Author: Aisha Al Hajjar
HUMAN nature is full of emotions and feelings. The incidence of negative feelings begins very early in life. Typically, by the time our children are eighteen months to two years, they begin to view their situations with enough life experience to develop anger and other unfavorable emotions. Without verbal skills, their only coping mechanisms are physical. This is why temper tantrums and difficult behaviors are considered synonymous with the “terrible twos.”
Obviously, as a mother, I long for my child to be counted amongst the ones who are able to effectively express their emotions in an appropriate manner. In fact, the only thing worse than being notified by your child’s care provider that he or she has been bitten, is being notified that your child is the one who has bitten another!
So why is it that some children soar through this stage of development with no signs of “terrible” while others are really difficult to deal with? In fact, upon observation, you will find that some young children experience “terrific twos” with no sign of tantrums or acting out at all, masha’Allah.
Obviously some children are better at others in controlling difficult emotions, such as anger or frustration. You will find one child hitting, biting, or having a temper tantrum, while the next expresses himself with verbal articulation and age appropriate reasoning and negotiation skills.
We must first consider underlying issues that stem from their family role models with emotions. If older siblings or parents erupt or resort to physical acts in anger, what else could you expect the young child to do? While modeling may be the most important, there is more to it than this.
Beyond modeling, the key is to start early with verbal training. For example, if my one year old is frustrated because she wants something she cannot have, I take a moment to key into the situation and label the feeling. I tell her the name of her feeling so that she can begin to associate the feelings with words she will later be able to use to articulate for herself.
Negative feelings that we should really watch for include:
You must begin with observing their behaviors and reactions to situations. For example, when I see my child reacting and acting out from these emotions, I must take a moment to break the chain of reaction by interacting with him or her. I take time to make a point to say something to them about it.
For example, when my three year old is upset because his time with a particular toy has ended and he begins to make an ugly face, cry, stomp off, or hit his sibling, I will stop him to discuss it. First I come to his eye level while holding his hands in mine and tell him,
“Faris, this is important. I know you are angry because you can no longer play with the truck. It’s okay to be angry. But it is not okay to hit. Are you feeling angry?”
Typically he will respond affirmatively. This helps him identify his feelings and move on. It’s important to let the child know that it’s okay to have feelings, but not to act out. Being able to associate words with feelings, as well as being reassured that having the feeling is okay, lends comfort to the child. At the same time they gain the important lesson that acting out of negative emotions is unacceptable.
In doing so we are taking an important step in training our children upon the Islamic deen.
Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said,
“The person who is strong is not strong because he can knock people down. The person who is strong is the one who controls himself when he is angry.” [Bukhari]
There is much wisdom in this hadeeth. Take the time to observe and interact with your children around emotions from a very early age. If they are old enough to act out of emotions, they are old enough to begin learning to articulate themselves and to control themselves in these situations. It takes a little effort on your part, but is well worth the investment!
….Where Practice Makes Perfect
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