What Having A Toddler Has Taught Me About Community Engagement And Communications

I am the proud parent of an (almost) two year-old girl. She is without question the apple of my eye and every day I marvel at just how much I love being with her. The smiles, the hugs, the new words every day and just the sense of wonder that this little person looks at the world with has truly changed my life for the better.

But before you go thinking, oh geez he is about to wax lyrical about parenting let me pop the kettle on, allow me to tell you about the flipside. The flipside to being the parent of a toddler is the tantrums. As any parent, at any time, will tell you, there is nothing like a toddler tantrum to test your newfound Zen-like state. The best possible time for a tantrum too is at maximum inconvenience for you, prime examples include: just as you are about to eat, when either parent is on a work call, in very public view and my personal favourite – when you were sleeping (please note past tense).

But don’t worry you non-parents, new parents, or planning to be parents out there, it’s really not that bad. It’s just a very different world to the one you inhabited pre-kids. What the tantrums have taught me however is that so many of them boil down to one thing and that is communication.

At two, your world is ever expanding. New sights, new tastes, new sounds and you want to share them with those around you. But your communication skills haven’t quite caught up at the same pace. So when things scare you, excite you, challenge you and you want to explain why – sometimes you can’t and that is very frustrating.

I was musing the other day about engagement challenges and those moments of conflict and arrived at the same conclusion. It’s not every aspect that contributes to conflict (and IAP2 has a great one day course to understand the other aspects that contribute to conflict) but at the heart of so much conflict is down to miscommunication. So much of it is unintended consequences and one party failing to explain their point of view in a way that other parties can understand.

So back to my point – what has this taught me about communications and engagement? Well, it’s simple – anger, outrage fear can express itself with shouting and yelling in adults just like it can in toddlers. And like with toddlers, adults have every right to express themselves in that way provided there are no physical threats to others or other properties. So just like we do with toddlers, treat that expression of anger as a display of frustration and try and understand why by taking your time and really listening to what the actual issue might be.