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Toddler Talk Tuesday: Torpedo That Tantrum

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One of the most useful skills I have picked up as a parent is becoming an expert at anticipation. Anticipation is all about heading off disaster at the path. Example: diaper blowout at the mall...no problemo! You always carry an extra set of clothes! See what I mean?

Preparation is the mother of anticipation. Like all good mothers, you have to see into the future and have eyes on the back of your head because you have to be ready for when the unexpected strikes. Except you were expecting it, and you planned accordingly!

This skill is supremely helpful when dealing with temper tantrums. Toddlers are to tantrums what was Jimmy Hendrix was to music art: prolific and loud. You can prevent many tantrums if you learn to recognize your toddler's triggers and you can nip a tantrum in the bud with some handy tricks.

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I've noticed the three main causes if tantrums are boredom, tiredness, and frustration. Some tips to avoid these situations:
  • Provide toddler with meaningful tasks. Marlie gets bored easily when I am cooking/cleaning in the kitchen. She has her own helper station to keep her occupied. I give her vegetables to wash and utensils to put away. She has her own spray bottle to clean off and set her table. I keep her busy and she stays calm.
  • Make sure toddler is getting enough rest. I know a tantrum is not far off when Marlie wakes up too early or doesn't take a nap. I have become the sleep enforcer. If she wakes up at 5 am, I put that baby back to sleep!
  • Give toddler tools to communicate. Many times Marlie gets upset when she is trying to tell me something that I am misinterpreting. Teaching her sign language has kept these tantrums to a minimum.
Sometimes a tantrum happens despite our best efforts. In these cases, I have these tricks up my sleeve:
  • The art of misdirection. Say, for example, Marlie doesn't want to leave the park and is throwing a hissy fit. I tell her that the dog is hungry and we have to go home to feed him. I take the focus off what she can no longer do (play at the park) and redirect her attention to something else she loves to do.
  • Try a little attention. Sometimes Marlie is in a temper because she is feeling neglected. In this case, and only in this case, I will pick her up and hug her. She usually calms down in 5 minutes.
  • Do the thing you want them to do. You ask your toddler to a) pick up her toys b) eat his vegetables c) got to bed. "I don't want to!" is the response you get in between the screaming and flip-flopping on the floor. One evening Marlie refused to brush her teeth before bed. I calmly picked up my toothbrush and started brushing my teeth. A few seconds later she was reaching for her own toothbrush.
  • Ignore it. When the tantrum has reached radioactive meltdown proportions, it's time to walk away. This one is hard for me to do. Sometimes I want to negotiate, bribe, lecture, or throw my own tantrum. But I have learned to walk away. I calmly tell the diva that we can talk after she's calmed down then I go into another room and do something else. She finds me and when she has worked it out of her system.
What about you? What works for you when dealing with toddler tantrums?


Emily - faliLV said...

Hi! Great Post
I started a meme just shy of a year ago called Toddler Talk Thursdays. Co-hosted with Crazy about My Baybah and Sippy Cup Mom - we choose a weekly topic to share advice/seek help/or share what seems to work for our toddlers. Also sometimes just to brag! :)

I would love if you would join in. It goes up every Wednesday night - stays open all week to link up. You can even suggest topics and when your topic is picked - your blog is featured.

You should like up with us.

Toddler Talk Thursdays.

Anonymous said...

I am a big fan of the walk away. My daughters meltdowns go nuclear when that flame is fanned and I am realizing that her diva needs go away in about 1 minute when she realizes her audience has left. Sign language is great for babies so kudos to you on teaching Marlie at a young age. Sadly, some moms think their kids don't get it at a young age but they do.

My best, Lynn

Mama Up! said...

Love these tips!

Unfortunately, when the Babby is deep in a tantrum, ignoring her until she's done is pretty much all you can do. Trying a hug is a recipe for getting kicked (unintentionally, of course, but still)!

I hate doing it, but it can sometimes feel like any kind of attention during a tantrum just makes things worse :(

Help! Mama Remote... said...

Well Mama, I think you have it all under control! You are so right! Keeping them occupied while cooking is so important. I either let my daughter do an art project or she's my assistant in the kitchen.

Kim said...

Great tips. I definitely don't have as much a handle on Deaglan's tantrums these days as I used to before Naveen came along. These days three year old tantrums sometimes get the best of me.

Anonymous said...

As you saw at the mall I'm really good at ignoring Jasmines tantrums. I don't give her any energy and she gets over it. If I entertain the tantrums she keeps up with the fuss.

Anonymous said...

I have three main tools for dealing with my son's tantrums - ignoring them (or giving him "blank-face"), hugging it out, and nursing. The tool varies with the context of the tantrum and sometimes I use them in combination.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing your tools and showing that there is more than one way to deal with a tantrum depending on the situation

lgothard said...

I agree with your comments on this topic. There are too many parents that want to get angry and punish their child without thinking first about what the child is going through. Adults get angry and have bad days..kids do too!!

An Ordinary Housewife said...

Some of these I already try. I will have to try some of the others. My daughter is just a little behind yours. And of course having a new baby isn't helping matters (well he is 2 months now)

charychild said...

If we're at home when my daughter is throwing a tantrum, I'll ask her to draw a picture of what she's upset about. If this doesn't work right away, I'll start drawing first. Then she gets really involved in "correcting" my drawing!

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