Emotions and learning are like oil and water…they don’t mix! That’s why the moment when your toddler is struggling to escape the car seat is not the best time to give him a lecture about deaths on the highway. Even adults become more unreasonable and illogical when we’re upset.

So, it should be no surprise that your toddler can’t hear you until the tidal wave of his emotions starts to subside. When your child enters caveman mode, energetically acknowledge his dismay, and then, once he calms a bit, you can try to distract him, reassure him, or solve the problem.

Here are some other things you might do and say after the storm has passed when it becomes your turn:

  • Be physical. Offer a hug, tousle his hair, put a hand on his shoulder, or just sit quietly together.
  • Whisper. Whispering is a fun way to change the subject and reconnect.
  • Give options. “We can’t have soda, but how about some yummy milk?”
  • Explain your point of view…briefly. Save important lessons for a calm time, later on, when he can pay better attention.
  • Teach how to express feelings. “Make a face to show me see how sad you are,” or “When I’m mad, I stomp my feet, like this…” (Here’s more on how to teach your toddler to express their emotions.)
  • Talk about how emotions feel, physically. “You were so mad, I bet you felt like your blood was boiling!” or “When I’m scared, my heart goes boom boom like a drum.”
  • Grant your child’s wish…in fantasy. (This is one of my favourites.) “I wish I could vroom up all the rain and we could go outside and play right now!”
  • Give a “you-I” message. Once the dust settles and it’s your turn to talk, very briefly share your feelings using a “you-I” sentence to help your toddler learn to understand the feelings of others: “When you kick Mummy, I feel mad!” or “When you call me ‘stupid,’ I feel very sad inside.”

View more posts tagged, behaviour & development

Have questions about a Happiest Baby product? Our consultants would be happy to help! Submit your questions here.

Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.