Monday, 18 May 2015

Dealing with the Toddler Tantrums


I thought we'd avoided the toddler tantrums with S. 

Ok, stop laughing..... seriously, stop laughing. 

In hindsight it was the most ridiculous thing, but as S approached two and a half, and she hadn't really progressed into full meltdown mode, I thought she was just one of those kids who didn't really have them. She had strops now and then, but no hysterics, and she was fairly easy to cajole out of them. 

At the time, I kept saying "they'll come", but to other people. The fact that they really were going to show up didn't really lodge itself in my brain. 

And then the world came crashing down with meltdowns and throwing herself on the floor and using the word "no" so many times a day I felt like screaming my head off. 

My particular favourites both revolve around chocolate. First of all there was the time when she asked for ice cream, and then had a meltdown when I opened the ice cream instead of the chocolate I'd bought for baking.... in public, which included lying on a bench for fifteen minutes screaming her head off and crying hysterically.... while I ate most of the ice cream.

Then there was Valentines day, when she was given chocolate hearts in every shop we went into (in Dubai they give chocolate to children A LOT!), and then had huge hysterics demanding chocolate as though I'd refused to let her have any. Cue a twenty minute crying fit in the double pram while I wandered around and ignored her. 

I am not the most patient. I can pretty much ignore the full blown tantrums, because there isn't really a way to stop them once they've started and it's better for S if we just ride the wave of emotions for a little while and let her sort herself out. 

But the incessant not listening, and refusal to do anything I ask her to (even if it's something she really wants to do).... it makes me grit my teeth and want to punch a wall. So I've had to develop coping mechanisms to get through the every day hum drum of the two year old's basic ignorance of anything she hasn't started by herself. 

Now, I'm not saying these coping mechanisms will work for everyone, but they do help me keep my temper in check (most of the time). So if they help anyone else, even a teeny tiny bit, then that's all good! 

Ask once,  then lead: 

This one has been the biggest one for me. I used to ask S to get her shoes, or come here, or whatever, and she'd ignore me. She would ignore me again, and again, and again regardless of whether I raised my voice, got cross or upset. So to save my own sanity, I decided to accept that she's not quite in that place yet where she can listen all the time, and that me getting cross doesn't benefit any of us. 

So I now ask her once. If she doesn't move, I take her hand and gently (but firmly) lead her to her shoes, or to have her nappy changed, or to have her dinner. This lessening of expectations has really helped my stress levels, and I even feel that S listens to me more as a result, because the way that I ask has changed because I'm not gearing up to have to shout. 


Time Outs:

I don't really like the idea of Time Outs, because they are often perceived as abandoning your child. But sometimes, they are just necessary. Like when S pushes her baby brother so hard he falls over and bangs his head, for the fifth time that morning. Or when she runs off in the park and I have to scramble to grab L and chase after her. 

Our Time Outs take place in the pram. I try to not make it about punishment, although sometimes I am REALLY mad that her brother has hit his head HARD. I explain that she needs to be nice to her brother and that if she can't be calm with him, she needs to sit in the pram until she calms down. 

At most she gets left for a minute and then I go back and calmly explain what went wrong, and how we can fix it. She then says sorry and kisses me and L before moving on. This does seem to work temporarily, but not for long. Although she is a toddler so I'm not sure it would work for a long period of time no matter what tactic I used. 

Discussing what comes next: 

This one has been a big revelation for me. I forget in the hustle and bustle of the day that S doesn't always know, or remember, what's happening that day, and so she doesn't know why I'm asking her to do things. 

I now try to continually give her cues throughout the morning about where we are going and why, so that she is really for the changes that are coming. So while I'm making breakfast I'll tell her that after breakfast we can get ready and go to the park/see friends/go to nursery, and I repeat it as I move through the morning tasks like dressing and brushing hair. 

I've found it makes her much more willing to sit still and have her hair brushed, to go and get her shoes and to generally move a little bit quicker. 

I also give her count down warnings before we leave places. I'm pretty honest about timings, but S knows the order the warnings come in, so she is much more prepared to leave by the time I am ready to go. It's made the upset at leaving a lot easier to handle. 

Lots of Balance: 

Spending all day with young children does wear on me quite quickly. I love them to death but it's really hard trying to think for three people, to keep everyone entertained and on track and teach them about the world and how to live in it all at the same time. 

I don't always succeed in keeping calm, in fact I shout and stress more than I would like. So on the days when the stress threatens to take over, I make sure that the kids and I have had doTERRA's Balance blend applied to the backs of our necks. It really helps to bring everything back into perspective, especially when all three of us get a dose of Balance all at the same time! i think it's one of my most used essential oils, and I think I'll be needing it for the next few years, while S gets out of and L gets into the toddler tantrums. 


So those are the mechanisms that I employ at the moment to keep myself sane and to get through the day unscathed, do you have any more tips? 
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