Two Words to Calm Tantrums

by | January 2018 | Communication, Signing, Toddlers

In the past I have talked about how toddler tantrums can stem from the requirement to have one or more of four immediate needs met – the need to eat, drink, sleep or receive comfort – and how this has been reported to be the trigger for up to 90% of tantrums for small people.  I’ve also talked about how toddlers who receive a response and have these needs met, can move onto higher level learning, engaging their interests elsewhere.

At this stage even more frustration can manifest itself as a lack of vocabulary to explain concepts or objects that are required right now (!) to you become apparent.  A toddlers understanding is 6 months ahead of their ability to express themselves – I cannot begin to imagine what a hugely frustrating and overwhelming time this must be for our small people.

I have found two simple words that calming the storm of upset and miscommunication:

‘Show me’….

 It wasn’t until I was delivering some training for Early Years professionals at one of my regular Twilight Sessions that I realised that this was a piece of information that everyone would find so helpful in gaining understanding of our little ones. And it can be applied to older babies, toddlers and older children too. All young children struggle with vocabulary and frequently get upset and frustrated when they can’t explain their ideas or needs adequately. 

“Babysigning is not a passing fad, or trend, but rather the most precious of gifts to your child, starting in babyhood, that lasts a lifetime.”

When you see your baby or young child becoming upset, ask (and sign) if you can HELP. Wait for your child to respond. If they become agitated or upset again, simply say, ‘Show me’. My experience, with my own three children and from the wonderful feedback we have from classes, is has been that a small child will calm down almost immediately upon hearing these words.

Younger babies can be carried on a hip and will generally gesticulate in the direction that they need your attention.

Babies who are on the move will crawl in the direction that you are needed.

Toddlers will eagerly grasp your hand and drag – yes, drag! – you to where they feel they need help.

But the calm descends first.  Your child has your attention. You have recognised the need for help and responded appropriately.

Once your child has shown you what it is that they want or need – a drink from the kitchen, a train that has got stuck, a cat on the windowsill – you can use this opportunity to show your little one the sign and use the correct words to describe what they are seeing.  It also helps you to understand your child’s higher level learning; what motivates and interests them which has two benefits.

  1. for pre-verbal children, you have given them the ability to communicate for themselves, without distress, in the future.
  2. for children who are acquiring language, you are giving them the gift of the right words.

For those who worry about toddler’s speech development, I would like to reassure that that signing is always replaced by speech once a child feels confident with the spoken word. 

From time to time your little one may use the sign as well as the word, to reinforce an important point for emphasis or to make it very clear that they require a need to be met – and very particularly if they are feeling unwell, or tired.  This shows us the longevity of signing and how it has a huge, lasting, impact on providing key ways for children to communicate. 

Babysigning is not a passing fad, or trend, but rather the most precious of gifts to your child, starting in babyhood, that lasts a lifetime.

But in the meantime…

‘Show me’

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