Your baby (or toddler) is going to feel some very strong emotions every day despite their young age. From the fear of realizing people they love can walk away at any moment (like when you try going to the bathroom without them!) to the frustration of not being able to climb up onto the couch by themselves, their feelings are very real and their ability to manage these feelings is underdeveloped.
That’s why they need your help!
As the experienced adult, it’s your job to help them navigate the chaotic waters of their emotions. You know what feeling scared is like. You know what it’s like to be angry. You also know how to get through powerful emotions. Your baby doesn’t.
Without your guidance, Baby will repress her emotions until they emerge as “acting out,” aggression (biting, hitting, scratching), or in a flood of tears that only makes the feelings worse rather than releasing them in a healthy manner. Your help can mean the difference between the “terrible two’s” or a terrific toddlerhood.
AhaParenting.com has an excellent article entitled “5 Steps to Nurture Emotional Intelligence in Your Child.” Below are examples from the article, but definitely head over there to read the full post yourself.
Step 1: Acknowledge and Empathize
“You’re so disappointed that it’s raining.”
“You want to stay up later like the big kids, I know.”
“You’re mad your tower fell!”
Step 2: Allow Expression
“You are so mad your brother broke your toy, but we don’t hit. Come and I’ll help you tell him how you feel.
“You’re so frustrated! Nothing seems to be going right for you this morning…I wonder if you just need to cry? Everybody needs to cry sometimes. Come snuggle with Daddy and you can cry as much as you want.”
Step 3: Listen
“You are so mad you’re yelling at me to go away. I’ll move back a little. But these feelings hurt and scare you, and I won’t leave you alone with these upsetting feelings. I’m right here and you’re safe. You can be as sad and mad as you want, and when you’re ready, I am right here to hug you.”
Step 4: Teach
“You’re pretty frustrated with Sam not giving you a turn. Sometimes you feel like not playing with him anymore. But you also really like playing with him. What could you say to Sam?”
Step 5: Play
“Your four year old always wants Mommy. Instead of taking it personally, help him work through his feelings about how much he prefers Mom by playing a game where poor bumbling Dad ‘tries’ unsuccessfully to keep him away from her. Dad gets between Mom and son, and roars ‘I won’t let you get to Mom….Hey, you just ran right around me!…You pushed me right over!…You are too strong!….But this time you won’t get past me!’ Your four year old will giggle and boast and get a chance to prove he can ALWAYS have his mom. He’ll also discharge all those pent up worries that make him demand her.”
Most importantly – your child needs you need to be the adult. Remaining calm, loving, and accepting while guiding Baby through her emotional roller coasters will be one of the greatest gifts you could ever give her!
For more on baby milestones read our other articles: