Tickets for Toddlers

For a brief moment last week I literally wanted to throw a fit like a toddler.  I think I would have been very convincing and fairly entertaining – but I held it together and chose to “act my age”.

What happened?

Well – our friendly law enforcement found a tricky little side road to hide in, behind the trees, and caught me coasting down a hill, singing away to Klove and NOT paying attention to my speed.

I went through all the emotions when I saw his dumb little radar gun and his smug little cop car (sense the resentment yet?)

First I was scared, I snapped out of my singing stupor and slammed on my brakes. Then I felt like a deflated balloon as he pulled in behind me. When his lights went on I just wanted to cry. Getting caught is no fun.

So I put on a happy face, I had my licence and insurance card ready to go – all the while hoping that being a studious, prepared driver he might show me mercy and only give me a warning.

I was surprised to see my hands shaking as I handed him my information and heard him ask, “Do you know why I pulled you over?”

That’s when the sarcastic, bull-headed toddler tried to raise its ugly head. I wanted to answer: “Because you went to the alma mater that frames my licence plate?”… but alas, I just looked at him.

He answered his own question, gave me my ticket and I had to blink back the tears.

I was sad.  I was angry with myself. The thought of spending money on a ticket because I wasn’t paying attention made my stomach turn. Did I mention this is my FIRST TICKET EVER!!

Let me be clear on one point: I respect, appreciate and truly admire our law enforcement. They do so much to protect us and help our community.  I know the officer didn’t enjoy giving me a ticket – he was just doing his job.

So here’s my “take-away” from this little incident:

The next time I scold my little one and they completely overreact I’m going to remember all the emotions that filled my experience with the police officer.

The difference between me and a toddler is that I have a filter. I know which emotions are and are not appropriate to display when reacting to a situation. I’m an adult, I’ve grown up…toddlers, children, teens?  Well, not so much.

They feel all the same emotions (barring the times when they are throwing a fit simply to get their way or get your attention) when they get “caught”.

You have to use your own judgement, you are the expert when it comes to your child’s personality and tolerance, but I think we can all agree on one thing: kids can struggle to understand what they are feeling and how to deal with those emotions.

So here are some Dos and Don’ts when it comes to defusing and disseminating our child’s emotional responses:

DON’T get sucked into their drama…you are the parent, take a deep breath and react with purpose, not passion

DON’T ask your child why they are crying…if they knew why they were crying they would also articulate the cure to what ails them

DON’T expect them to learn the first time…children need consistency, repetition and guidance to manage all the emotions they are experiencing.

Now for the Do’s:

DO help them name their emotion…even before children can speak they can feel and they need us to help them identify what they are feeling. When my children would begin throwing a fit I’d take them into another room and look them in the eye while saying, “You are frustrated. So frustrated. Sad, sad boy”.  By the time I was done with my almost nonsensical statement my boy would stop crying and look at me with wonder in his eyes as if to say, “How’d you know!?”

DO require them to communicate with you minus the emotional flare…My favorite phrase to use when dealing with emotional toddlers, school-age kids and teens is: “I’ll be happy to help you as soon as you’re ready to use your words”.  You see I’m controlling what I am willing to do – I can’t control them.  If it takes a child 5 or 15 minutes to calm down enough to talk things through that’s fine – I’ll wait. My calm demeanor is like a wet towel on the emotional fire that is burning within them.

DO listen…it sounds simple, but sometimes it’s easy to dismiss what our children are feeling – especially when we are enjoying time with our other mommy friends. The conversations and fellowship I enjoy at playgroup are precious – but no one expects us to brush our kids aside because this is the only window of time where we will be able to interact with adults.  Leave your conversation, listen to your child and validate the fact that her feelings are important and real and you care.

DO ask questions they can answer….asking “Why did you hit your brother” is like asking the family pet why it had an accident on the carpet…they don’t know, they just did. The WHY isn’t important – it’s the fact that hitting isn’t an option no matter what happens. Whether a toy was taken or a mean word was said, focus on the response to the emotion and the feeling that occurred.  Instead of “why”, ask “what”.  “What happened over there?”, “What were you trying to do?”, “What can Mommy do to help you?”

DO hold them accountable…depending on their age and the issue, we need to teach our children that using their emotions to manipulate a situation is never acceptable. It’s okay to have feelings, it’s okay to become angry and frustrated, it’s even okay to cry. Helping our kids apologize, or reenact the entire scenario is a great way to help them get a second shot at responding to the situation and dealing with their feelings in an appropriate way.

When the cop pulled me over I felt lots of different emotions and had quite a few choice phrases running through my head, but the truth is – I was speeding. I broke the law and well, he was there to remind me of that.

We can’t give our kids tickets, but we can be the police now when the stakes are less and the risk is smaller. One day our kids will have to deal with the “real” police of this world and if they don’t know how to handle their emotions they could wind up with more than just a ticket.

Would you leave a comment detailing a situation you’ve dealt with and how you handled things?  Or perhaps you have an emotional issue that is proving very difficult…leave your question here and we’ll all try to answer it for you.

Your questions and comments help so many of our readers find support and connection.

You are wonderful!

Kasey (your speed-limit-obeying friend)

**** The picture at the beginning of this post isn’t a stock photo – nope, it’s me looking in my rear-view mirror at the cop…I couldn’t resist! :o)  ******

2 Responses to “Tickets for Toddlers”

  1. 1 Matt November 29, 2011 at 10:50 PM

    Well. I guess you couldnt say “I don’t know” when he asked you if you know the speed limit 😉

  2. 2 Lindsey Bell November 29, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing:)

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