Thursday, October 08, 2009

In the Moment

This is actually not a tantrum- this is Margaret being tired. She was playing with my buttons and then decided to lie down and rest. "Hey, Mom, I need breastmilk and a nap!"

I've talked about lifestyle and nutrition choices, but despite our best efforts, we can't avoid tantrums and struggles 100% of the time. What do we do?

Here's my basic frustration recipe: get down on the ground with her, offer a hug or breast or distract her in another way. "Oh! Look over there! Blocks!" If I start playing with the blocks she'll usually come to play with me.

Sometimes that doesn't work, so I usually just stay with her until she feels better. I'll get down to her level and wait and offer to hold or nurse her if she'd like. Sometimes she wants something right away, and sometimes she wants it a few moments later. That happens when she's really tired: her body is just not working at its best and needs to de-stress. If it's nighttime and we're getting her ready for bed, we'll turn off the lights and McKay will hold her until she calms down. He gets to do this because he's the more patient one. We pretty much wait them out. I feel that once Margaret gets to the emotional point where tantrums occur, it's better for her to release that energy, so we hold her and stay with her until she's done telling us how upset she is.

Baby Proofing
One thing I forgot to mention as a preventative measure is baby proofing the house. If there's something she can't have, it is easiest to simply keep it in a place where she doesn't know it's there. Out of sight, out of mind. A big one for us is scissors. I use scissors a lot with knitting and she's just fascinated with them. I definitely have to keep those up out of sight to prevent frustration. If frustration can be prevented, I go with that route.

Out and About
It's harder to keep cool when I think everyone is watching me. One suggestion I've tried is preemptively leave before a tantrum. If we're at the park or at someone's house and I know she'll get to the tantrum point soon, we'll leave before that happens. This allows us to have a change of scenery and get home for a nap or snack. Also, if she does have the tantrum I predicted, I get to handle it in my own environment instead of in public or at someone's house. This makes it much easier for me to stay calm.

If I'm not able to prevent that public tantrum, I try to block out the fact that there are people around. If we're in a place where a screaming toddler isn't appropriate noise-wise, I try to move us to a better place. I also consciously remind myself, "My relationship with Margaret is more important than my relationship with these random people." It helps me focus on helping Margaret more effectively. If I'm wondering what other people are thinking about how I'm handling the tantrum, then I don't handle it well.

Non-tantrum discipline
When it comes between telling her do not do something or to do something, I try to go with the "do something" option. This means instead of "No hitting" it's "Let's be soft" with a demonstration of what "soft" is. "Don't drop all the crayons on the floor" is "Let's color!" with a demonstration of the appropriate way to use crayons. It may even be "Let's pick these up!" I know I'd go crazy if I was told all day not to do things, so I try not to do that to her. I've found almost every "No" or "Don't" can be turned around to "Do ___" "Let's ___." I very rarely say "No." It's only used for immediate safety situations when I don't have time to think, "Let's put this into a pro-active sentence." The pro-active phrasing also helps me to remember to play with her. "Let's ___" takes me away from whatever distraction I was occupied with and places me back in the moment with her which I really like. Sometimes I need that reminder and she needs the attention.

I'll spend tomorrow focusing on other mental reminders I give myself. How do you handle your toddler's stressful times?


  1. I like the strategy of turning a don't or no statment into a let's statement. Good idea :)

  2. "My relationship with Margaret is more important than my relationship with these random people."
    Excellent! I'll have to remember that!

    These discipline posts have been wonderful! Thank you!

  3. This is good, I like it. I generally don't try to stop a tantrum unless we are in public. I actually look forward to them because I know he will feel much better afterward.

    I've been so bad about putting stuff out of sight. It doesn't help that DH leaves stuff laying around like scissors, tools, and batteries. I can't even open the dishwasher without him running for the knives!

    I read that on average a toddler gets told "no" every nine minutes. Can you believe that?? Wow, I'm glad my son doesn't get told no all day long, but lately I've been slipping into it more. He's just developing so fast that it's hard for me to keep coming up with creative solutions!

  4. It's been good reading your thoughts, Heather. I'm trying to apply them to a not-so-toddler boy ;) I find one thing that helps with Will is giving him a "five-minute" warning. As in, "Ok, we're leaving in five minutes" or "In five minutes we need to start getting ready for dinner." If he has time to digest and get ready for the next thing to happen, he's a lot more understanding and willing to move on... I hope that makes sense!

    Another thing is that we're trying to teach him that there are rules and that there are consequences (good/bad) when we do/don't follow those rules. Just like God gives us commandments, or the laws of the land, that there are rules in place for us to keep us safe, happy, etc. *B


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