Life’s too short to sweat the small stuff isn’t it? That’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.’
They can get very emotional very quickly about seemingly unimportant things, and while it may not be a good idea to pander to this and to bend over backwards all the time to make everything right for them, it is important listen and to understand that 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-old has a tantrum; 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 have tantrums as well.
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.
Teaching your child how to problem solve can be very useful, and will stand them in good stead as they grow older.
Follow these steps:
Name the problem ‘Your sister has trodden on your Lego model again.’
- Acknowledge the feeling: ‘That must be upsetting.’
- 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?
Children learn a lot by watching others and it is a good idea to let them see you solving problems in this way : ‘Kids 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 last cake really has been eaten, or the football match or party really has been cancelled, 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.’