I read a book tonight called “ToddlerCalm: A guide for calmer toddlers and happier parents” by Sarah Ockwell-Smith. I got it after seeing someone sharing one of their toddler calming classes on Facebook.
Like all parents of toddlers we have had our share of tantrums but I really was interested because it talked about the difference between the toddler brain and our own. Sometimes despite E being able to communicate very well I feel we are talking a different language.
Recently someone explained something to me that actually has made my life so much easier regarding the “why?” phase. They said that despite what you might think a toddler can use all the right words in the right context but not really understand what they have said. This is why they ask “why?” all the time. It is actually to get you to repeat what you have said in many different ways: it’s a major speech development tool! Now instead of getting frustrated I just repeat in a different way rather than giving the same boring answer and she does seem to stop sooner or maybe I just have more patience now.
Anyway, I digress, so that is why I am interested in more titbits which will help me to figure out what is going on in that fuzzy blonde head.
It took me a while to get into the book. The first third is all about how bad toddlers can be and actually E isn’t that bad so I felt a bit preached at. It did improve though.
What was interesting was her rejection of behavioural style learning with positive and negative reinforcement (otherwise known as praise and rewards and punishment).
Sarah Ockwell-Smith sites numerous studies which have been largely ignored (as they do not fit with our mainstream ideas) that suggest this sort of learning is short-term and can have a long-term negative impact on society. Children who are “trained” to respond in a certain manner are less likely to respond in the same way without the stimulus later i.e. It results in a learning which is not self-motivated.
Ok, I can already feel you grasping like I was with the question: “but what else can you do?”
Ockwell-Smith suggests a system she calls CRUCIAL (control, rhythm, understanding, communication, individuals, avoiding, love). Some of this is very common sense but other bits are intriguing or are simple important to have written down for you.
When she talks about Control she means about methods of giving some control to your child, be it freedom to play as they want with a toy, or letting them choose what they want to do that day.
Rhythm is all about routine: i think we are very much on the same page here. My children have always had a very set but calming bedtime routine and E loves knowing what she does every day of the week (e.g. Tuesdays we see Granny or Thursdays we go swimming). I think it gives her a sense of control over her life. However it is all about having the flexibility to also follow natural rhythms: if your child is knackered then cancel the playdate and have cuddles.
Understanding is an understanding of the real problem behind your toddlers behaviour. Being able to understand the biological limitations to their thinking and communication limitations that lead to the frustration which causes tantrums. Through understanding we can cope better with the situation and their demands.
In Communication she talks about how we communicate with our children and how best to do this. The message is fairly commonsensical: be clear, calm, positive and keep it short and simple. Body language and visual cues are also very important.
More common sense with Individuals: all our children are different and no situation is the same.
Avoiding is also fairly straightforward if you think about her points but it is a rather important reminder. Avoid difficult situations i.e. Try not to take a knackered child around a supermarket. Also avoid negative parenting comments or parenting criticism. Don’t complain about your children to friends as you know your child best and they will only come back with solutions which make you feel like you are under criticism or like you are a poor parent.
The chapter on Love is about the Importance of unconditional love. She has adapted Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and explains how she believes a complete human being is built upon a secure base of love and nurture. Tantrums she suggests should be dealt with with calm compassion and not punishment (e.g. the naughty step). This sort of love does not develop a needy child but rather a secure and independent one. And finally to be able to give all this love you must nurture yourself.
As a final note Ockwell-Smith outlines that she does not advocate permissive parenting. She believes in saying “No” and that yes it “will cause tears”. Tantrums are not to be avoided but rather they are a useful release of emotion for your toddler. We must be strong and have confidence in what we are doing. It is about being “Authoritative” not “Authoritarian”. She explains the different as the former not using fear to impose rules but rather setting limits which are important in all our lives.
I enjoyed the book and have certainly got a few things to mull over. I’m not yet sure how much I will adopt but I do feel you can never have too much new knowledge. I hope I have been able to give you enough of a summary to interest you too.