It Takes a Village: You're Not Alone in Times of Tantrum

The sign of great parenting is not the child’s behavior. The sign of truly great parenting is the parent’s behavior.
— Andy Smithson

I see you.

Trying to be calm, cool, and collected while pushing around a wailing 3 year old who just cannot live without that $70 Star Wars Lego set. I see you fighting back tears at drop off on move-up day as your little one gets used to a new classroom, new faces, and has to be ushered into the classroom anxious and shedding some tears himself. I see you prepping your child for the big transition leaving the playground or parting from her work, mentally preparing for possible mutiny.  

What I want to say is this: your toddler’s big emotions are not a reflection of whether your child is “good” or “bad” or the kind of parent you are. Let me say it louder for the people in the back - your toddler’s big emotions are not a result of your parenting skills.

In her book The Montessori Toddler, Simone Davies explains that “What appears to be an explosive tantrum is actually saying ‘I love you so much I feel safe to release everything that I’ve been holding onto all day.’” (9) This reminder may not make you feel better in the moment, but if we approach our child’s behavior from the stance that they lack the necessary skills to regulate their body and emotions and need guidance from us as adults, as Jean Rosenberg suggests in her article “Seeing Tantrums as Distress, Not Defiance,” we are better able to swallow our embarrassment and focus on how we can support them.

Other important reminders:

  • Stay calm. When we meet frustration with exasperation or anger, we beget more of the same instead of modeling self-control and soothing behaviors we would like our child to be able to employ.

  • Hold Boundaries. It’s okay for your child to be upset, but it is not okay for them to hit, kick, or throw things. It’s up to us to remind them of these limits.

  • Acknowledge Their Feelings. When we label feelings for our child, we give them the tools to be able to more calmly express themselves the next time, hopefully avoiding an epic meltdown. Let them feel their feelings, and make sure they know you’re close by when they are ready to talk about it.

  • Continue Communicating Unconditional Love. Let your child know you don’t care what others think when they are having a hard time. It’s important for children to express their feelings, rather than bury them. They (and you) should observe them, learn from them, and move on.

  • Allow Them Time to Process. Toddlers and preschoolers need more time than us to process directions. We can avoid conflict escalation by giving a direction once, and counting to 10 before repeating, if necessary.

  • Tag Out. When we take time to take care of ourselves and recognize our stressors we are better able to show up for our child. Make sure you keep your cup filled so you are able to fill other’s.

Every child preschool age (and often into adulthood!) is learning how to deal with disappointment, frustration, anxiety, and how to feel their feelings. You are not alone. You can work with children 9 hours a day, every day of the week, read every parenting or education book on the shelf, and be a “model” Montessori parent or teacher and still find yourself perplexed about why the child in front of you is an angel one minute and a screaming banshee the next. Parenting is hard. Teaching is hard. Both require communication, sometimes funny, sometimes uncomfortable, and they require us to be a team. Next time you’re having one of those days where the answer to every question you ask is “no,” or you’re wondering if what behaviors you’re experiencing at home are typical - look around. No one is judging you. Lean on each other. Lean on your teachers. Most of us have been there and can support each other in a community of solidarity. It’s important to remember none of us has all the answers, and no one is perfect.  We are stronger together. Parenting was never meant to be done alone. It takes a village.

Pretty Smart. Pretty Kind. Pretty Funny. Pretty Strong: How to Talk to Girls to Build Confidence in Their Inner Beauty

“I want to apologize to all the women
I have called pretty
Before I’ve called them intelligent or brave
I am sorry I made it sound as though
Something as simple as what you’re born with
Is the most you have to be proud of when your

Spirit has crushed mountains
From now on I will say things like
You are resilient or you are extraordinary
Not because I don’t think you’re pretty

But because you are so much more than that.
-Rupi Kaur
 

“What a pretty dress!” “You look so beautiful!!” “Look at those perfect curls.

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How often do we dish out compliments to girls based on their appearance? I do it all the time. We mean well - we want to build up their confidence. Make them feel beautiful before they enter a world of ruthless comparison. We may do it for the right reasons, but when we overemphasize looks we unintentionally send girls the message that these are the qualities that give them worth, rather than their intelligence or leadership traits. I’m not proposing we never talk about appearance but shift our flattery at least twice as often to focus on intrinsic qualities. Let’s help girls build a quiet inner confidence that is unshakeable and unbreakable. Let’s set them up for a future of strength and self-assuredness with less need for constant, superficial approval from others.

I attended a seminar recently led by Developmental Specialist, Aileen Jackman. She started off the session by asking, “Do you remember a time when someone said something to you as a child that negatively affected you?” In a room full of women every example was related to physical appearance - no comments were related to a skill, intelligence, or abilities to accomplish something. I’m guessing this experiment would have gone differently in a room full of men.

So how do we change the conversation? How do we take the focus away from looks while still ensuring girls grow up confident?

  • Focus on effort and process-oriented praise, rather than product-oriented. Make a conscious effort to balance out compliments on your little one’s looks with twice as many compliments on what she does. Point it out when you notice she worked hard to complete a task or project or came up with a creative solution to a problem.
  • Model self-acceptance.  Our most relentless critics are almost always ourselves. Next time you go to make a comment about what you look like or how much weight you want to lose - remember who is listening. Instead of making negative comments about what you look like, talk about the healthy habits you’re focusing on, like exercising or eating fruits and vegetables. Celebrate what your body is capable of. In over-complementing our children on their appearance, we may be unintentionally communicating our own insecurities. Practice more self-compassion so the inadvertent messages you send are positive ones.
  • Encourage skills and activities that are independent of appearance. Sports are a great way to build confidence around developing a skill. If your little one is more creative and interested in playing an instrument or dreaming up stories and writing, foster that. Celebrate her unique gifts and individuality so she feels accepted for who she is, not just what she looks like.
  • Provide examples of women you admire for their spirit or strength. Read books together about women who faced adversity and prevailed or accomplished amazing things to change the world. Television and social media provide a plethora of princesses, damsels in distress, and girls whose primary concern is what they look like. It’s up to us to supply examples of the qualities we want our children to value in themselves.
  • Allow your child to solve problems on her own. We don’t get self-confidence from being told what a great little girl we are or from having others solve our problems for us. Self-esteem comes when we overcome obstacles on our own, establishing a strong sense of competence. By letting our children know we are there if they need support but are not going to solve problems for them, we send the message that we know they are capable of meeting challenges themselves and don’t need rescuing.
 
 
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The difference in the way we treat girls and boys begins at a young age. Girls are typically given dolls or encouraged to play house, while we give boys Legos and blocks to build with. According to the US department of Commerce, women filled 47% of all US jobs in 2015 but only held 24% of the science, technology, engineering, and math jobs. If we begin to be more mindful about the subtle messages we send, we can start to change the script. With more thoughtful compliments our girls will grow up less concerned with what they look like and have more time to focus on everything else they bring to the world. We don’t need to stop communicating to girls they are pretty - but rather emphasize the fact that they are so much more than that.

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Casey Hardigan was born and raised on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She moved to Atlanta in 2013 where she discovered her passion for teaching and Early Childhood Education. She received her Montessori teacher certification with the Pan American Montessori Society and began working at the Suzuki School as a preschool teacher. She is now the Assistant Director at the Suzuki School Ponce City Market campus.

The Suzuki Experience — Teacher Spotlight on Ms. Dorian Lumpkin

The Suzuki School’s number one priority is to create an environment where children can learn and grow academically, socially and emotionally. We foster leadership and responsibility among our students and encourage curiosity and independence. Of course, we wouldn’t be able to do any of this without our amazing teachers and associates. That’s why we specifically seek and hire educators who enjoy teaching young children and consider it a long-term career path. At Suzuki, our staff is passionate, encouraging, collaborative and prepared—every day—to make a difference in children’s lives and help develop their growing minds. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Extraordinary Educators.

All of our teachers are an integral part of the Suzuki team and truly make a difference in the school and their communities. We take pride in their excitement and passion for early childhood education, and their genuine interest in whole child development.

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Ms. Dorian Lumpkin is one of these essential and exceptional team members.

Ms. Lumpkin became a teacher after obtaining her Psychology degree and realizing she wanted to be a positive influence on children. She also attended a Montessori school as a child, and appreciated the learning structure and style — an appreciation that ultimately led her to us.

“Suzuki implements a comprehensive approach to Montessori in the classrooms and offers a very positive teaching and learning environment,” said Lumpkin. “They have long-term views and goals for a child’s education, and I immediately knew that was something I wanted to be a part of.”

Having been at Suzuki’s Buckhead campus for almost five years now, Ms. Lumpkin loves showing and teaching kids how to do things, even everyday tasks that we sometimes take for granted as adults.

Learning the Montessori Way.

Ms. Lumpkin starting teaching before the Montessori Teacher Education Institute opened, but jumped at the opportunity to be a member of the inaugural class. She was amazed by the training she received and the compassion she experienced. She also found it valuable that the training program incorporated the Montessori Method.

“We sat on the floor, played games, interacted with each other and learned, firsthand, the Montessori process around intentional activities and learning,” said Lumpkin. “We dug deep into activities we’d actually be using in the classroom — a learning experience I will be forever grateful for.”

A Suzuki Programs Pioneer.

And not only was Ms. Lumpkin part of the training center’s first class, she was also fundamental in getting some programs started at Suzuki.

She helped create a teacher mentorship group at the Buckhead campus to address challenges and strengthen campus-wide communications and practices. And she helped lay the groundwork for a partnership between The Suzuki School and The Atlanta Children’s Shelter, where Suzuki teachers can volunteer to teach homeless youth, encourage their engagement with everyday tools, and reinforce self-help skills.

“Children deserve a good education,” said Lumpkin. “I’m hopeful that partnering with organizations in our community will be a good way to expose children to new people and experiences, and help teach and strengthen important life lessons.”

Qualified & Professional Teachers — Year-Round.

At the Suzuki School, we help foster whole child development both inside and outside of the classroom. We want to provide parents with long-term results by cultivating independence and self-directed learning early on. And we’re committed to hiring the best talent and offering opportunities for education and training to do just that.

Interested in joining us? Schedule a tour or contact us today.