Friday, February 26, 2010

Tricky Two-Year-Olds: How To Stop Tantrums

Winning is everything to two-year-olds! While getting smarter everyday, they have decided that you are living in their world, and that if they throw a big enough tantrum, they WILL win. Stubborn, hot-headed, ill-tempered two-year-olds like mine will, inevitably, get their point across and demand what they believe is rightfully theirs.

People will say that it's because we don't discipline our children the way we should. Myriads of mothers are inquiring how to discipline their child (Google it! "How to discipline my two-year-old"), and the other side of the fence is accusing parents today of sending their horrible, undisciplined children into OUR world. Need I mention the shows "Nanny 911", "Supernanny", and the newest reality based television show starring Mike Ruggles (a man!), "Super-Manny"?

In my opinion, for those of us parents that know how to discipline, calming a full-blown two-year-old temper tantrum has nothing to do with time-outs and spankings. It takes an ingenious thinking-outside-of-the-box type of parent to handle that.

Here are a few techniques that work for me:

1. "Woah! Did you see that?" Yes, even in the middle of the tantrum of the century, I have found that a quick, "Woah! Did you see that?" (while looking in ANY direction away from the child) will achieve at least a moment's worth of curiosity. I think I've even gotten a response, "See what?" Fortunately, because they ARE still discovering their world, they don't want to miss a thing. Instinctively, the thought of missing out on something far overrides whatever it was that they were having a hissy fit over. 

2. Tickle torture. Warning: this could escalate the tantrum by exponential amounts! This, of course, only works on ticklish tots.  I, personally, like to tickle until they have totally forgotten their tantrum, and what they were screaming about.

3. Throw your own tantrum. Yes, I admit it. I have thrown a temper tantrum to gain the attention of my momentarily crazy two-year-old. Again, curiosity will get them. At first, I get a "what-are-you-doing-this-is-my-tantrum!" look from him, then he'll go back into his wailing. But, the louder her gets, the louder I get. Eventually, someone's got to give.

4. Walk away. This is hard, because, at first, the tantrum is going to get worse. He has lost your attention, and he wants to get it back. He has a point to make! But, if you walk away, he is not getting the attention to fuel the tantrum. Sooner or later, he is going to figure out that what he is doing to call attention to himself is not working.

My techniques for handling my two-year-old fall more into the "distraction" category, and there are tantrums that will NOT be distracted, no matter which method you try. I try to address the reason for the flare-up once the anger has subsided. I like to start with, "You were really angry about..." and then see if we can talk about better ways to handle the anger in the future. Teaching our children how to understand their feelings and how to handle them is difficult, but lengthy outbursts can be used to our advantage as parents, turning a bad situation into a win-win situation.

It's all about winning! When you are facing an explosion, or even a potentially explosive little darling, remember that if you can peak their curiosity with a little bit of ingenious distraction, you could win. But don't let the tot know that you are winning-make him feel like a winner by discussing his feelings and how he can better get his point across to get the things that he wants.

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