Saturday, August 31, 2013

Wonderful Two's and How to Avoid Tantrums



I never thought I would be asking this. How do you deal with and avoid tantrums with your strong willed toddler? I need your tips! You see, Baby E was an easy toddler. When she turned two I kept wondering what everyone was talking about when they referred to the 'terrible two's'. I was like "Huh?"

With Baby T I now have the privilege of knowing exactly what they meant. My first was stubborn too, still is. But this boy, this adorable boy! He is Mt. Vesuvius if something doesn't go his way. Explosive! 

I tiptoe around picking my battles all day with him simply because listening to screams and tantrums non-stop isn't my idea of great parenting. I think we just need to be more clever. Harsh discipline doesn't work on him. He is sensitive just as much as he is stubborn. Plus it just seems silly to punish a two year old for behavior he doesn't yet know how to control, with his molars coming in on top of that. 

Need an illustration? This morning as he was still asleep and I'm working up in the attic, I saw him wake on the baby monitor and went to nurse him back to sleep, it was still early. He was laying horizontally across the bed, but in order to move him I needed to take the covers off him and cover him again. The moment I touch the sheet he starts screaming that I'm uncovering him because in his mind, of course, he thinks I'm about to get him out of bed. So I just moved him quick, covered him, nursed him, and he was fine. But it's not always that easy. 

Like when we are in public and he wants to drag around my scarf in the dirt. Or when he thinks all the toys belong to him at the library. When he wants, no needs, something specific that very moment because that is the world to him. It's harder when it feels like the whole world is staring at you. 

I have found a few specific things that work for his stubborn nature, but I hope you can offer some advice as well! 

Timing: It is everything with toddlers! Two seconds and you're too late in preventing a tantrum. When you learn their behavior patterns, you can quickly assess when you need to step in with an intervention before a meltdown, especially when you're in public. At home, you have more opportunity to stand your ground or just let them understand you will not be bending over backwards for whatever it is they want. 

Favorites: I take a mental note of the things Baby T really, really loves: tractors, trucks, airplanes, butterflies, the moon, pencils, etc. When I know he is about to break down - something that's a favorite of his is almost a sure way to get his attention. "You want to look at the truck book with mommy?!" or "Let's go look at the butterflies!" Doesn't always work, but often does.  

Distractions: Favorites are used to distract, but you can also do something random. If I know he will scream and bend backwards when I take that pointy stick out of his hand, I just exclaim "Look at that fly, look a fly!" right as I'm taking the stick away. He is paying attention to something else now and is less likely to notice I took something away. 

Blah blah blah: Sometimes all I need to do is ramble on about nothing to get him to listen to my voice, trying to make sense of what I'm saying, and he forgets whatever he was about to get very upset over. It can be complete non-sense, or something interesting like "Did you know daddy drove the car to work today? Is it a big car or a small car? Do you know what color it is? Silver, that's right! Let's go see if the car is outside or not..." 

Learn the triggers: We have a few. I know it will be a bad day if he had too much screen time (no TV here, but we do have YouTube). I know if he is hungry I can't reason with him. Too much sugar and junk? Yep, meltdown. Too close to nap time, new teeth coming in. Sometimes things we can control and other times not so much. For teething, the two things that work for us are teething tablets and pods - helps to keep related tantrums to a minimum. 

Be silly! Kids love when their parents are silly! When all else fails I do this sometimes. Make funny noises, do a funny dance, do something odd, always gets their attention! Okay, you will not see me doing this in public, but at home I don't care :) Then ask them to join in, they'll forget whatever it was that was going to send them in a downward spiral.

Nurse: When all fails, nursing works like a charm. Okay, sometimes before even trying anything else, because it is a sure way to distract him and knowing he will not nurse forever - it's something we both cherish, he just doesn't know that. Honestly, I don't know how moms who wean early get through toddlerhood without nursing, that must make it a lot harder! 

I can't think of everything now, but anyway. I need more tricks up my sleeve, so

what works for you and your strong willed, stubborn, Mt. Vesuvius child?  




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14 comments:

  1. My daughter is 2 1/2, and I've noticed that when she spends the day with my MIL, she comes home and acts terrible. She acts that way for the next couple of weeks, until I can get manners and such re-taught to her. It's crazy. And talk about tantrums. Last night, she was in the bath, and she cried/screamed because I washed her face. Then she cried/screamed because I had to rinse her hair. I wish it were as easy like in the show "Dinosaurs" when the baby turned two, and he was a demon. So the family just had another cake and told him that he was now three. Then poof, he was an angel child again.

    If you come up with something really really good to deal, please let me know. :D

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    1. I noticed my kids in general behave worse after they've been around other children without my supervision. Thankfully it doesn't happen often, I'm always with them, but it takes a week to re-teach them proper manners and behavior!
      I do have the perspective of my almost 5 year old, she is so grown up, so easy to talk to and explain things to. I'm definitely looking forward to that! :) Meanwhile just trying the best I can. I'll let you know if I find something that works!

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  2. I found that when my daughters were 2 they were very frustrated because they wanted to do things for themselves, but their little bodies couldn't do it. I would try to get them to help me with little things that they were able to do, and most of the time it worked, but sometimes there is no reasoning with a tantrum 2 year old. But I can say that they aren't 2 forever, and time does fly by, I now have a 18 and 16 year olds, it went so quick, just hang in there:)

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    1. Oh yes, that's definitely another positive way to engage them. 'Washing' dishes (unbreakable ones) always calms my 2 year old. Time does fly :) Seems like my almost 5 year old was just born!
      Thank you for your comment Jaime!

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  3. Thanks for the tips. I only have a 1.5 yr old but he can definitely scream when he doesn't get his way. So far his tantrums don't last that long but ill need lots if ideas for the future!

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  4. My 19 month old just got her 4 back molars / started throwing horrible tantrums, so I feel your pain! I'm really excited to try some of the tips above to see if they help! She is super stubborn as well, and I think she knows what she is doing most of the time but wants to see if she can get away with acting up (when I scold her for going up the stairs without me right behind her she just looks at me with a crazy grin and has this horrible evil laugh... I have a feeling I'm in for a lot of trouble as she keeps getting older!

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    1. I knew I'm not alone ;) I think it's a mix of them finally understanding that they have some control over what they can make us do and moments when they are simply irritated by the pain and don't know how to control themselves. I just want to get through this phase without cultivating his stubbornness, I try to avoid situations where he has a chance to just say 'no!' over and over, balanced by being sensitive to his needs. Not easy for sure!

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  5. I think you have to be careful about balancing "Not cultivating the stuburness" and breaking their spirit. Being stubborn is another side of knowing what you want and being a leader. I learned that from my now 9 year old who used to be like that at 2 y o. Congratulations, you have a natural leader on your hands. I found that ignoring worked for me, because tantrums are also cry for attention. And most of the time a result of being tired, hungry or overstimulated. In fact most toddlers have these qualities, but not all hold on to them until adulthood due to excessive discipline which results in typical teenage insecurities.

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    1. Yes, I completely agree! I do see this quality as a positive for him down the road and right now it's just a tough phase that I know we'll get over soon. Some moments I like his stubbornness and that he does always know exactly what he wants. He is starting to crave my attention more, though for the most part he is pretty independent when it comes to play (especially when his big sister doesn't bother him). Thanks for sharing your perspective as mom of a child who used to be a stubborn toddler :)

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  6. Every toddler is different. I find tantrums are usually because they are tired, hungry and sometimes attention. My little one is 19 month , so usually, If it's hunger or thirst we try breastfeeding, water or a snack. Then i move to distraction or redirection. If not, then we cuddle and hug. Sometimes, it's not practical for example if you are out in public,- but then I try to sit down and nurse or tell him I know he is upset.

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    1. Yep, nursing is usually the easiest way out for us, but I do use distraction a lot and it works most times - doesn't work if he is already mid-tantrum though :)

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  7. I wish I could offer some advice. My 3.5 year old still throws a fit when she doesn't get her way. I honestly could deal with the "terrible twos". It seemed she would throw a fit and be done. Now they just last longer. :/ I have a 18 month old and she seems to be picking up on her sisters bad habits. I hate to blame my oldest but I don't think my baby would drop to the ground and cry when she didn't get something if she didn't see it on a regular basis. My youngest just recently weaned so I can't offer to nurse her anymore. :( Her tantrums last a few seconds and she's done but my oldest is so stubborn she will kick and scream when you try to distract her from whatever the issue is. I have tried everything at this point. I am now going to try something totally different and hoping I can get some positive feedback. I have made a small chore chart and we are going to make a teacher style discipline chart ( I guess you would call it that). Something visual for her to see. I am hoping for some positive feedback from this anyway. I will probably even make a pocket size one for when we are out and about. :)

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! My almost 5 year old also had really bad tantrums at 3/3.5 and even at 4. It's a lot better now that she is older, but now instead of tantrums I get 'whining fits' from her lol! :) It's always something. Thankfully I'm still nursing my almost 2 year old, it's a good distraction. He has gotten a little better over the last month because he became a lot more verbal recently, he can finally say things and we get it, he loves that. Would be interesting to hear how the chart will be working for you!
      Thank you for the comment!

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