Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Minimizing Tantrums in Toddlers

Last week, I picked Joci up from daycare. Like always, she ran across the room and gave me a ginormous hug (best part of my day). She quickly put her coat on and hollered “Bye!” to the entire room like she always does and headed for the door. Only problem was that she was holding on to one of her classmate’s shoe. I wrestled the shoe away from her and she was not happy about it. As far as she was concerned, it was coming home with us. So when I took it away from her, she arched her back, pitched herself on the floor, and dramatically rolled around while whimpering.

I see this several times an hour.

Joci’s daycare teachers saw this and stood there slack-jawed. “We’ve never seen her do that before.”

Lucky me. She saves it for home.

If I really could prevent my one year old from throwing tantrums, I would be mom of the year. Of the decade. I’d probably get a Nobel prize and a million dollars. I haven’t been able to eliminate tantrums from my daughter’s and my life. But I’ve tried. And I think I’ve discovered a few things that help minimize them. And I thought I’d share.

  • Duct tape
  • Sound proof walls
  • Nylon rope
 Totally kidding. Please don’t call social services.

Seriously, though, here are some things I have learned.

  1. Give her some undivided attention. My daughter has been away from me all day. She wants to be with me when we get home. When I get home, I am often consumed with what I need to do—I want to start dinner immediately, go to the bathroom, and do some cleaning, maybe laundry, and those kinds of things. Joci would get very clingy and moody during all this flurry of activity. I’ve learned that she often needs just twenty minutes of Mom and Joci time right when we get home. I even go to the bathroom at daycare before I get her so we can just be totally inseparable for a little while. It helps.
  2. Tell her what I want her to do. I read a child psychology study that suggested that young toddlers visualize what you are telling them. When you say, “Don’t touch the Christmas tree,” they envision themselves touching the Christmas tree. Don’t is an abstract concept and they can’t really visualize it. Anyway, because they are picturing touching the Christmas tree, they are more likely to do it. Which totally explains why kids do the exact opposite of what you say, right? So I’ve started to ask her to do an alternative activity instead of telling her not to do something. Instead of telling her not to touch the Christmas tree, I’ll instruct her to play the piano or find Daddy or point to her belly. This tactic really helps. I’m beginning to think there’s something behind all that psychobabble research.
  3. Give her permission. Kids don’t have much control over their world, and they try to exert control where they can. Kids like to push their parents’ buttons. It makes them feel in control and slightly giddy that they can control adults like marionettes on strings. (I can remember too well the joy I had when I could finally make my mother lose it, throw a shoe at me, and call me an unpleasant name—it was hilarious.) I give Joci permission to throw tantrums. When she starts one, I tell her it’s okay. She can kick and scream all she needs to and I’ll just be over here when she’s done. It kind of takes the fun out of it when it’s allowed, right?
  4. Give her a heads up. My toddler understands more than I think she does. This goes back to the whole "children want a feeling of control in their world" thing. I found that tantrums would ensue when I would take something away or change an activity without giving any warning. So I started to explain myself. I felt silly at first - I didn't really think a 1 1/2 year old would get what I was saying. But it really did help. Instead of just picking her up and taking her to the bathroom to brush her teeth, I told her that as soon as we were done reading the story, we were going to brush her teeth. Giving her a little notice and explaining what was going to happen to her really seemed to help. I wouldn't like not knowing what in the world was going to happen in my life. No wonder she was throwing tantrums!
So take these tips for what they are worth - the amazing discoveries of an insufficient mother. :)


Beckie said...

OOh thanks for the advise- i need all I can get!

Michelle said...

Good ideas :) My Mother in Law says I should stop reading parenting books, but seriously I need other people ideas!! It is always nice to hear what other Moms are having success with :)

Just Us said...

Aww, tantrums, so fun!

Frederick Family said...

Good advice and so true. My kids respond much better when I give them warning. I heard it compared to an adult reading a book and someone walks over and slams it shut and tells them they have to do something else. We would be angry if the book was shut before we could finish the sentence or chapter or whatever. But, if we were told, "you need to be done in the next 5minutes, find a good stopping place." then we would feel okay about changing activities. Live and learn eah??

Melissa said...

great advice! Just something for you to think about for the future... "123 Magic" It is an amazing "discipline" technique that works wonders. It is recommended for kids 2-teen. When we started it, Kara was 3 and she responded the best and quickest to it. I bought the book on Amazon for under $10


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