When faced with a child who's acting out or nagdadabog, “[parents] have been taught to punish, remove toys, ignore the behavior, and respond with a poker face,” said Dr. Azine Graff, a clinical psychologist who specializes in parenting and anxiety, says in an article on Motherly.
Dr. Graff, however, suggested trying out a different approach, one that might sound counterintuitive. For your upset little one, Dr. Graff says offer a hug. She explains, “When offering a hug or verbal reassurance to calm your child, you are not automatically reinforcing their behavior. You are actually helping them calm down, so that they can hear you better.”
Hugging can be a loving tactic to disarm. Comfort through affectionate words or a warm embrace can diffuse a tense situation especially if a child is upset or frustrated.
Imagine your child is at a play date, but it’s getting late. You tell him it’s time to head home, and he starts to cry. A simple phrase like, “I understand how you're feeling. I would be sad about it, too” along with a hug is sometimes all your child needs to feel better. Expressing care and empathy is a loving, easy, and quick solution.
The psychologist explains that it’s expected for a young child to have tantrums. The part of the brain that controls self-control — the prefrontal lobe — isn’t fully developed yet so when faced with strong emotions, especially when the feelings are overwhelming, a child tends to act out.
“As adults, we have verbal skills and a more developed brain on our side to help us practice calmly expressing our needs and ourselves. Children are still developing the skills and the brain power…so this is where parents and caretakers can help children bolster positive coping to manage feelings more effectively,” she said.
The first step to teaching your child to control his emotions is to control your behavior — avoid snapping or lashing out. “The most important thing you can do to help your child learn self-control is probably to regulate your own emotions so you can stay calm and compassionate with your child.,” said Dr. Laura Markham in an article for Psychology Today.
Children are big copiers. They learn from how you behave and act. So, when you have difficulty managing your own emotions, they will model their behavior after you. What’s more, whenever you lash out at your child, your child can get upset and makes it more difficult for him to control his own emotions and behavior.
Being mindful of the way we parent “can be extremely challenging when we find ourselves getting heated at the moment with our child,” said Dr. Graff. “So take a breather, talk to someone you trust about your feelings, and don’t forget to hug yourself.”
Remember, disciplining isn't about doling out punishments. It's teaching your child how to connect and communicate well, so he can better manage his behavior and, in turn, help him learn and grow.