Archive for the ‘Cognitive & Emotional Development’ Category

With the Christmas holiday behind us, it’s time to write about a lively topic for parents of toddlers – tantrums.  I’m not sure how many of you experienced your child having a holiday meltdown or tantrum.  As my son, The Littlest E, gets more into being 2, he’s stepped up the feet stomping, especially when he isn’t allowed to watch something with Daddy on the iPad or look at pictures on Mommy’s iPhone, doesn’t get his way, or is stopped from doing behavior he’s not supposed to do.

My husband and I have found a way to minimize, or even halt, the tantrum.  We have our son “talk to the pillow.”  I’m not sure how the pillow came about, whether I heard about it in my parenting class or was divinely inspired, but we’ve been using this tactic for a number of months and it works most of the time.

The Littlest E has a pillow of a lion’s face that rests on the glider rocker in his bedroom.  When he’s upset, and his Dad or I feel like it’s needed, we’ll ask him if he wants to talk to the pillow.  We go into his room and I sit on the ottoman, putting the pillow up to my face.  My son stands in front of me looking up at the lion’s face.  In a deep voice, I ask, “What’s wrong E?”  Sometimes our son says he’s mad or sad, and then there’s a conversation about why.

For example, Monday morning The Littlest E kept getting up from the table during breakfast.  After a warning, I placed him in his booster seat, taking away the big chair he was using.  This did not sit well with him.  He burst into tears and would have gone into full-blown tantrum mode had I not asked him if he wanted to talk to the pillow.  There was a resounding, “YES.”  We went into his room and in his 2-year old way, he told the pillow he was upset about sitting in his booster seat and wanted to sit back in the big chair.  The pillow responded by saying that he could sit in the big chair, but he could not get up from the table anymore and he also had to listen to Mommy and Daddy.  The lion asked, “Can you do that?”  The Littlest E replied, “Yes.”  I put the pillow down, became Mommy again, hugged my son and asked, “Want to go back to breakfast?”  And with a nod of his head, we walked back to the table.  He finished his meal planted in his seat.

Talking to the pillow helps in a couple of ways: 1) it eases the tantrum.  Sometimes, when we go talk to the pillow, my son forgets why he’s there in the first place.  When he’s in the thick of it, as you can see from above, the pillow diffuses the tantrum and calms him down, and 2) it helps him to communicate his feelings.  He can tell the pillow he’s mad or sad, or the pillow can ask if he’s frustrated.  He is, of course, able to talk to both my husband and me; however, at times the pillow is just the thing.

There are occasions when The Littlest E has absolutely no intention of talking to the pillow and needs to be upset for a spell.  That’s okay, too.  If it goes on for too long, we do our best to redirect.

It took time for our son to get used to talking to the pillow.  He’s gotten so used to it, on his own, he’ll say he needs to talk to the pillow.  It’s even become a game with he and his Daddy at bath time.  My husband and I are grateful that this approach has had the impact on our son that it has.  However long it lasts, if it means less feet stomping, we’ll take it!

Image: patti haskins


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The other night, while I was cleaning up after dinner, I kept noticing our son, The Littlest E, drop his giraffe lovey on the ground.  After viewing this one too many times, I walked into the living room and was going to say something about not throwing things when my husband, Tom, quietly shushed me.  The Littlest E said to Daddy, “Pick Lovey up peese.”  Tom did and asked her if she got a booboo?  He nodded Lovey’s head to indicate yes.  He asked her if she wanted a hug?  He nodded Lovey’s head again to indicate yes.  He then asked our son, “Do you want to give Lovey a hug, too?”  The Littlest E took Lovey from him, gave her a hug and patted her gently.

I got it.  He wasn’t throwing his toy; I almost interrupted the two of them taking turns giving Lovey comfort.  Later that evening, after The Littlest E was asleep, Tom explained the game they started playing to teach him empathy.  If we can instill in our son the values of empathy and compassion at an early age, we’ll feel like we’re on our way to succeeding as parents.  Those are two principles we hold in the highest regard.

We don’t let our son watch much television, but we do watch Sesame Street on occasion.  I DVRed an episode in which the actor, Jason Bateman, wants to demonstrate comfort to the viewers.  In the end, Elmo winds up comforting Jason by hugging him to make him feel better.  The Littlest E loves watching this segment over and over and over.

Giraffe Lovey

Children model their parents’ behavior, the good and the bad.  We have lots of hugs at our house, especially when one of us gets a booboo.  We give our son comfort when things aren’t quite going his way.  We acknowledge his feelings and help him through being upset.  My husband and I are also affectionate with one another, and we do family hugs at times throughout the day.  The Comfort Game is now part of our daily playtime.  It’s great to watch The Littlest E care for his Lovey and provide her love and affection, and it’s a lot of fun to play.

The Comfort Game is paying off, too.  I was getting The Littlest E from preschool and one of his teachers told me he was comforting a classmate who was crying because she missed her mommy.  She mentioned he hugged her and in his 2-year old way said, “Mommy always comes back” (a phrase the school uses).  He picked up on her sadness and wanted to make her feel better.

The Littlest E is probably too young to fully understand empathy.  He may only be mirroring our behavior and that’s a good thing.  Whatever is happening, he’s showing compassion for others and is making a good start toward learning empathy.  Would love to know the games you play or things you do to teach comfort and/or compassion to your children.

Image: Melanie Elliott

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