We all know toddlers have feelings. Strong feelings. And they are not afraid to show you just how they are feeling. But did you know infants experience anger, fear, hopelessness, and happiness too? New research shows babies as young as just a few months old have feelings that most adults still have a hard time dealing with. Talking about these feelings and teaching ways to manage them can help to reduce breakdowns, tantrums, and resentment.
Think about it – if someone takes your phone in them middle of a call, your cable stops working in the middle of the Bachelor finale, your mom questions your parenting, a friend ditches plans last minute, you are on your way to a root canal, your significant other received a promotion at work, all of these scenarios elicit feelings. Which, as an adult, you react to. Or you don’t. You decide based on the circumstance and the repercussions. Babies and toddlers just react. And that’s okay. The important thing to do is acknowledge their feelings and teach an appropriate reaction.
A newborn is hungry and mom is in the shower.
A 4 month old is stuck on her belly and wants to roll over.
A toddler: “BUT I WANTED THE RED BOWL!”.
If what your child wants is out of the question ie. the bottle is warming or the red bowl is non existent, explain that, even to a newborn! YOU are their rock, they trust you.
“I know you really want your milk but it’s heating up, we have to wait. Look, see it in the hot water. Feel the cup, it’s warm.”
“I don’t have a red bowl, I have this blue bowl or the white one, let’s look in the cabinet to see if we can find a red one…nope I don’t see one. Maybe we can draw a picture with a red crayon.”
It may seem silly but labeling the feeling in the early months will help a child to recognize it later on and he will be better equipped with strategies to deal with the feeling in a positive way. Never ignore anger, or punish a child for expressing emotions. By embracing feelings and providing skills to manage expression creates healthy habits over time.