Toddler Tantrums: Should We Rush to “Make It All Better”?
When our toddlers get upset, we often interrupt their complaints with comments to try to make them less upset – to see the “bright side” – like “It’s not so bad” or “You’re okay.” It’s natural to want to comfort your upset toddler, to want to make things better. But when your little one is upset or having a tantrum, immediately saying “It’s okay!” can actually make things worse. That’s saying “It’s okay” (and especially saying it over and over) accidentally give your child the message that you want her to act happy, even if she isn’t. And that means she has to stuff her feelings deep down inside and that is absolutely not okay.
Now don’t get me wrong, as parents we often have to reassure our children and help them through their frustrations and disappointments, BUT save your reassurance for after you respectfully reflect your toddler’s feelings (try the “Fast Food Technique,” described on The Happiest Toddler DVD and book). Once your toddler starts calming down, and actually starts to feel okay, that’s when she will really appreciate you saying, “It’s okay.”
Of course, if your toddler is in pain or terrified, you should immediately step in to help. But remember: Toddlers aren’t delicate flowers who need to be protected from all frustration. Challenging situations can actually strengthen your toddler’s character and resilience. As Wendy Mogel says in her book The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, a child’s struggles have a valuable silver lining – they boost her ability to handle life’s inevitable frustrations.
Farmers have to plow before they can plant, and parents need to reflect their toddler’s feelings (and wait for them to start settling) before taking a turn.
In a similar way, don’t come in too fast with trying to distract your child in the middle of her tantrum. Like reassurance, distraction is great – but only after your child starts to regain her calm.