We have all heard about the Terrible Twos and how they can make us believe that aliens abducted our calm and angelic baby and left us a body double who is constantly screaming, crying, pushing boundaries, testing our patience and generally making us wonder why we thought having children would bee such a great idea. But in today's society these tantrum ages seem to be expanding into the terrible threes, fours, fives, even sixes. ARGH!
I was hoping that the terrible twos were an urban myth, but then they hit, and they hit hard. With toddler tantrums that could make you wan to run and pretend ‘that child’ wasn’t yours, it was everything I had heard horror stories about, and more. Oh well, parenting is all about upgrading your parenting skills as you need to, I decided to figure out a way for dealing with these tantrums in a way that would benefit me and my child.
These are my top 7 secrets to handle Toddler Tantrums :
1) Anticipate the moments you hate (thought I would try to rhyme to make this less intimidating)
You know your child. There are always some preliminary cues when a meltdown is about to happen. Maybe you had to skip nap time, your child ate candy for breakfast, it is way past her bed time or when you are in that toy store which your boy wants what he wants and let’s everyone know it. Ignoring the hints, do not make the meltdown not happen.
2) Divert your squirt (okay you can see I am getting desperate with these rhymes)
When you see the signs like a whimper, being antsy and acting all tense-try to distract the child and divert her attention. “Oh look there is a beautiful bird on the ledge” or if it’s a boy “Oh look there is a dead bird on the ground.” Nothing works all the time, but diversion is always worth a try.
3) Don’t hesitate to make them wait (you gotta admit, this is not bad)
Children must learn to “delay gratification”. Children who learn to delay gratification make better grades, get better jobs, have more successful relationships and are eventually better parents. THIS is so important. Many parents do not want their children to have to “suffer”. Teaching your children to delay gratification is NOT suffering; it is one of the most important developmental gifts you will ever give them. Don’t debate – teach them to wait.
4) Staying cool is a brilliant tool (not bad. I kinda like this one)
If the child has already gone into the full-blown tantrum mode it is impossible to try and reason with him. There is no way that a child wants to understand, even if they could, which I believe those little terrorizing creatures are definitely smart enough to understand. What they understand is the rule, “He who yells the loudest get their way,” Hmm . . . except that me yelling back really didn’t work that well.
This is the time to put on your calmest voice and empathize. “I know you are feeling bad, (sad, mad, out of control, manipulative), okay, they might not understand the word manipulative, but they have the concept pat, believe me”.
You can attempt to love and understand their way out of a tantrum with questions like, “Are you feeling tired or hungry?” or “Would you like to cuddle? My fellow shrinks tell me that asking questions that have a definite Yes or No answer gives children a feeling of control that toddlers like, especially when they feel they don’t have much control over their surroundings, i.e. Are not getting their way! Also, it is very important that you remain calm as children feed off the energies of their parents and if they feel that their parents aren’t in control of the situation, it will deteriorate further. Why wouldn’t they. They know they have us on a ledge. Why not go ahead and push us off?
5) Ignore or they’ll be MORE – (yep, like this one too.)
Use your best “I’m serious” warning tone once, when you see an impending tantrum. If the child still doesn’t stop, ignore him completely. Till the episode blows over just ignore the fact that he is screaming his lungs out. When the child feels that his/her actions are not getting him the attention he /she desired, they will stop repeating the actions sooner or later. (Sadly, most of the time it’s later.)
Do not give into a tantrum just because the whole store is looking at you and rolling their eyes. When all else fails, take the child home. I am not sure who this is the most punishment for, you or your child, but it removes you from those nasty onlookers’ stares.
6) Follow Through and Do, What you saying you’re going to (love this rhyme)
Don’t threaten- DO. Instead of warning with statements like “If you don’t stop screaming I am going to take away your toys till you show a better behavior”, just take the toys and explain calmly that children who are in control of their tempers enjoy toys in your home. Don’t chicken out once you are out of the public eye. You must prove to your children that you will do what you say you’ll do – EVERY TIME – just like you promise, because there is nothing more important to you, than keeping your promises to those you love.
7) Don’t get shook, this is not the Whole Book (he he, good right?)
Above all, understand that this is just another developmental stage where toddlers are exploring their power and trying to assert their independence. Don’t get shook, this is not the whole book. It is just a chapter in what will be an amazing life story that you and your child will be writing the first half together.
Terrible two’s do not last forever, thank goodness. But don’t worry, there will be lots of other stages to challenge your sanity.
As always I would love to hear your comments about this and let me know if you use some other method to tackle toddler tantrums which has proven effective. _______________________________________________________________________________________
In 2008 Dawn was selected by Oprah Magazine and The White House project as one of 80 emerging women leaders in the nation.
Dawn is the CEO and Founder of The Heart Link Women’s Network, with locations in US, Canada and Australia. She is also the architect of the Primary Colors Personality Test and Insight Tools, founder of OverJOYed Life and creator of the Happiness Curriculum. She also serves as executive director of the Executive Training Resort in Arizona.