Prevent Frustration Tantrums – It’s Easy

Toddlers are incredibly cute, and incredibly full on. When we have a toddler, I know I’m rarely going to be able to finish a sentence let alone a conversation; a mouthful let alone a meal; and probably as I put things away the helpful small person will be right behind me pulling them out again. Life is tough enough without frustration tantrums being thrown into the mix. But can you imagine how hard it is for the child: they can understand us, but not tell us what they need. Imagine a child  who wants some water, but can’t yet say the word properly…

Toddler, “Taaa Mumma.”

Mother, “What is it darling?”

Toddler, “Taaa Mumma.”

Mother, “Thank-you for what, love?”

Toddler, “Taaaaa!”

Mother, “I don’t understand, sweetie.”

Toddler, “TAAAA!”

And then comes the tantrum. Mother feels hopeless and may even discipline the child for bad behaviour, child is frustrated and possibly feels inadequate – LOSE-LOSE.

But there is an easy solution, and that’s to introduce baby-sign language from around 6 months (or later – just start!) – and keep at it. It doesn’t have to be formal, it can just be a family version that only you (and all other care-givers) use. I would even suggest to use no more than about six or seven signs until the child starts signing back that is (usually sometime after 12 months).  The toddler wanting a drink can then just make the sign, the parent knows exactly what is going on and presto WIN-WIN. No bad feelings. No tantrum. No stress. Logically, the child has got to feel better about themselves: they had a need and they had the ability to have that need met…giving them a greater sense of self-assurance. The parent has got to feel better about their parenting: they understood their child…giving them a greater sense of self-assurance.

As an aside, I’m not interested in the academic advantages that Baby-Sign Language supposedly gives children. If our kids want to be academic whizzes, that’s their business. I see our job as raising competent adults, and competent adults are confident communicators.

(Should you find this article useful, Koha is accepted, $1 is fine. The button is under my blog-roll. :))

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About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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6 Responses to Prevent Frustration Tantrums – It’s Easy

  1. Hear, hear,
    This simple choice can make so much difference in the life of a family. I’ve seen exactly the sort of frustration you describe with so many kids and their parents, and I always think, “If only the kid could sign!”.
    When our middle girl was toddling about, and first learning to speak, she had four or five words that were just “Buh”. I can’t imagine how much extra work we would’ve had to do just to figure out which “buh” it was, if she didn’t have a sign to go with each one. One “buh” came with a sign for her elder sister’s name, “Bella”. One “buh” came with a sign for “baby”. I’m sure you get the point.
    Now (because we have kept up with our signing) we have the added benefit of being able to “speak” to our girls from across the crowded indoor pool without yelling our brains out, too. That’s a nice perk, let me tell you.

    • kloppenmum says:

      Yes, I love that we can sign across crowded rooms to our older boys too. We have a very cool “I love you” sentence that we use a lot and they use “You drive me crazy” quite a bit too! The best is letting them know how long they have until we’re going, by holding up, say, 5 fingers. No stress. No bother. And then they actually leave when we want them too!

  2. hakea says:

    I taught my children Australian Sign Language when they were little. It is a really good skill to have and has come in handy for them. We can go to the local playland and communicate across crowded noisy spaces.

    I love your comment about the business of children being academic whizzes. One of my boys has a freaky intelligence, but his lack of social skills have scared me in the past. My mission has been to teach him empathy, care, and concern. I certainly don’t want to unleash a brilliant but cold and callous personality unto the world.

  3. gwen says:

    It’s great to hear that the baby signs have actually worked for some mamas. I’ve thought about it, and I love the idea of teaching my baby a few signs, but I wonder if it’s too late to start? He’s 9 months old already. And my hands always seem full. Seems like it would be difficult to sign if my hands are never free.

    • kloppenmum says:

      Hi Gwen,
      Nine months would be a perfect age to start. I think our older ones were about that age when we began with them, it takes a few months, so we started with two or three – then once they use those it’s easy to teach new signs. Perhaps you could grow another set of arms? 😉

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