Life’s too short to sweat the small stuff isn’t it?
It’s what adults often say to each other. But a child’s attitude to the ‘small stuff’ is often a different matter. This is an observation that a Dad made on a course I ran a while ago: Children do ‘sweat the small stuff.’
One parent I worked with recently, just could not understand why her four year old son made such a huge fuss because his biscuit was broken. She offered him another biscuit, but he would have none of it. What could she do, she couldn’t exactly stick the broken biscuit back together could she?
This little story made me smile, it reminded me of the time when my son, then around the same age was inconsolable one day because his Batman pants were in the wash. You would have thought his little world had just ended.
There’s no doubt, children can get very emotional very quickly about seemingly unimportant things.
It might not seem like a good idea to pander to this, and to bend over backwards to make everything right for them all the time, but it is important listen. Patience and empathy on your part will help your child to feel that their emotions are valid, which they are, they really do feel upset/disappointed or whatever it is.
Most parents are not surprised when their two year gets upset about small things, it is accepted that this behaviour is not at all unusual for a child of this age. But it is not uncommon for older children to get very emotional when something is not right. Being able to regulate our emotions, delay gratification, and respond appropriately to life’s ups and downs, are skills that take time to develop, and some children will need more support than others. But there is plenty you can do to encourage these skills in your child.
Here are a few simple, easy to remember ideas:
Try to follow these steps next time you have an emotional child on your hands:
Name the problem ‘Your sister has trodden on your Lego model again.’
Acknowledge the feeling: ‘That must be upsetting.’
Let your child talk or ‘rant’ if that is what they need to do.
Keep on listening for as long as it takes, don’t feel you have to say much or ‘fix’ the problem.
Validating your child’s feelings in this way will help your child to feel that you really care and understand what they are going through, and it can help to prevent the emotional behaviour from escalating.
Encourage problem solving
Ask your child if they can think of a solution ‘What do you think you could do to stop this from happening?’
Brainstorm some different solutions; support your child to do this.
Agree on the best solution: ‘So it’s agreed that you will play with your Lego at the other end of the sitting room, where no one is going to be walking past.’
Try out the solution. Remind your child to put the plan into action.
Review the plan at a later time and talk to your child about whether the solution to the problem has worked, and if so why? If it has not worked, why is that, what could be done differently?
Encouraging your child to come up with their own solution to a problem (with your support) is a more useful approach than just fixing the problem for them. When they walk out the door as a young adult, you want to know that they can deal with the problems that life throws at them.
Be a Role Model
Children learn a lot by watching others and it is a good idea to let them see you solving problems in this way: ‘Kid’s, the film is all booked up on the day we want to see it, shall we go another day, see a different film or do something else instead?
Be aware that children develop different skills at different rates. You may have a bright child who appears to be ahead when it comes to reading and learning, but that does not necessarily mean that they will be up to the same speed in their emotional development.
If there is not an answer to the problem, the biscuit really is broken, or the Batman pants really are in the wash, then your child will need to learn that sometimes there will be disappointment.
Just stay calm and be there for them while they ‘sweat the small stuff.’