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Terrible 2s -- What's The Best Way to Deal With My Daughter's Temper Tantrums?

By June 18, 2008 - 9:34am
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I know all kids go through the terrible 2s. I have a 29 months old daughter that has never been quite. Always exploring, always busy, jumping, singing, running, etc. But lately, she's been a pain. Everything would lead to a temper tantrum. We had kept her into a routine to avoid creating frustrations on her, but everything will cause a tantrum, going potty, eating, snacking, what show she wants to watch, bathtime, and bedtime has turned into a melodrama.
What can I do to put her at ease? She's honestly driving me crazy, and sometimes the stress won't let me think as clear as I would like, and I don't want to be mean with her.

As a first time parent I'm worried about ways to deal with it. I'm aware I'm building her basis at this age, and I don't want to bring another spoiled little girl into this world (there're way too many already).

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My son is not quite 2, so I'm very interested in learning what to do when the time comes...because he is definitely having more opinions now and asserting himself! :-)

I read Susan's post, and one of the things she mentioned triggered my memory---I read the same thing in a book, The Happiest Toddler on the Block. I didn't agree with many (most?) of the ideas in the book, but what the author did say that I agree with is: toddlers are like little cavemen and cavewomen. They won't understand reasoning, but they will understand "cave talk"! ha!

I did not feel comfortable talking to my son in their suggested cave-talk, but what helpful advice I did get out of it: toddlers understand very short, quick, passionate phrases. If they are having a temper tantrum, the most important thing is they want to feel "heard" and "understood" (don't we all?!). So, when we try to calm them down, it's like someone not "hearing" us and not validating us when we're upset. So, the book recommends using the same amount of urgency, energy and passion behind your remarks to your child (in a kind, gentle way...no yelling) to "mimick" your child's emotions. Something like, "I am mad! Mad, mad mad!". (not sure how to balance the mimicking cave-talk vs. teasing/making fun of them). This is supposed to get their attention, they feel understood, then when they've calmed down enough to be able to hear their two choices ("do you want to wear the red shirt or green shirt"), they can make their choice. Could work, depending on the situation?!

Another book my mom friends are reading is: "Parenting with Love and Logic".

Tell us how the new "tricks" go with your daughter, and which ones work! :-)

June 19, 2008 - 12:51pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Alison Beaver)

Well, I've tried before trying to talk to her, but as you said, at that moment she won't understand me, because she wants to be understood first.
I'll be letting you know how it goes,

June 19, 2008 - 3:19pm
HERWriter Guide

Hi Toni!

My kids are 2, 3, and 4 and our home sometimes feels like One Big Temper Tantrum (although I believe age 3 to be much worse than 2).

Sometimes I suffer through the tantrums, other times I bring the tantrum thrower to his or her room to cool off, I also do time-outs or removal of privileges.

Just remember that as each child is different, so often is each tantrum. Some children are triggered by the same thing (it could be fatigue, or after a long week of daycare or when Dad or Mom is traveling for work) or sometimes it's a child just exerting his or her power. When a child feels a loss of control, a temper tantrum often ensues. Schedule changes are also a big trigger. Death, divorce, house move or the addition of a sibling also play a huge part.

And as much as we don't want to say it, or think it, sometimes our kids have days where they are just kind of being a brat. Those are the days you roll your eyes and look forward to college!

I think you can read as many books as you like but these books do not cater to the individual. All children are unique, as are their living situations, and familial status. So books can only really offer a broad spectrum of assistance for a very broad population.

The fact that you are being pro-active and are aware of your child's tantrums put you way ahead of many others! Proactive parents who are cognizant of their child's behavior tend to raise empathetic, well-behaved children rather than parents who excuse their child's behavior and allow the child to run amok. That is not good parenting.

I am equal with all my kids but I do not discipline them the same. What works for one (time-out) may not work for another (something like privilege removal is better) so also remember that for some behaviors a time-out may work and for others, it may be better to take toys away or cancel his/her attendance at a play date. Sometimes the warning of a cancellation is enough. I can get my kids to run through hoops by the mere suggestion of not hanging with their pals!

And as always - consistency and follow though is vital. No point in always saying "if you don't...I'll...." and then never doing it. Kids catch on to that quickly and they need to learn consequences.

Last thing, as Tina mentioned - humor! Sometimes I mimic a temper tantrum and the other kids fall around laughing. The kid having the tantrum gets mad and then sees how silly I look, jumping up and down and screaming "wah! wah!" and he/she starts to laugh too. It's actually quite fun when done in a good-spirited way!

All kids can be a pain because all humans can be a pain. But they will go in and out of these stages and it sounds like you are doing a pretty good job of parenting already!

Good luck!

June 18, 2008 - 12:14pm

My little one is 21 months now. I heard there is a book called 123 Magic that is supposed to be good. I was about to buy it, but I found some tricks that work for me. The biggest one is the "Do you want to go in time-out?" Another thing that really works is if I ask her if she wants me to start singing. She normally says yes and & then I sing & it distracts her. I am by no means an expert. I am just letting you know what works for me.

June 18, 2008 - 9:50am
(reply to joanna)

Well, I've tried asking her if she wants to go in time-out, and she says yes, and starts screaming and crying. I guess I'll look for things to distract her attention.
Toni Kelly

June 18, 2008 - 10:23am

It's certainly easy to understand why they call them the Terrible 2s. Here are a few ideas on how parents can prevent and deal with temper tantrums from www.childwelfare.gov.

It is often easier to prevent tantrums than to deal with
them once they have begun. Parents may notice some signals that children give as a warning that a tantrum may be brewing. If a parent suspects that a tantrum is coming or if a child gets in the habit of having a tantrum after a particular experience or at a particular time of day, here are some prevention tips to keep in mind:

Distract or redirect your child’s attention to something else.

Use a sense of humor to distract your child. This may help you cope, too.

Give your child control over small things by giving him or her a choice.

Take your child to a quiet place and speak softly to him or her.

Encourage your child to express emotions and feelings with words.

Stick to a daily routine that gives your child enough rest and enough activity. (Sounds like you've already tried this one.)

Reward your child when he or she requests something without having a tantrum.

How can parents deal with tantrums, especially public temper tantrums? Parents can be caught off guard when a child throws a tantrum in public. It can be embarrassing, and parents may be tempted to give in to the child just to stop the tantrum. But giving in just teaches the
child that “tantrums work.” Instead, try some of the following tips to deal with tantrums that happen in the home or in public:

Remain calm. Don’t lose control because your child has lost control. Instead, try to model behavior that is calm and controlled.

Hugging or holding your child until the tantrum subsides may help a younger child through a tantrum.

Put the child in “time out” or in a quiet place (even strapped in to a stroller) where he or she can calm down. Time out should be one minute for each year of the child’s age.

Older children who throw tantrums may be seeking attention. Try ignoring them until the tantrum is over.

Does that answer help? Do other parents have tips on how to curb tantrums?

June 18, 2008 - 9:49am
(reply to Tina Tran)

I would really start putting all these tips into practice.
Thank you so much.
Toni Kelly

June 18, 2008 - 10:20am
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