Saturday, February 9, 2013

Taming the Toddler Temper Tantrum

Have you ever been so full of emotion that you have no idea what to do? Have you ever felt so completely helpless like nothing you do is ever right? Have you ever wanted something that you are just not allowed to have and you have no idea why?

Life can be a very difficult thing to live. Nothing seems fair, there are rules and rules for rules. Sometime you never find out about the rules until you have broken them. People have expectations that many times seem way beyond you reach. You just want to enjoy life, you just want to have a little fun, you just really want what that other person has!

Welcome to life as toddler. You have a ton of things going on in your world that sometimes they can be overwhelming. You are often not allowed to do something that you want to. "NO" in many cases is a word you hear usually more then your own name. Life is hard, you can walk now and get to so many places but everything is challenging and new. You want to climb and explore, you want to see what all is in those mysterious cupboard that mommy always opens. That toys, you want to know why that kids likes it so much, so you take it.

But so very often you are not allowed to do. People yell words at you like " NO","not yours!", "danger", "owie" and many other such things that are supposed to stop you in the act. Often though the lure of what you are trying to do is much more powerful then the desire to listen to the big people. Sometimes you just want to do what you want to do. You are tried of being stopped and you want to see just what are they going to do about it? Sure they are bigger but how are they really going to stop you?

Now that is the big question. How are you going to stop this little person and what are you going to do about the temper tantrum that follows?

That is the dilemma of every parent, dealing with a child who has does something wrong, or at least what we are seeing as wrong. What do you really do though? You know forcing them to stop will likely start the temper tantrum, but leaving them might not be an option.

First thing first you have to figure out if this is really as big of an issue as you are making of it. You need to tame your temper tantrum first. That knee jerk reaction where you just want to yell and pull the child quickly away is most likely an adult temper tantrum. You are angry about something. If you want your child to learn to control their emotions you need to lead by example. This is challenging and we all mess up but that is why it is a learning experience, don't be to proud to say you are sorry for your reactions.

Now that you have dealt with your personal reaction what are you going to do about the child. First you need to gauge whether or not this is a danger that must be stopped immediately or could this be spun and turned into a learning experience? Could you leave this allowing your child to feel empowered?

If it is dangerous clearly you are going to need to remove your child from the situation. Climbing something that could fall and seriously hurt them. Running into traffic, trying to insert themselves into the hot oven or even helping with the dishes by grabbing the biggest knife possible. BUT freaking out and yelling and jumping up and down or hitting the child is not going to help them learn. You need to remain calm. Big reactions get big responses. A big response is not going to stop or prevent a temper tantrum and help the child to learn what the problem is.

Now some people will argue that a sharp shout or a quick swat, teaches kids that that is dangerous and scary. Sure it could be the likeliness is they are going to learn that when they do that YOU are now scary. I would like to hope that your desire as a parent is not to frighten your child into submission. If it is I feel very sad for your child.

But what do you do, what can you do?  First you can talk to your child. Simple and concisely, tell them exactly what the problem is. Not a five minute lecture, with small children you have 10-30 seconds to get their attention or they will find something else that will interest them.

Now with young child you may feel like you are talking till you are blue in the face. If you feel like that you are talking to much. Simple short statements. " Not yours" "gentle touches" " put it back" Short simple instructions can help save your sanity.

Now sometimes the child simply wont listen to you. We run into this a lot in the toddler years. This little person will stare you down almost challenging you to make them. Now what? I like to use counting. I explain to them that I will count to 5 and if they have not done what I have asked I will help them get it done. The trick is to remain calm, don't frighten your child into do what they need to do. If by the time I reach 5 if it has been done I take the child gently and fulfill the request. their hands will do the work but I will be a guide to get it done. I try not to yell or freak out.  It is not always easy but it can be much more effective if I'm not over reacting to what they are doing.

Now when goes from defiance to a full on melt down, I work at being present for my children most of the time when they are feeling big emotions. They  may needs to scream kick and yell but I will usually be there for them. I will though not allow them to hurt me. If their anger is being physical towards me I will simply state the their action is hurting me and move away. If they move to continue I will move myself away and if need be separate  There is no shame in an adult time out. If you are feeling the need to lash out and hurt your child you need to remove yourself. Still remember to talk to your child and let them know what you are doing. Tell them that they are hurting you and you need a few moments away from them. They will likley follow you, as they are needing a connection from you, but boundaries do need to be set. Which is why I suggest telling them what you are doing. * now please not this may not be available to you if you are out, but find some way that you can give yourself a calm down mode. Even if it mean abandoning your half full cart in the middle of shopping. going to your car and placing the child inside and you outside maybe be what you need to do*

Try to remember to avoid common trigger, hunger and sleepiness. with keeping these needs addressed you can avoid many many melt downs.

Love is important, love is not conditional on good behavior. Love should always be 100% unconditional  The statement. " I love you but...." should be wiped from your vocabulary. There should never be a condition on the love you have for your child. Your child does not rule you, nor do you rule your child. You are equals but you are given the privilege of rearing this individual. You are a guide in a big scary world, you are supposed to be the safe place that they can return to when the world rears it's big ugly head.

Toddler temper tantrums are not fun for anyone. They are a big giant over load of information into a little brain that doesn't know how to process them. We have the same feeling as adults but many of us have been given the tools to learn how to deal with the big stuff. Look at the tantrum as a teaching moment. While it may be driving you crazy, and you just want them to listen to you, remember they are still young. They don't come programmed, you have to teach inspire and guide your child.

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