From time to time we’ll have a parent chime in as a guest blogger. Below are thoughts from Liz Hartman, the mom of a 2-year-old boy (plus another on the way!). She lives in upstate New York and does consulting for small businesses and community outreach work.
Five Things I Do Every Day to Defuse and Prevent Toddler Tantrums
As an active stay-at-home parent of a 2 year old, I spend a lot of time around children. People I know often wistfully acknowledge how mellow and even-tempered my son is. He rarely tantrums and, when he does, the tantrums are typically over in less than a minute. My friends are right, I am extremely lucky to have a son who inherited his father’s even temperament. However, I also give credit to the following strategies and habits I’ve adopted over time. I really believe they work because when I stray from them, my toddler’s Zen-like attitude can fly right out the window!
1. Always carry plenty of snacks. When children are hungry, it’s much more difficult to cope with life’s little frustrations. I always make sure to have plenty of healthy snacks when I leave home. Often, when my son is having trouble keeping it together, I’ll realize it’s been a while since he last ate. Offering a little snack is usually just what he needs to get back on track.
2. Respect naptime. We’ve all seen children start to fall apart when they get overtired. Although the occasional late bedtime or missed nap is unavoidable, I find that life is much easier when I stick to a regular sleep schedule and plan errands and outings around naptime.
3. Acknowledge feelings and avoid distraction. I remember the times well when my son was a little baby and it was so easy to handle distress by distracting him. After he turned about a year old though, those formerly fail safe methods often frustrated him even more! Now when he’s upset because he can’t have what he wants, I do the opposite. I acknowledge his feelings by naming them and talking to him about them. If he wants to keep playing instead of napping, I’ll tell him I agree it would be great if he could play all day and never stop. I tell him I hear that he doesn’t want to stop what he’s doing. Often, just feeling like he’s been heard is all he needs to cope with something upsetting or frustrating.
4. Give limited choices. I try to remember that from when my son wakes up until he goes to sleep, so much of his life is out of his control. Whenever possible, I give him a choice between two things – does he want to wear the red shirt or blue? Eat his banana whole or cut into pieces? Have his diaper changed now or when he’s done playing with his cars? In the same vein, I’ve taken great care to move breakables and other hazards out of reach so that I don’t have to tell my son “no” frequently throughout the day.
5. Be predictable and proactive. Keeping to a somewhat regular schedule helps my son know what to expect. For us, that typically means getting dressed, breakfast, some kind of outing in the morning and snack, lunch, naptime, an afternoon outing or playtime, dinner, time with Daddy and then bedtime. I tell him in advance about things we’re going to do and am especially careful to warn him ahead of time when we have a transition coming up. If I notice he’s struggling at any point in his daily routine, I’ll take a few minutes to connect over a story or sing a song together to help him get back on track. This proactive approach helps to defuse any potentially bigger struggles before they take hold.
No matter what, all children will have their good and bad moments. But, I’ve found the good vastly outnumber the bad when I stick to these tried and true tips!