While your child’s behavior can sometimes drive you batty, you may be surprised to learn that their frustrating actions are actually good for their emotional health.
From temper tantrums to whiny kids, we reveal six annoying things kids do that are actually good for them.
Having temper tantrums
Parenting can be challenging, especially when your youngster is boiling over — and usually with witnesses. “After ignored attempts to call my 3-year-old to come back from wandering down our small suburban street, I scooped her up to bring her back home,” explained mother of two Amy L. of California. “Immediately she started having a huge tantrum and screaming, ‘no, Mommy, don’t hit me!’ All the neighbors were out and I was mortified!” But, before you get sucked into your child’s meltdown, award-winning psychotherapist and author Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T. urges you to keep your cool for the sake of your child’s emotional health. “When toddlers have meltdowns, they’re expressing their anger at injustices and violations. The best thing parents can do is to allow the child do it — safely. Anger, sadness and fear will quickly pass, and calm will be naturally restored.”
While dealing with kids’ tears that come easily can be tiring, “In reality, tears are very healing,” explains Bijou. “Research shows that crying almost immediately reduces the level of stress hormones in the body. Crying allows kids to resolve and self-heal their physical, emotional and psychological hurts and losses.” And mother of three Anita F. of California has witnessed a few tears herself. “My daughter went through a biting phase when she was 2-1/2 years old or so and would cry when she was reprimanded. But, one time when she bit her brother, she came crying to me and said, ‘Mom I just ate Dillon up and now I’m going to go on time out’ and sat on her time-out stool. I couldn’t help but laugh!”
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Katie S. of California loves being the one to calm her little one’s fears, but what if your youngster is faking the fright? “One night at 4 a.m. I saw my daughter on the floor next to her crib and thought she fell out. I put her back in the crib and left the room. In the monitor, I saw her climb right out like she’d been doing it for years! She did this about five times before I stayed in her room and told her to climb out. She started to and stopped halfway acting like she couldn’t and she was scared. She didn’t know I had seen her do it multiple times on the monitor.” However, for genuine fears, Bijou advises that you validate their fear. “Fear is normal and healthy. Letting kids express their fear helps them stay present, rather than feeling anxious, overwhelmed and ashamed of being weak.”
When my own son was little, getting him to get going in the morning took a lot of effort, which usually meant getting him up a lot earlier than I wanted to. But Bijou clarifies to parents that dawdling is just a part of growing up. “Children have to learn how family schedules operate and how to gain mastery over new skills — and that takes time. Moving like molasses can also be a child’s way of expressing his or her discomfort with transitions.” Giving him extra time, Bijou explains, “will honor his individuality and help him adjust at his own pace.”
‘No’ may be every child’s favorite word to say — and a parent’s least favorite word to hear — especially in public. Sheri C., mother of two from California reveals, “When my son was 2 years old, he wanted a piece of bubble gum out of the vending machine and I told him ‘no.’ To my surprise, he ran and tried to tackle my legs, and shouted, ‘You can’t tell me no!’ I immediately picked him up, exited the store, put him in the car and drove straight home.” However, “When a child stomps his feet and yells ‘No, I won’t do it!’ he’s expressing a spontaneous emotion,” educates Bijou. “It’s as essential that children are allowed to assert themselves as it is for adults to do this. He is telling you what emotions he needs to express in order to feel happy. Help him find a safe place at an appropriate time and let him do that.”
“When my son was a preschooler it seemed like he whined when he talked,” shared Vicki M. of Washington. “So we turned it into a funny thing where we’d say, ‘Introducing Willie D. Whiner!’ and he would run out of the room and back in and babble something nobody understood, bow and say, ‘thank you very much’ and we’d all clap. It was better to embrace the whining than to be annoyed by it.” On a daily basis, the constant negotiations from your kiddo can drive you batty, but Bijou imparts that pleading and whining are all part of learning boundaries. “What they’re doing is important. They’re learning to test limits — theirs and yours — and they’re working hard to negotiate their side and be heard. It’s important that children feel their position is taken into consideration, so listen a bit to understand and validate them.”
While these annoying things kids do can drive you to the brink of insanity, this fresh perspective on these trying moments will hopefully help you get through the tantrums and the whiny kid phase — at least until the teenage years hit.