A simple trick that may help calm a toddler tantrum
I learned of this tip a couple of years ago when our eldest was a toddler. Actually to be honest, it’s a technique that I used for years as a high school teacher, without even realizing the full impact it had on helping to build a relationship with a student in the classroom too!
It’s really simple. By sitting, stopping or kneeling so that you are eye level with a child or young person, shows that you are making an effort to respect them by being at their level. Something I learned was a really effective way to communicate with more challenging students who were sat down at a table in the classroom too. If you think about it, towering over someone when you are trying to have a conversation isn’t easy for either sides when you want to communicate effectively.
Kneeling down to eye level with a child, helps to gain and maintain attention since you and the child are now face to face. You can extend on this even further by holding their hand and politely asking for eye contact when you speak; although the latter would only be suggested with your own child, or one you have already have a good relationship with and who is comfortable with you.
Very young children are still learning to communicate their emotions and feelings; so when you speak to a child, it’ good to remember that teaching your child to make eye contact during conversations is a top social skill that will help them learn. Age appropriate eye contact plays an important role in non-verbal communication, demonstrates confidence and helps young children communicate their emotions.
Making eye contact with a child at their level show that child that you are interested in them and oaying attention to what the child is saying or trying to say. The best way to teach good eye contact is to be a good model of it yourself. If you are staring at a phone, or laptop while talking, this may communicate that eye contact is not an important aspect of communication.
Experts consider that crouching down to a child’s level is an active listening technique that can help a child feel like what they are saying or how they are feeling really matters to their parents. Child development experts suggest that the gesture can foster self-esteem in a powerful ways while encouraging the child to communicate even more.
Research into emotion and nonverbal communication suggests that there is nothing threatening about kneeling. Instead kneeling is almost deployed as a sign of defense and respect. It is thought that perhaps kneeling has derived from a core principle in mammalian behavior; making the body smaller.
So when a child is beginning to lose it and enter a tantrum, try connecting with them first on an emotional level that will get then in that moment. Often, one of the best ways to do this is to make physical contact by kneeling down to their level, looking them in the eye and telling them that you understand that they are feeling sad or mad.