We've had our hands full lately, and I'm not talking about all the fun Autumn festivities! As Toddler Heels hits 22-months, she's been as feisty and opinionated as ever. One second she is a complete angel, making silly faces and giving me sweet kisses. The next, she is on the floor crying her head off like it's the end of the world. Things that used to be enjoyable, like meals and baths, have become incredibly trying. Sometimes her tantrums have no rhyme or reason, making it impossible to give her what she wants even if we want to. Some days I can't help but wonder, is this going to be my life for the next year or two? If so, Lord help me.
The world of Toddler-dom, like all things parenthood... are filled with its share of highs and lows. And thank god for those high's because they keep me going when the lows seem to know no end.
These are some of the tactics we've been using to get us through these terrible tantrums:
1. Redirecting - This used to work really well when she was younger, but its since become less and less effective. Lately, it has been increasingly more difficult to redirect because she remembers what she really wants and doesn't lose focus very easily. This leads me to...
2. Ignoring - This works pretty well for us because she doesn't like to be ignored. It's probably more painful for us as parents. Sometimes I just want to give in to what she wants, but in my heart of hearts I know it will only make things worse. Once I make a decision about something, I make sure to follow through or else I feel I'm sending her the wrong message (the message being, if I cry hard enough I will eventually get what I want). It is so painful to sit through her tantrums. I often sit and close my eyes until it's over. Today, after I put her down after a a 30-minute bedtime tantrum... I laid in bed and cried. It hurt so much knowing I put her in so much sorrow - of course I want to give her what she wants and make her happy... it would be so easy to give in, but it's not always what's best for her. I keep telling myself that it will get better, and that I will eventually get the hang of this.
3. Time-outs - We first tried time-outs when she was younger (around 14-months), but she didn't get it at the time and would think of it as a game. She would laugh and come back to me, reaching up for a hug (and of course, how could I resist that?). So we waited. We started implementing time-outs more seriously starting at 20-months. After the first time, she knew that if she acted inappropriately, she would have to "sit." Most of the time, she will know to put herself in time out! For example, she will slap herself (and/or me) when she's really upset. I will say, "do you want time-out?", and she will immediately respond with, "sit." The general rule of thumb is to put them in one minute of time-out for every year of age. Although Toddler Heels is almost two, the max time we've put her in time-out thus far has been 1-minute. I don't always go the full minute because she usually calms down pretty quickly in time-out and will say, "sowee sowee." When my baby girl says, "sowee" with her puppy eyes... how can I not just scoop her right up? I give her a hug and kiss on the cheek, then we go about our day with a clean slate. I don't necessarily think of time-outs as punishment, but as a way for my toddler to calm down and gather her emotions for a little bit.
There is one tactic I've found to be tremendously helpful in preventing melt-downs, and that is to communicate what is coming next well before I transition her out of her current task. For example, she LOVES watching nursery rhymes on Youtube before she goes to bed. We will watch several videos, then a few minutes before I plan to put her to bed, I will say, "Okay, ONE more time and then it's time to brush teeth and sleepy time." When the time comes for me to pull her away, she already knows what's happening and starts waving, "bye bye" to the screen and all is well in the High Heels household.
Sometimes she'll say, "more more"... but I always say, "Mommy already said one more time, remember? You can have more tomorrow," and I'm usually able to pull her away with minimal fighting.
I try to stick with whatever I say the first time; "one more time" does not mean two or three more times. Toddlers don't understand the concept of time or how long a minute is yet, so I try to find creative ways to communicate how much longer she has before I whisk her away to the next activity.
I am by no means a discipline expert, and this is one stage I have been deathly afraid of. Being the disciplinarian doesn't come naturally for me, and I did not have very good models of discipline while growing up (but I think I turned out ok, so it reassures me that we don't have to be perfect to raise perfectly capable adults!). As a result, I've been doing what I do best when I need answers - reading and more reading. 1-2-3 Magic, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers, The Happiest Toddler on the Block, Boundaries with Kids, Setting Limits with your Strong-willed Child, SOS Help for Parents, and Raising Great Kids are all in my home library right now.
What was your experience like with tantrums and the terrible two's? Any tips for this newbie Toddler mama?
Toddler Tantrums part 10 of 121. How to prevent tantrums: A guide to the 5 triggers and 2 stressors that cause tantrums by Mr. Bee
2. The Power of Timeouts by Mr. Bee
3. The Case Against Timeouts by Mr. Bee
4. Three Ways to say "no" to your kids by Mr. Bee
5. From Devil to Angel: "Tina's No" by mrs. wagon
6. What Shamu Taught Me About Happy Toddlers by Mr. Bee
7. The Best Parenting Book I've Ever Read by Mr. Bee
8. Cracking the code on toddler tantrums by Mrs. Jacks
9. What would Ellie do? Managing tantrums. by Mrs. Jacks
10. The Trenches of Toddler-Dom by Mrs. High Heels
11. The Nurtured Heart Approach: Disciplining for Greatness by Mrs. Twine
12. Diagnosing Tantrums and Behavioral Problems for 3-4 Year Olds by Mrs. Bee