Twelve Tips to Help Burned-out Toddlers Repair Mental Muscles
By Dr. Molly Barrow
Self-discipline is a well-developed skill in most adults and
important to the survival of our society. Those who grow up with
little self-discipline may be ostracized by others or fall victim to
vices like drugs and alcohol. Self-discipline is a mandatory
ingredient of successful professions like business, athletics and
medicine. Even the business of art, music and drama requires great
self-discipline from those who may have tendencies toward unbridled
freedom. Yet, no one has more need for self-control for his own
protection than a young child does. However, toddlers are raw energy
with few brakes and fewer breaks. The maturation process is slow
and difficult. Here are twelve tips to help you be a better parent
while your child learns self- control.
Think of self-discipline as a mental muscle: A successful and
in-control person has a well-developed mental muscle. If cared for
properly the muscle will deliver a lifetime of performance. The
expert body builder takes care of precious muscles that tire with
rest, elevation, protection from more injury, affection for his
health and body, information about what is happening to him and
rubdowns until a full recuperation renders the muscle useful again.
Reduce your demands: Would you agree that even the strongest
muscle might grow weak and tired from overuse? Extraordinary effort
can exhaust the mightiest strongman. A wise person would not insist
an exhausted muscle must carry on regardless of the pain suffered.
Injury and demanding spasms might occur if one ignores the
increasing pain from the weary muscle. Tantrums are a result of
inadequate coping skills and too much demand:
one is perfect: Even an adult who is a productive
self-disciplined person has moments of weakness and may succumb to
bad behavior like eating an entire pie, fighting or foolishly
spending their rent money. The more stressed, depressed or tired a
person becomes, the more likely they will have a failure of their
mental muscle of self-discipline.
Remember how far he has progressed already: An infant has no
self-discipline in the beginning, it cries and wets at will. Slowly
over the next few years, the child’s experiences and maturity help
self-discipline muscles to grow stronger. A child may not fully
develop emotionally until his early twenties. You have a long way to
learned it from you: The behavior that you applaud as well as
the behavior you wish to avoid stems mostly from watching his
parents. If you give him love bites in play, he will bite others,
perhaps not so lovingly. If you swear, expect that word to become
his favorite. If you yell at him, he will yell at you.
Everyone wants to do his best: A two-year-old usually attempts
to behave the best he or she can until exhausted and a meltdown
occurs. The tired self-control muscles are aching and just not
responding to the “Sit still,” “Wait to use the bathroom” and
“Whisper!” commands imposed by adults on young children. Did he
behave better yesterday? Great. Today he needs more help not hurt
feelings. Assume he is doing his best and stop criticizing him.
Praise him for even trying.
Did you forget to provide him enough…? The child is
communicating with you constantly without words. A cold, missed
nap, hunger pangs, embarrassment and parental scolding tax the
self-control muscle beyond its ability to respond correctly. Take
time to bring along age-appropriate organic food filled with
nutrients, fish oils and trace minerals, water, diapers, a sweater,
and toys to help him be comfortable instead of miserable and mute,
unable to ask for what he needs. You must listen with ears and your
eyes to what is happening inside him. A calm and happy child means
a lot less work and stress for you.
What is the big deal? Few adult occasions are so important that
a parent must ignore a child’s need to stop and rest emotionally.
Anyone who has been a parent will excuse you if you need to take a
cranky kid outside for a few minutes and everyone else will figure
it out someday. Put your child before other people. That is your
Become more sensitive: Most good parents can sense instinctively
their child’s emotional levels resulting from stressful events, both
positive ones like parties, and negative ones like a scary dog. Some
inexperienced or less sensitive parents may miss the important cues
that a mental muscle is tiring. When your toddler is approaching his
or her limit, you must pay attention. If you notice stress in your
child and act quickly, you can often prevent a total meltdown.
Grandma is right: Older and wiser parents and grandparents
appear to rescue and spoil toddlers but they are wisely allowing the
child a moment of respite and regression to less stringent behavior
demands. Knowing how to help your toddler to succeed is a win for
everyone- especially the innocent people sitting at the next table.
Most spoiled children grow up to be loving parents. Over-disciplined
children grow up to be neurotic and frightened adults.
Learning has its ups and downs: Just because a child is
potty-trained at home on quiet afternoons does not mean he/she can
make it through the excitement of a church picnic without an
accident. The child is not wrong, the parental expectations and
demands are wrong. If your toddler misbehaves, acts inappropriately
or regresses, then try to imagine that his or her underdeveloped
mental muscles have worked to failure. Lower your expectations…even
R.E.P.A.I.R.: Learn how to R.E.P.A.I.R. the self-discipline
mental muscle of your child. Gently take him somewhere quiet to Rest,
Elevate him into your arms, Protect him from more
stimulation, smile and give him Affection, speak to him
slowly in a pleasant voice with Information that helps him to
know you still love him and that he is fine, then a little Rubdown
while you hug. Just let the busy world go on without both of you for
a little while. Slowly sway with his head on your shoulder, as your
child’s body processes millions of bits of new information that
allows his fried nerve endings to relax and recuperate. Only then,
can you reasonably demand more from someone who gives to the best of
his or her ability and with all that a little heart muscle can.
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