Playtimes April 2014 - page 49

explained, and dealt with fairly easily,
by giving more rest time or getting a
medical check, says Cynthia.
Age milestones may also be a
trigger for foul play. The “terrible
twos” are notoriously difficult and,
unfortunately, often extend into the
“troublesome threes”. This age is all
about pushing limits, for discovering
what Mum means when she says
the word “no”, says Dr Amanda
Oswalt, director of childhood and
family therapy with the Jadis Blurton
Family Development Center. Lacking
the language to tell you how they
feel, toddlers resort to physical
interpretation. “They don’t know how
to say, ‘I’m grumpy,’ and so they act
in a way that elicits the same response
from their parents,” Amanda says.
After the toddler years, tweens
from seven to ten can also pose
problems. This age group is beginning
to extend from the family into the
outer world. Discovering that the
world doesn’t revolve around them
can be a huge blow to their ego, says
Amanda. Girls might internalise
anxiety and become withdrawn,
while boys can display anger and
Yet, it can be confusing and
frustrating for parents to hear about
their angel children when facing
battles with them at home. Yvonne
Wong sought the help of a family
relations counsellor after witnessing
her daughter, now three, cry and
throw tantrums in her care after being
the model of good behaviour with her
grandmother. “My husband and I
were very worried that we had spoiled
her,” explains Yvonne.
The couple found reassurance
from their counsellor, who explained
that under her grandmother’s
more authoritarian discipline style,
which doesn’t allow acting out or
crying, her daughter’s behaviour at
home signalled feelings of security,
“because she knows our love for her is
unconditional, we love her no matter
what”, says Yvonne, who practises
positive parenting. “Our consultant
gave us a pat on the shoulders and
told us we have done a very good
job giving her an emotionally secure
environment,” she says.
Experts believe that “bad”
behaviour at home can be the
ultimate expression of love. That a
child feels comfortable enough to
show sadness, frustration or anger at
home, says Amanda Oswalt, is a sure
sign that he or she has trust in their
parents and the comfort they can
provide. “It’s true, they do save the
worst for their parents because they
know you love them. It’s a compliment
What can you do?
The safety of the home base can be
used to evaluate issues. Discuss an
incident when children are calm,
supplying language about what they
might have felt or experienced. If
children can articulate how they
feel, they may be less likely to lash
out. “Help them name feelings or
problems. You could say
something like, ‘That
homework seemed really
difficult this time. How
can we make it better next
time? Could we treat it like
a game?’” offers Amanda.
Within any age group,
she suggests setting clear
boundaries and not giving
attention when the child
is acting up. Sometimes
differences in expectation,
consequences and discipline
between caregivers causes
children to act out as they
seek to find out where
boundaries exist for them.
Children constantly test who
has the most authority in a
household, says Amanda,
who also worked as a nanny
for high-profile parents,
including Madonna. Often
children discover that they
are the primary power-
They don’t know
how to say, ʻI’m
grumpy,’ and so
they act in a way
that elicits the
same response
from their
April 2014
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