Supporting a Toddler is Hard and Worthwhile

This is what one mother of a toddler wrote, after taking a 4-week Hand in Hand class in Playlistening:

The Hand in Hand Playlistening approach is hard work! Staying fully emotionally present with a toddler for even just two hours and dealing as completely as possible with each emotional upset and frustration is exhausting. It’s obvious that my son feels better after being listened to like that, but it’s really hard to recognize and validate the tough emotional experiences these little ones go through every day.

In one day a bigger kid at Gymboree took away the big red ball that my daughter was playing with and refused to let her play with it again. A child in the park with a toy lawn mower refused to share it with her even though my daughter followed the child and mower all over the park for over fifteen minutes. The child let her touch the knobs for maybe 30 seconds, but that’s it. Then at Borders, another little kid took the train my daughter wanted to play with and ran off with it, then came back and played with it near her but would not let her touch it. Did I mention that in the middle of this day we had to wait for an hour at the pediatrician and that my daughter was infuriated by the doctor sticking lights in her nose and mouth?

I got down with her and talked with her about each of these upsets, acknowledged how she might be feeling, listened to her cry, and sat with her when she laid down and kicked her heels into the carpet at the bookstore. I told her I could see how much she wanted to play with the mower, but I have to tell you, half way through the lawn mower incident, I was about ready to cry myself. It’s heartbreaking how little children control children have, and how passionately they want what they want.

Saturday’s class made it really clear to me that would be expedient, less messy, less embarrassing and not so emotionally draining if I didn’t deal with my child’s emotions, especially since they often come so fast and furiously. Too bad my kid’s not here for my convenience or to make my life easier! 😉

Now I’m trying to see myself as her Emotional Coach. Developmentally, a lot of what she is doing now is learning about emotions. She’s practicing with them. It’s loud, it’s messy but it’s not about me, my parenting skills, or what I’m doing for or with my child at that moment. It’s just what she needs to be doing right now. She’s showing me the emotional weather that goes on inside her. When I muster the energy to meet her tough emotions head on and be there with her through the storm, it dissipates and we’re happier to be together on the other side.

I would recommend Hand in Hand classes to anyone working with babies or small children. It’s challenging work but I think it’s a bit of a revolution in dealing with emotions and it makes a lot of sense to me. I think it will make a difference in raising happier, healthier more emotionally intelligent children.

— A mother in Half Moon Bay, California

One thought on “Supporting a Toddler is Hard and Worthwhile

  1. Way to go! It is really hard and as parents we’re not always up to it — so we have to settle for the next-best thing at those times. But when we can fully meet our children right where they are, the rewards are tremendous!

    I’d like to add that people of all ages benefit from having their emotions heard — kids of all ages and adults of all ages!

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