he or she becomes angry. Read a book or go on a walk. Then, calmly discuss what happened and help your child make a plan for dealing with their anger more constructively next time.
There’s some great stuff here. Hopefully Lynne’s suggestions will bring an added measure of peace to your home as you help your son deal with his volatile emotions.
Q: My husband and I agree on the importance of discipline for our two-year-old son, but our methods are different. I’m wondering if one method is better than another.
Juli: Even though your approaches vary, it’s great that you and your husband agree on the importance of discipline for your son. This is a starting point that many couples don’t share.
Practically every book on discipline emphasizes the importance of consistency.
This is particularly important through the toddler years when your son’s job is to explore and test boundaries! “No” should be “no” every time you say it. Mushy boundaries can make the toddler years more exhausting than they already are.
You and your husband need to agree on what behaviours you will punish and how, in general, you will respond to bad behavior.
Having said that, you and your husband don’t have to be clones; discipline is within the context of your relationship with your son.
Your personality and the uniqueness of your relationship will impact discipline.
For example, a mom who might be with her toddler all day long will be correcting behavior throughout the day, while dad might just deal with a big behavioral issue during the evening.
Yes, some discipline techniques are more effective, in general, with a child’s unique personality. I would recommend that you and your husband pick up a book or two on the basics of discipline (visit focusonthefamily.com for some good options).
Read them together and come to an agreement on the most effective way to teach and respond to your son’s behavior.
And remember, regardless of how you discipline, your son needs to know three things: Mom and Dad love him very much, Mom and Dad are on the same team, and he needs to respect both of your authority.
Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family, host of the Focus on the Family radio program, and a husband and father of two. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three. Submit your questions to: ask@FocusOnTheFamily.com