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Monday, October 22, 2012

From the Trenches: Tantrum Survival (so far)

First - YIKES! I knew it had been awhile. But my last post was September 22nd! A whole month! Nothing in particular to explain it. Just - you know - stuff.
Anyway, enough about that. 
I have a few posts I've been thinking about in that time & hope to get to them soon. But right now? I just need to talk a little about tantrums.
Perhaps I can help someone survive their own. I know writing about it will help me.
So. Here goes!

We've survived 3 fairly big tantrums in the past 24 hours. And can I just say? -- wow. I deserve this Halloween candy 9 days early.



Does it ever seem like tantrums are a direct result of doing something extra fun?
Like going to the pumpkin patch with a couple other little families. Then dinner back at our place. Then when the last other child leaves, yours is so let down that SHE JUST CAN'T SEEM TO FIND HER LISTENING EARS!!!?!! WHERE DID THEY GO? NOT TO MENTION HER NORMAL VOICE INSTEAD OF THAT INCESSANT WHINE!??!!
Or like letting her wear her Halloween costume early. Then expecting her to willingly take it off to eat lunch. And heaven help you if the darned rescue pack isn't on tightly enough. And PS - pretending to talk to Diego on your phone about how he doesn't wear his rescue pack to nap - is NOT going to help. She knows he's not on the phone. Obviously. Because he's right there in her hand! Can't you see him?!!

Okay. My extremely brief summation of the incidents has led me to an irrefutable conclusion about the costume incidents. My fault. i.e. preventable. Of course, she wouldn't want to take it off. And just because she asked about it, didn't mean I had to give it to her. Probably saying "wait till after lunch" would have incited a small tantrum, but oh - what I got was not small.



So -- survival step 1 -
Avoid obvious set-ups to tantrums.
I'm not saying hide your family away in the house & never do anything fun. She had a great time at the pumpkin patch & playing with my friends son. We had a nice time socializing with adults, even if it was doing a "family friendly activity." In the case of last night, we just had to grit our teeth & get through it.

Bringing me to -- survival step 2 -
Grit your teeth & get through it.
You're the adult. If you snap & yell back, you only reinforce the behavior. You show that that is exactly how people handle frustration. It can't last forever, right? (Right? RIGHT?!!?!)
I am proud (& a little surprised) to report that I did not snap during the first 2 tantrums. But yep, I sure did (not badly, but I did) during the 3rd.

So, now to -- survival step 3 -
Take a time-out if you need it.

After my little snap during the last tantrum, I apologized to my daughter and told her I was taking a time out to try to calm down. I literally went and stood in the corner until I felt a little better. In the corner, I realized that what she was asking for (or had briefly been asking for before she started screaming & bawling incessantly) was to have her "Rescue Pack" on tighter.

And thus -- survival step 4 -
Don't not cave just for the sake of not caving.
That's what I was doing in the naptime scenario. Pretty much just as stubborn as a toddler, right? If at all possible, I try to get her to ask again in her "normal voice" for whatever it is. That way it's not (technically) like she got what she wanted because she threw the tantrum. Then I try to talk calmly about how we could have avoided the tantrum if she had just talked in her normal voice. That the tantrum hurt us both & blahblahblah.

But also -- survival step 5 -
Don't cave just for the sake of stopping the tantrum.
Last night's tantrum resulted because kids don't like consequences. (And really? Who does?) Just before our friends & their son left, the 2 kiddos were playing drums & piano. My daughter decided that she should have all instruments, and the other child none. We asked her to please share before he left. And that we could then go and watch a little Diego. Nope. After they left, I asked her to please sit on the potty before we put on jammies & watched a little Diego. Nope. So -- into her bedroom we went. UTTER DEVASTATION. She assured us she wanted to be good & behave. We explained how that was wonderful but didn't change the consequences of previous behavior. Just under 30 minutes of intense toddler tantrum later, she decided to ask (in a normal voice) for something else - a different pair of jammies. Random. But doable. So I went and got them, and my husband started books. She didn't even get so far as to get the new jammies on. I read like 1 more book and she was out. (Tantrums are exhausting. See also step 1.)

My husband might roll his eyes (or laugh), but I honestly felt good about last night's tantrum -- afterward. I feel like she learned that there are boundaries, expectations & consequences. That sometimes they're hard, but that she's capable of living within them. I know she noticed that we sat there calmly through the tantrum, spoke kindly to her & each other, and that afterward we had big hugs and kisses all around.

You can't win 'em all. But with a little effort, you can learn from 'em all.

Oh, but PS. Did you notice how all 3 tantrums are somehow related to Diego? It's all his fault. ;P


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