The plethora of literature on parenting can be overwhelming for anyone seeking to find the best approach to raising healthy children. The challenge of enforcing positive parenting strategies may not always be so simple.

However, after having worked for more than twenty years with families, children, and being a mother myself, I have come to the conclusion that it can be as simple as the big C! Yes, communication! Once you have communication, you verbalize thoughts, feelings and open pathways to problem-solving. Simple concept? Yes, but as you would probably agree, the challenge remains finding the time and opportunity for one-on-one time while juggling work, school schedules and family life. Okay, so if communication plays a key role developing and establishing connections with our children, we can move on to exploring how we transmit our words, thoughts and feelings to our children and how we decode their feelings, thought and ideas.

As parents of young children we instinctively learn to decode our child’s sounds and words before their language is fully developed. As they grow older, we enter the world of detectives… figuring out the How’s? Where’s? What’s? The When? We want to know all the details to comprehend our child’s feelings in time of crisis, sadness and confusion. For many, communicating and negotiating rules about the use of television, video gaming and internet may sometimes feel like a losing battle.

Decoding a toddler’s forms of expression can be a challenging task. As much as we remind ourselves that our child’s yelling and shrieking screams are part of their normal development, it can elicit temporary considerations of booking a last minute vacation….ALONE! I will never forget the day I was waiting in line to pay at my local pharmacy with my three-year-old daughter in tow. She wanted a candy bar and had a full blown tantrum when I replied ‘not now because it’s close to lunchtime.’ She screamed that she was hungry! I could feel my ears getting red recognizing my own internal signs of stress… people watched and stared. The pressure I felt would have been enough for me to give in, but my ears were already beaming red and my embarrassment had already reached at the level 10, so I stuck to my word. Of course, as I left the pharmacy trying to understand what I had done wrong, looking back I realized that I could have replied “Yes, I see that you are very hungry and it’s hard for you to wait.” Or I should have also added, “Once I pay for our things, we are going home…what shall we have for dessert?” To distract her and to acknowledge her feelings while engaging with her. That day I learned that I would never leave home without snacks in case she became hungry and became irritable. In other words, your child may throw a tantrum because he/she is hungry, tired, or uncomfortable. Your child may also need attention and have temper tantrums to get his/her needs heard. Tantrums can also be set off while your child is engaging in play. Frustrations of not successfully achieving a task can trigger a tantrum. Reviewing situations helps us to identify and assess potential triggers that can set off our child’s tantrum.

As parents we could guide our children and teach them to express feelings and communicate through the following activities:

  • Talking and playing at your toddler’s level, including a variety of words describing feelings.
  • Incorporating a daily routine.
  • Giving your child time to respond (refraining from over-questioning and over-playing!).
  • Singing songs.
  • Role-playing, using puppets, and yes, take out your old Halloween costumes and have a blast!
Communication skills can be improved at any age. The ability to identify our own feelings and others’ emotions are skills that contribute to our ability to manage or control our reactions to people, experiences and even ourselves. The greater our insight, the better we can react to certain situations. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to addressing tantrums. As children grow older, they develop their emotional intelligence, language skills that contribute to their ability to identify, express and eventually learn to problem-solve. Communication skills are the fundamentals of positive parenting!