Friday, June 24, 2011


Oh man.  It feels SO good to be back after almost a two month hiatus.  My baby's doing great. (Thank you).  She's absolutely adorable, and I love the stinkin' daylights out of that little ball of baby cuteness.  I could (and sometimes do) spend way too much time staring at her newborn face.

The topic of this post, however, is a little less warm and cuddly and a little more frustrating.



Seriously.  My blood pressure went up a couple notches after just reading the word.  I used to think, "My angel baby will never throw a tantrum," and got a little ticked when mothers of older kids would tell me, "Just you wait."  But now I know better.  EVERY child throws tantrums.  Some sooner or later than others, but there isn't a mother alive who's gotten out of dealing with their little precious throwing a fit on the ground.

Now, experts say that a child really doesn't get the concept of "THIS action results in THIS consequence" until age 3.  Starting to realize that other people besides themselves have feelings (and are affected by these tantrums) may come even later than that.  My boy's two and a half.  So far, I'm agreeing with the experts.  No matter how many times I dish out the same consequence, the tantrums continue at about the same frequency and intensity.  Urg.

The standards responses are: 

(1) Get down at eye level and attempt to understand what's frustrating him. This sometimes works, but when he wants something that he can't have, this doesn't usually quell the cries.

(2) Ignore it.  No emotional reward, no behavior, right?  Ha.  I'm not seeing this one work so much, but maybe it will when he starts putting actions and consequences together

So, moms of younger kids...what are your views of tantrums? What sort of good stuff have you read in parenting books on how to deal with it?

And moms of older do you deal with tantrums without losing your mind?  (Sometimes, I seriously have to put my crying boy in his room to get away from the ear-splitting screaming.)  What has worked for you?  

Let's hear it moms!  Your genius advice is officially requested!



Anonymous said...

I remove them to their rooms, even less than 2 year olds. It's explained and understood (before a tantrum happens!) that screaming hurts Mommy's ears. That is not nice to hurt Mommy's ears. If you do that, you go to the bedroom until you can talk nicely. Once the screaming stops, then the timer starts for 1 minute per year of age. The timer is to give them a chance to calm down and start thinking after the fit has ended.

I like this because it teaches them that their feelings are okay, but how they are expressing them is not. I hate it when I hear my friends telling their kids, "Go to your room until you can be happy." What? Aren't you basically telling them that the only acceptable way to feel is happy, and if they aren't happy then you don't want to be around them? I feel sad sometimes, or mad, and want people to listen to me and comfort me. So I aim to communicate that it's okay to be sad or mad, but it's not okay to hurt mom's feelings and ears by screaming at her.

By putting them in their room, it deprives them of an audience and doesn't cause you to suffer. Sometimes they just need to be alone with their grumpy moment. After the time out, you give them a choice: would you like to come back and be sweet, or do you need a few more minutes? This allows them to think: can I control my behavior, or am I still grumpy and feeling out of control? Once the child has returned, praise him or her for whatever good behavior they are exhibiting (especially behaviors that are in opposition to the tantrum behaviors).

If the child is very young and cannot talk, I initially supply the words for them: "Mad! You are mad! Say Mad!" This lets them know I understand them. If the problem is that their toy got taken away, once I have their attention I can direct them to say to the other child, "Please." Usually I incorporate sign language so they have 2 ways to verbalize: vocally or with their hands. Eventually, as they acquire more words, they stop screaming and start talking.

If they are "too far gone" to recover from their tantrum and do not respond to my prompts to verbalize, then I simply remove them to their rooms.

If they are tantruming because they want something, are clearly telling you, "I want that!" then you can say emphatically, "I want to give you milk! I wish I could give you all the milk in the world! I wish I could even give you cookies with milk... but we don't have any milk right now. Let's wish for something else. (toys, sprinkler fun, bubbles, park, etc)" When you mirror their emotions and tell them how much you WANT to say yes, then they understand that you "get it." Then they are more able to listen to what you have to say when you offer an alternative choice.

Alyssa Harper said...

What good advice! i need my husband to read this. :) Whenever I take my shrieking boy to his room, my husband always asks, "Do you really think he understands why he's in his room?" Hm, probably not at this point. But I think doing what you've suggested consistently will make it easier for a toddler to catch on fairly quick. Thanks for your comment!

Anonymous said...

I find the earlier I start teaching them to talk: "I'm mad! Say Mad!" the sooner they start doing it for themselves. Once they stop screaming, and start screaming words, then we can start working on saying the words more calmly. It's better to teach them right from the start, then let them throw tantrums for a year or two (oh... they're just 2! It's a phase!) and allow them to develop the bad habit. Of course they're going to throw tantrums. They ARE two. But if you nip it in the bud, then they won't throw as many when they are three. And less when they are four. Ugh, I watch my friend's kids and her 4 year old throws more tantrusm than her 2 old because I was able to work with the 2 year old soon enough and train her to TALK instead of just scream! It's working for me! :) Start earlier rather than later! Yeah, the four year old understands more, but he's also got a worse habit after doing it for 2 years and getting away with it!

Alyssa Harper said...

I completely agree. I'll give it a try. :)

Megan said...

I approach my son's tantrums the same way. It also gives me a chance to cool down if something big has happened to set us both off.

Tannie Datwyler said...

I'm completely agree with sending tantruming children to their room. I have always done that - does it fix the tantrums? No, but I think it makes the most sense. I don't see it as a punishment, but as a chance for everyone to get under control.

I do think though that depending on the child you need to modify. With my daughter we would just leave her and she'd scream and scream and then finally calm down and she could come out.

My son is different though. We send him to his room to tantrum and he escalates so badly that sometimes he is in danger of hurting himself or something in the house. So usually I go and check on him every couple of minutes and try to get him to calm down and talk to me. He also needs a drink to calm down and that works wonders for him.

Lisa said...

Last night, after I had just finished reading all the comments above, my husband brought my screaming son into the house. My 2 year old did not want to be inside and was throwing a huge tantrum. My husband set him on the floor and went back outside to clean up some tools.

I explained to my son why he needed to be inside and when he would get to back outside. He just looked at screamed "OUTSIDE!!" then ran to his room and shut the door.

I just found it hilarious that everyone hear is suggesting to put a kid in their room to tantrum then my son put himself in his room. Apparently, he already knew that was the way to go. He stayed in there for about ten minutes. Then he came out and nicely asked for a glass of milk.

I love it when kids discipline themselves!

Alyssa Harper said...

From reading everyone's comments, I think the general consensus is that: alone time in their rooms is a good thing. I think you pointed out a good thing though Tannie. It DOES depend on the child Alone time is a useful tool for some kids to calm down and be able to speak/act more rationally, but if it doesn't do that and makes the tantrum worse, then it's our job as moms to teach them how to calm down using other methods. Thanks for all your input, ladies!

P.S. Lisa: That's way funny. Sounds like you've taught him well. :)

Anonymous said...

If your child is one where tantrums are worsened by being alone, and you do not see progress in reducing the negative behaviors over time, then a good book to read is, "The Explosive Child." The kid is probably the exception to the rule. I learned a lot from this book about what to do with the "exceptions." Finally finally I understood how their brains ticked, and why on EARTH this child didn't respond like all the others!

Alyssa Harper said...

Anonymous: What a great tip! I'll have to look that book up for reference material. Thanks!