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preparing for the storm: 7 ways to batten down the hatches before a tantrum hits

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the mommyhood memos: preparing for the storm: 7 ways to batten down the hatches before a tantrum hits

Thursday, March 24, 2011

preparing for the storm: 7 ways to batten down the hatches before a tantrum hits

Tantrums and toddlerhood go together like sunscreen and sand... creating one frustrating, sticky mess. And although they are a normal part of your child’s development as he learns independence, it doesn’t mean they are easy to deal with. Tantrums can cause even a grown woman to overheat, blow steam from her nostrils, or be reduced to tears.

Navigating through the storm of toddler tantrums is certainly not one of the glamorous aspects of motherhood, but it is a necessary one.

As challenging as it is, I’m learning that tantrums don’t have to rule the roost. Here are some ways to avert toddler tantrums before they form into full scale disasters:

1.     Know and respect your child’s threshold, personality, and temperament. Some children are able to cope with more stimulation and activity than others. For example, if you have a very shy child and have already been to a playgroup in the morning, it’s probably best not to also attempt swimming lessons in the afternoon. If your toddler is easily over-stimulated, limit your errands to a few hours and then wind down with a quieter activity like a walk around the neighborhood. Keeping your child's personality and temperament in mind is not only a way to give them the respect they deserve, but it also aides in avoiding unnecessary melt-downs.

2.     Give warning of what’s ahead. Most adults don’t appreciate being interrupted, so why does it surprise us when our kids react poorly to our demands, especially when they are immersed in something they are enjoying? When possible, give a simple warning of what’s ahead. Example: “It’s almost nap time. Two more minutes and then we will pick up the toys and go read a story.” (Obviously this becomes more and more effective the older a toddler is.)

3.     Be preemptive. If you know that your toddler will want to grab at things in the grocery store, give her a snack or a special toy before her behavior goes awry, not in the midst of your battle. Also, when you can, time your outings to not interfere with meal times and naptimes. (Even adults have much less threshold for frustrations when we are tired or hungry!)

4.     Give your child choices, but not so many that it overwhelms them. Giving your child a choice helps foster his sense of independence, while allowing you to still maintain boundaries around his options. Example: “We have to get some groceries and go to the post office. Would you like to go to the grocery store first or the post office?”

5.     Use independence to your advantage. Example: “Your diaper needs to be changed now. Let’s go to your room. Would you like to walk there yourself like a big girl or shall I pick you up and carry you?”

6.     Make sure your child knows the ground rules. This one goes for older toddlers a little bit more than younger ones, but even very young toddlers understand much more than we often think they do. As they’re able to understand, communicate your expectations with them as you go out or go someplace new. Example: “We’re going to the toy store to get special present for Jack’s birthday, but we aren’t getting any new toys for you today. Would you like to help pick out Jack's present?” Or “We’re going to the library today. Do you remember what voice we use in the library? We use our best quiet voice! When you use your best quiet voice mommy will let you pick out some new stories to read.”

7.     Affirm good behavior on a regular basis. Instead of saying “good boy” or “good girl” when your child is well-behaved or obedient (which inadvertently makes them believe that being “good” is only a behavioral issue and is based on your approval), say things like: "good sharing" or “good listening” or “you made a good choice” or “thank you for being obedient/following instructions/etc”. (Side note: although I understand what people are intending, I hate being asked the question, “Is he a good baby/boy?” as I believe all children are “good”. It’s my belief that we need to separate the behavior from the intrinsic value of the individual and change our language accordingly!)

This post is part of a four part series:
3.  In the midst of the storm: 7 methods of coping with tantrums 
4.  The aftermath of the storm: 9 do’s and don’ts of post-tantrum follow-up 

Dear friends, have any of these aversion techniques worked for you? Do you have any that I’ve not yet tried or considered? Please share your experiences! Next we will talk about coping with tantrums when they come and then how to follow them up when they pass...

storm dodging as best i can,

adriel booker | the mommyhood memos | 2011
 do not reproduce without written permission

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At March 24, 2011 at 3:51 PM , Blogger Courtney K. said...

This is a GREAT post. I especially agree with the last part...the whole good boy/girl thing. I try to distinctly tell my son WHAT it is he is doing that's good. Sharing, helping clean up his toys, eating his meals...And you're so right. Toddlers, even young ones, understand VERY much about what we tell them!

At March 24, 2011 at 4:15 PM , Anonymous Melissa said...

thanks for sharing all your insights/experiences. We've just entered the world of tantrums (at 9 months old) but so far they are pretty mild. These tips will be useful as we enter into toddlerhood!

At March 24, 2011 at 9:02 PM , Blogger alison said...

we give choices to my 3 year old. that seems to calm the storms most times. and we also try to give the kids a heads-up that activities are going to change or stop. right now, nothing much works on ava (18 months old) so i just try my best to distract her from whatever's making her meltdown. i am also really conscientious of what time of the day we do certain things!

At March 24, 2011 at 10:56 PM , Blogger A Little R&R said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At March 24, 2011 at 10:58 PM , Blogger A Little R&R said...

This is great stuff here. And yet I my experience in working in children's church, so few parents really understand many of these principles. I only realized the value of some of things you have written here by trial and error - poor actions sometimes result in poor reactions (another thing we have in common - lots of childcare experience in the past.). I really like the last one. Okay, so someone asks "is he a good boy?" - like you're going to say, "no, he's a naughty boy". One of those questions that needs a "sign"! I, too, like the idea of rewarding a child's good character over values they have little or no control over. Character is somewhat undervalued these days - and yet the older you grow the more necessary it becomes.

At March 25, 2011 at 12:55 AM , Blogger cooperl788 said...

This is a good post! Another tip that I use regularly is to redirect. For example, at the library yesterday, Georgia started to get really angry about having to share a toy with another little kid there. I quickly stepped in and suggested another activity that she loves, and she went on her merry way with the toy forgotten.
Sometimes all that's needed to redirect is a quick comment to her about what's coming up, and crisis is averted!

At March 25, 2011 at 5:11 AM , Blogger The Empress said...

What a good friend you are to all young moms out there!!!

At March 25, 2011 at 5:49 AM , Blogger Katherine said...

Have you heard of "love and logic"? I have read and re-read it since entering the toddler/preschool stage and I think it's got some great ideas! One being choices-- like you said. Give two choices that you are okay with. Provide as many choices as you can (without going crazy with it!) and then know that it's okay to not give a choice as well. When I've been conscious of giving Ramsey choices, I feel like I've sort of built up a reserve with her where she feels listened to and valued, and I also know I can "pull rank" as mommy as well.

Long comment- I hope that made sense:) Love this series. My one year old is starting tantrums in full force, so I need a little support and some good ideas!

At March 25, 2011 at 6:07 AM , Blogger Nessa said...

This is all great advice! We are just hitting the tantrum stage, but one of the things I have quickly learned is to listen to my daughter. If she starts getting grumpy - I need to think about changing something. Sometimes, just changing the scenery makes a world of difference.

At March 25, 2011 at 7:37 AM , Blogger adriel, from the mommyhood memos said...

Yes!!! In my next post I talk about distracting (but I like your term re-directing!). I wasn't sure if it would be in preparing for the storm or once the storm hits... so I put it in the "once the storm hits" post - right at the beginning!!! I'm really thankful for how well that one works for the little ones. No doubt they will wise up soon and not be as easily fooled into being sidetracked! :) Enjoy it while it lasts, right??! Hopefully by the time they're a little older they will have more of a grip on their emotions anyway. Hopefully!!

No, I haven't heard of that book. I like the title though. And yes, I your comment makes sense and I agree! I totally agree with you that giving a couple (2-3) choices is so effective, and yet I am still the parent and still need to maintain the ability to "pull rank" when it's needed!! (As it frequently is!:) Like you said, I do think that's easier to do when you've been deliberate about making your child feel listened to and valued and respected.

Oh, that's such a good point! Listening. How could I have forgotten that? This is why we need comments! :) Thanks Nessa!!

At March 25, 2011 at 4:56 PM , Blogger Colleen said...

Wise points!


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