Yesterday, my two year stomped upstairs, slammed his bedroom door, and let out several high pitched screams, just to ensure we would know he was upset (in case the door slam wasn’t a loud enough clue). I can’t now recall what lit his fuse, although it could have been something as simple as choosing the wrong color plate on which to serve his lunch hour PB&J.
They don’t call it the terrible twos for no reason, and yet there are days when I wonder if I’m actually parenting a pubescent teenager. There are mood swings aplenty in our casa these days. Most of the time, it’s comical, but occasionally, it’s more emotionally trying. Does this sound all too familiar? Is your toddler, also, starting to assert her independence with a vengeance? Somedays at inopportune moments that leave you embarrassed and frustrated? If so, today’s post is for you! Here are a few tips and tricks to try when a tantrum strikes:
- Remain calm. I know, I know. This one’s easier said than done, when you’re in a grocery store and your little one is writhing on the floor begging for a Hershey bar. But it’s probably the most important piece of advice I can offer. Staying calm can help keep a meltdown situation from escalating into something even more emotionally charged.
- Whenever possible, remove yourself from the scene of the crime and ignore the bad behavior. Any attention you give your toddler during a meltdown, even negative attention, is putting her in the driver’s seat of the situation.
- Pick your battles and save, “No,” for the important ones. To me, the important battles are ones involving the safety of my child or others. On the other hand, I can live with him wearing his clothes backwards to the park, if it’s that important for him to make a personal fashion statement.
- Distraction is a powerful tool. Try to change the focus to something else entirely. It doesn’t always work, but it’s always worth a try. “Hey, look at this toy!” “Let’s sing a song!” “Are you ready for a snack?”
- Learn this phrase: “Use your words.” So many times a tantrum is simply a child trying to communicate wants or needs, and feeling frustration when they can’t figure out how to do so. Get down on your child’s level when you sense she is growing upset and try this phrase out. Sometimes, it may take a few tries to interpret her toddler-ese, but just seeing that you’re trying to understand will often help stop a tantrum in its tracks.
- Try to give your child as much independence as possible, within a framework that you can be happy with. A great way to do this is to offer choices between two outcomes of your choosing. It works wonders, and you can literally do this all day long. “Would you like oatmeal or scrambled eggs for breakfast?” “Would you like to wear your tennis shoes or your sandals today?” “Would you like to leave the park now or in five minutes?”
- Follow through with any threats. If you tell a child they’re going to have a consequence, and you never follow through, you have lost all credibility in that department. You have essentially told your child, “I don’t want you to do that, but I’m not going to do anything about it if you do.” And that is a scary thing to tell a child. They will roll with it, my friends, and the results won’t be pretty. Be really careful when you choose a consequence. It has to be one that you can actually enforce.
- Praise good behavior with a shower of enthusiasm. Let your little one know that you notice when he makes good choices, and even when he just tries to do so. If you think your child is old enough to grasp the concept, you may even want to try a positive behavior reward system—earning marbles in a jar, stickers on a chart, etc. toward a fun outing or prize.
On the bad days, remind yourself that this, too, shall pass! And don’t forget to record some of the best meltdowns for future blackmail . . . I mean the benefit of future posterity.