Thursday, May 12, 2011

Toddler tantrums

My daughter is only 15 months old and has already mastered the tantrum. I'm not quite sure how to handle these, as she doesn't really understand consequences yet. I'm mostly going by the say-no-then-redirect-attention method for now. Due to its timeliness, I was interested in a CNN article titled "Why toddlers throw temper tantrums." Along with providing some science behind tantrums (young kids have underdeveloped prefrontal cortexes, the part of the brain that regulates emotion and controls social behavior), the article gave some good advice for how to handle them. Here are the cliff notes on how to handle two types of tantrums:

1. When your kid is looking for attention or a tangible item (toy, food, etc.): Ignore the response and control your own emotional composure (I know--easier said than done). When you comfort a child in the middle of a tantrum, you reinforce the behavior. Instead, say 'I'm sorry you're upset. When you calm down, I'll give you a hug and we can talk about what happened.'" This way, you offer support and sympathy while still showing your tot how to regulate his emotions. 

2. When you kid doesn't want to do what you want him to do (clean up, go to bed, , etc): Ignoring him or giving him a time-out gives him what he wants (a way out of doing the task). Instead, tell your kid that if he doesn't do the task (say, putting a jacket on) in five seconds, you're going to put your hands on his and do it together. The author writes, "If your tiny rebel makes no move after the five seconds are up, take his hands in yours and gently force the coat on. If your child begins to slap or bite you, continue putting the coat on and then put him in time-out (or take away a privilege, if that's your standard discipline tactic). That way, your child sees he still has to wear the coat (so his protests were ineffective) and now has an additional consequence for his unacceptable behavior."

What do you moms out there think? Are these effective tactics? What else has worked (or not worked) for you?


MamaQ said...

Mayumi was never much for temper tantrums but last Christmas she had a doozie while we were out shopping. We were in the kids' section of Barnes and Noble and she had the most horrible fit I've ever seen ANY child have. I was at a total loss and the only think I could think of was to remove her from the situation as quickly as possible (what started the tantrum was my demand that she share the train set with the other kids who were there). My arms were full of parcels and bags and she was just screaming and convulsing and removing to move. WIth great effort I carried her out of the store but then she refused to put on her coat and it was freezing cold outside. Finally I just started walking the few blocks to the parking garage and she followed behind me, screaming and coat-less. It was such a relief to get her into the car - she fell asleep on the drive home and it became clear to me that she had just been overwhelmed and exhausted. But it was one of the worst mommy moments of my life - it is so hard to handle a child in that situation!

MammaMaria said...

Great post. I think these tactics seem to make sense. Yet I still cant imagine using them with my 14 mo son. I don't think we are quite there yet developmentally. He is not quite a fit thrower yet but the tactics if used from the beginning i can see as being helpful. it is hard when he goes straight to a scream when he is trying to "ask" for something- he uses no words yet. I agree with MammaQ about these fits stemming from the children being overwhelmed, exhausted, or maybe feeling as though they aren't being seen. But it is totally human to experience now and then- sometimes we moms have to get stuff done, right?! That is a challenge of the wonderful job of motherhood, balancing the needs of our children and ourselves so we all grow? As the children get older