I always thought I’d be better off as a boy mom. Little girls have big emotions, and that intimidated me.
My husband comes from a family of all boys, so I think he half expected us to have boys, too.
But God has a beautiful sense of humor.
We have two absolutely wonderful and sassy little girls.
My husband has become The Girl Dad. He loves dress shopping, playing with dolls, and if it’s purple and glittery, you can bet he’s going to pick it up for our girls.
But with little girls come BIG emotions.
Zach and I both have very high expectations for our girls, and because of that, we often struggle with giving them the space to be little and playful. We have to purposefully choose to nurture and be playful instead of demanding.
But that’s what makes a good parent.
You have to choose each day to do what’s best for your kid over doing what comes most naturally to you.
Start With Your Perspective
You may not be able to control how your daughter acts, but you can control how you act.
And how you act will guide how she learns to react to the world around her.
Until you change your perspective on how you approach your daughter, you won’t be able to effectively guide her through those big emotions.
It all starts with you, mama.
Remember how little she is
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that our children are little.
We see them grow and learn. They take on the world fearlessly.
They put their own shoes on and brush their own teeth.
They still need help climbing stairs sometimes. Grapes still need to be cut, and then cut again. They need the baby pink gorilla to sleep at night.
When your little girl is in the midst of a meltdown, take a moment to step back and remember she’s only two.
Be gentle, kind, and patient
She will learn how to handle her emotions by the way you respond to her.
Do you fly off the handle? She will, too.
Take care to model the behavior you want her to exhibit.
And keep in mind that a little kindness can go a long way for a kid.
Get Ahead of the Problem
Head off problems before they happen
Try to think ahead and anticipate problems before you have to deal with them.
I’ve found that one of the best ways for us to practice this is to use a timer to help my daughter transition from one activity to the next.
I make sure I have her attention and say something such as, “Okay, when the timer goes off we are going to turn off the TV and go eat lunch.” Nine times out of ten she says, “Okay!” and we can transition to the next activity smoothly.
If you know your child throws a fit when it’s been too long between meals or snacks, make sure you provide them with a little snack every few hours to keep their blood sugar up.
Learn how to use playful phrases to communicate with your child. Toddlers don’t understand, “Hurry up! We’re going to be late!” They do understand, “We’re on cheetah time today!” and “Walk to me like a T-Rex!”
Explain your expectations ahead of time and set boundaries
This one is such a lifesaver in our family!
When children know the rules and expectations ahead of time, it’s easier for them to behave in an acceptable way, which reduces uncertainty, undesirable behavior, and tantrums.
All you need to do to practice this tip is simply take a moment before the activity and explain how you want things to go.
For example, when I get my oldest out of her car seat, I’ll say, “I need you to stay close to me because we are in a parking lot. When we get inside, I need you to listen to me and stay close. We can look at toys today, but we are not bringing any home with us.”
I’ve found that when I take a moment to make my expectations clear, my daughter has a much easier time behaving well and doesn’t get near as upset if something doesn’t go her way.
Talk to your child like she’s a person.
She may only be two or three, but I assure you she understands more than you think.
When children have a reason beyond, “Because I said so,” they’re far more likely to obey a rule.
Does it work 100% of the time? Nope.
But I love hearing my daughter explain to me, “We can’t stand on the chair. I fall and hit my head and you’ll have to take me to the doctor.” She understands that I’m not just “being mean,” and that there’s a reason behind my rule of no standing or jumping on our (tall) dining room chairs.
I think it’s important to fudge on your own rules every now and then – that’s when memories happen.
Ice cream for dinner.
Naptime on the couch.
One last show before bedtime.
But for the most part, you need to be consistent, both with your rules and more importantly, with your consequences.
If you don’t parent your child at home, you can’t expect them to listen to you in public.
Model the way you want her to react to her emotions
Our children see us at our highs and our lows. They learn how to navigate this world and all of the big emotions they’ll face by watching you.
Be the parent you needed when you were a child.
Become a better person and gain control over your own emotions for the sake of helping your children learn how to handle theirs better.
We all mistakes. We all say something we shouldn’t say in front of our kids, and we all react to situations badly from time to time.
It’s a matter of intentionally striving to do better in order to help your kids figure these big emotions out.
Talk to her often about emotions
Talk to her about the names of them, how they make her feel, and how she can handle them.
Validate her by giving her feelings a name and helping her express them in healthy ways.
Telling a child to simply, “Stop crying,” doesn’t aide them in any way. Instead, try talking to them about what they’re feeling and help them work through it.
The Big Emotions
Take a deep breath before you react
This one act can give you the time and space you need to assess the situation and keep yourself from overreacting.
Try to figure out the root of the problem instead of just punishing
Is your child feeling overwhelmed? Scared? Hungry? Insecure?
Before you swoop in with a swat or start griping at them, take a moment to assess if there may be some other factors at play. If so, address those factors. Getting a snack in their tummy or a hug from mom might be all they really need to turn the situation around.
I’m not saying you can’t discipline your child when necessary. I’m simply saying there may be some underlying factors contributing to the bad behavior. Address the factors and you may be able to minimize the bad behavior.
For example, my daughter has terrible meltdowns when she’s hungry, so instead of getting angry with her during those times, it’s my responsibility to get some food in her tummy. It’s a simple solution to a terrible tantrum, and it’s the best way to work through that tantrum without any negativity involved.
A little compassion goes a long way.
If she needs space, allow her a few minutes before addressing the situation
Sometimes little people need a little time and space to just get their emotions out.
Even adults need that!
Allow your kiddo to have a little space every now and then to vent their emotions. There’s no need to force a confrontation every time.
Get on her level, speak softly and slowly, look into her eyes
This is key to getting a toddler to listen to you.
Toddlers often ignore their parents yelling, which drives us even crazier.
Instead of barking out demands, try getting down on her level. Look her in the eyes. Speak to her softly, slowly, and firmly. Explain why she isn’t allowed to do a certain action. Allow her time to respond to you.
Physical contact often breaks emotional barriers. A simple hug or rub on the back can communicate to your child that you are open and available, that you love them, and that you are not angry with them.
Which leads me to…
“I’m here, I love you, and I’m ready to give you a hug when you’re finished.”
Simply being available for your child during their tantrum can mean the world to them. They may be angry and throwing themselves on the floor, but your presence can help give them the security they need to work their way through their tantrum.
Offer the alternative/Give options
Giving options helps your child feel that they have a say in the situation and can give them a sense of having a small bit of control.
For example, sometimes I’ll say something such as, “You can have a turkey sandwich or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.” She may say, “No! Cupcakes!” So I’ll repeat her options to her, “No ma’am, you have two options. You can have a turkey sandwich or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
Be consistent and firm, yet still providing choices guides your children without being a dictator over them.
Follow up discipline with a hug and reconnect as quickly as possible
I always try to give a hug, reconnect, and finish explaining the why behind her getting in trouble as quickly as possible.
This helps you to quickly diffuse the situation, get back on the same page, mend their little heart, and shift your perspective. It keeps any negativity or punishment from hovering in the air and ruining the rest of the day.
Your children need you to reconnect with them as quickly as possible.
They may not understand that you’re just trying to keep them safe. All they think is Mommy is mad at me.
Don’t let that be the thought that stays on their heart all day.
We All Have Bad Days
Remember that everyone has bad days, including you.
We cannot expect our kids to be perfect. They will have bad days. They’ll be grumpy for no reason and sometimes they’ll just want to be mad.
And that’s okay.
It’s our job to guide them in the management of those big emotions and to teach them how to express their emotions in a healthy way.
What are your best tips for helping your little ones with their big emotions?