We are in peak toddler tantrum phase at my house these days. My toddler is 2.5. He has also been going through some big changes. In the last six weeks he has potty-trained, moved into a toddler bed, and given up his pacifier.
Theoretically, I know that part of the reason for the tantrums is the lack of language skills and the lack of control over his life. Since this is child number two and I am an educator, I have some tools under my belt.
But they haven’t been working. And the behavior is driving me crazy.
What worked for child number one, is not working for child number two. Because, I am finding, even children within the same family can be very different.
What I have tried before:
- time out (which we call “take a break”)
- a 1,2,3 warning about inappropriate behavior (sort of a modified 123 magic)
- reading lots of children’s books about feelings to help develop a feelings vocabulary
- do it again- replaying the scene with more appropriate behavior.
- role playing
Occasionally, one of these strategies will work. But I have branched out and learned some tricks.
What I am trying now:
Redirection– Calling my toddler’s attention to something else sometimes works. And in a public place is a VERY helpful tool. (I want to avoid meltdowns in public at all costs.) I used to think, that I needed to address and/or get to the root cause of my children’s behavior, but I have learned that this is not always necessary.
Reflecting their feelings– When my toddler is upset, he often wants privacy. This is dramatically different from my 5 year old wo wants lots of physical and emotional support when he is upset. When my toddler is upset and I try to approach him, he says “stop it.” So I have been saying “You are mad and you want to be alone.” He says “yes,” then he walks into his room for about 5 seconds and then comes out.
Removal from stress producing situation– When my kids are fighting my toddler just won’t back down. I have to physically remove him from the room to calm him down rather than staying where we are. (I typically use this strategy after I have already tried to address the problem or to redirect without success).
Reading-This works like a charm. No matter how upset my toddler is he calms down within minutes of reading a book.
HALT– I love this acronym that I recently learned. When you child is melting down, ask your self: Is my child Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? Address the need, then address the behavior.
Self-Care-With the shift from raising one to two children, I have found that the biggest adjustment is the lack of time for self-care. With one child, I still had plenty of opportunities to be alone. (I think the fact that my first was the first grandchild definitely helped.) But with two children, I have lost track of myself a bit. The past six months or so, I have been gaining that back by prioritizing. (And not feeling guilty about it.) Taking care of me helps me to be a better mom.
The empathy link
Assisting and parenting kids through their emotional highs and lows is a daily battle, but now I feel better equipped. I know that the better they are at regulating their emotions, the more likely they will be to empathize with others in the future. Self discovery leads to understanding others more fully.
I would love to hear from you about the strategies that you are using and loving.