How Do You Handle Tantrums? (Trail Blaze #8)

Q: My 2.5 year old son is having tantrums, laying on the floor, thrashing and screaming. I feel like something is wrong! Is this normal? What do I do?

A: Yes, this is something "normal." Tantrums are without a doubt something you will face as mom, and every single one of my children has tried to pitch a fit, throw a tantrum, scream and fuss, whine and holler, stomp, and/or lay down and thrash on the ground (well, not Theo yet, but he's only 8 months old... give him time, and --sadly-- he will too)

It's part of living with a little sinner who wants to go his own way. 

He thinks he knows better than you, but needs you to be firm and not let him do things like ignoring what you say, screaming, and throwing tantrums. 

The very *SECOND* something like that happens, everything in his world should come to a screeching halt until he adjusts to mom's way of thinking and acting. However long that takes. No more playing, no snack, no "first let me ____," no psychobabble/excuses. Definitely no bribing him to stop.

First things first. Use a firm voice: "Stand up and stop acting that way." See to it that he stops. When he realizes that you mean business and will not allow anything else in life to happen until he complies, he'll muster up some self-control. 

Really. So keep at it however long it takes, until he stands up (on his own two feet-- don't allow any of this pull-up-the-feet-and-refuse-to-stand business) and stops. 

Many women I encounter stop me at this point and say, "but you don't understand. My child is so stubborn/strong-willed/angry/physically strong." Yes. Yes, I understand. (See the comments for more specifics on this point.) But yes, I mean you. And yes, I mean your child, no matter how willful, difficult, or strong-willed. 

Persevere and do not let your child do anything else happen until the tantrum stops. 

[The only time I do this differently is if we are out in public, and thus subjecting others to the drama. At that point, I stop whatever I'm doing-- yes, even grocery shopping-- and either move to an out of the way place where we can talk face to face (me kneeled down at face level, or out to the car) without distractions. Do not subject others to your child's foolish, annoying, loud shenanigans. Regardless though, everything stops and we deal with the tantrum, UNTIL. Until normality of attitude is resumed.]

At that point, life goes on, pleasantly. 

You coach him to do whatever it was that frustrated him, but in the way he *ought* to do it- "Ask mommy nicely for your snack," or "Ask mommy to help you put the train track together," or, "We are not leaving the store right now. You need to wait just a little longer until we finish shopping," or "You may not go outside right now. Sit here and snuggle by mom and look at books." 

Do not get into long explanations or psychoanalytical feelings-type language. If he's throwing a fit because he wanted a particular book on the store shelf, it's OK to say, "I know you wanted that book." But then move on.

Use short, obey-able sentences, like:

  • "Look in mommy's eyes." (Wait for him to look. Boys can be particularly bad about this, and work fiercely to look anywhere else but your eyes. Outlast him. Block out other perspectives and direct his chin to where his face is looking at you. Do not do anything else until he looks and holds your gaze.)
  • "You must not fuss that way, yes ma'am?" (I'm from the south. We say "yes ma'am." Insert the phrase of your choosing, but something where he is affirming your authority and his intention to obey. "Yes mom," "Ok, mommy," etc. are fine alternatives.)
  • "Now, stop fussing." (Expect that he does. You are his right and loving authority, and he can stop himself, truly.) 
  • Sometimes follow-up sentences about posture/facial expressions are necessary with this... "Pick up your head. Open your eyes. Uncross your arms." Etc. Many children display physical characteristics that let you see exactly what is going on in their hearts. Coach them to physically change their posture or facial expression from a state of grumping and slumping to an attitude and appearance of facing the world cheerfully. 
Then I help them wipe their eyes/nose/face if they need it, encourage them to take a deep breath, and then I sometimes redirect their attention to something pleasant ("Look at that kitty cat!"). Not at all in a coaxing way, but in order to help reset their minds. 

Any HINT of the return of fussiness merits the same response. Everything stops until the grumping stops. 

Honestly, if you are firm and direct, every single time he does this, these outbursts will almost entirely end very soon. While my kids continue to try to have tantrums from time to time, they are shut down very quickly, and we move on to pleasant things.

In my opinion, advice like "ignore it" or "put them in their room" allows these miserable emotional (not to mention LOUD) displays to go on and on indefinitely... for minutes, or even hours at a time... and then for days upon days of walking around on eggshells, waiting for the next episode of emotional volatility or dramatic eruptions. All the while the child is developing a habit of raging about the things they want, and an unhealthy, emotional fixation on the things that irritate and bother them. These are not attitudes I want to be reinforced or unaddressed in my children's hearts and lives.

Just stop the whole thing as soon as it starts. Train your child in the way he should go-- not at all in an ugly way-- just straightforwardly. Teach him how to behave. Show him what he ought to do and do not allow dramatic nonsense to carry on and on. Within a second or two of the eruption, stop him. See that he stops. Then move on pleasantly and enjoy the day together. You may even find that by watching your children carefully, you can begin to tell when a tantrum is oncoming, and help them to stop it before it starts by coaching them through how to handle disappointment or frustration.

This is all about having firm, no-nonsense consistency. Our culture has a real authority problem, but kids recognize when someone in the room knows they are the authority. We've all seen and experienced it, where the kid who's a real pill pushes everyone around until he meets the hard-nosed teacher who won't put up with it. She's the authority and they both know it. 

So, be the authority. Not in a bullying, ugly, angry way, but in a firm, "I'm 5000% serious, and there is absolutely zero chance of this continuing to happen." sort of way.

AFTER you deal with the immediate issue of the tantrum, then you go on and parent as usual. No grumping, shock, or bitterness on your part. Be pleasant and enjoy him.

He is still your sweet boy, but he is (like the rest of us) a sinner who will fight tooth and nail to have things his own way if he possibly can. Some children absolutely put up more of a fight than others, but make no mistake-- they all want to have their own way, regardless of personality. 

Galatians 6:9 tells us not to grow weary in well doing because there is a harvest to be reaped in due time if we don't give up. You are doing well to your son when you take time to stop him, require that he stand up, stop lashing around like a foolish child, look you in the eye, be respectful, and obey your voice. You are teaching him, by the way you follow through and see that he listens to you, how he should respond to the authority and voice of God.

Instead of seeing tantrums as a horrible, embarrassing thing, see it as an opportunity to address something in your child's heart that desperately needs to be dealt with. 

When your child erupts into a tantrum, God has given you a BIG moment where you can teach your child to listen to you, to trust your instructions over his/her feelings, and to have self-control in the midst of disappointment, frustration, rage, or uncertainty. This is an investment in your child's future-- you are teaching him/her to be emotionally stable and not fly off the handle into rages or controlling emotions because of life's disappointments. You are training him/her how to respond to challenges and difficulties. 

This is a golden and rich opportunity for you as the parent!

Every kid tries it. 

But it doesn't have to continue. 

It's a learning opportunity for you both, and an opportunity for him to grow in maturity and self-control. It's one of the many ways that God has put you as an influence and authority in your child's life in order for you to guide him in the way he should go.

Click here for more specifics on how to handle tantrums.


Anonymous said...

so good ! for all those who can't believe it works ,follow these directions every single time ,and quickly move on as soon as the behavior changes. It is amazing, I have used this on my own who tried to put on an outstanding show in pubic , twice . After that every shopping trip went smoothly , that was years ago.

Jess Connell said...

And, because I know it will come up (it always does), for anyone who's wondering if I've ever had a stubborn child:

Yes yes yes. I have had some incredibly stubborn, crazy strong-willed, horribly emotional, nonsense-filled, hard-nosed, screaming, fighting, kicking, biting, angry, tearful, dramatic, noisy, embarrassing, awful, slapping, resentful, furious, stomping, HORRIFYINGLY stubborn children.


The key is to outlast, to be more strong-willed than they are, to "out-stubborn" them... every time. I often remind myself, "I only have to be stubborn one time longer than him/her." Mom should be like an impassable wall that cannot be climbed, dug under, walked around, parachuted over. When mom says something must happen or must not happen, there should be no way of getting around mom's iron will.

Of course this means that you must be very careful in what you require. :) You should not be a jerk about it. But once you determine that something is best for them to do, or not to do, then they are to obey you.

A child who is allowed to rage in her bed, or disobey mom, most likely feels: "you might be able to physically put me in my bed but you can not make me obey you from my heart." That might sting, but it is truly what is happening- there is a disconnect between the child's heart & the child's actions, and it is being reinforced every time he/she meets frustration. The child is being trained to rage and carry on in an emotional fit, and becoming convinced that no one (not even he/she) can control these outrageous emotions, rather than being taught to exercise self-control, stop the madness, and listen to the wisdom of mom and dad instead of her own foolish inner monologue. ("The heart is deceitful above all things.")

Mom and Dad need to be convinced of their own authority, and willing to see things through to completion. On top of that, you need to be filled with God's Word so that the counsel and direction you give your children is WISDOM gleaned from God, for their benefit.

Drama begets more drama. Self-control and peace beget more self-control and peace. Sow what you mean to reap, and ponder the path of your feet. Think about the future emotional situation you are currently laying the groundwork for.

A moody, broody preschooler off in a room by himself, angry, bitter, and nursing feelings of self-righteousness and loathing his parents will most likely become a moody, broody teenager off in a room by himself, angry, bitter, and nursing feelings of self=righteousness and loathing his parents. By God's grace he might still overcome this, but he is learning to be mastered by his own feelings, and to hold other people around him hostage to his feelings, rather than to master his feelings and do what is right regardless of how he feels.

A disappointed preschooler who initially feels infuriated but quickly is required to stop the external manifestations, heed the wisdom of one who is his/her authority, and clearly express his/her need or request, and then go on with life, even if the answer is "no," will, with God's help, grow into an adult who thoughtfully, prayerfully works through difficulties in light of truth and the wisdom of his/her Authority-- namely, God, rather than being captive to his/her feelings.

This is the very reason why we are parents. To help our children learn to go in the way of wisdom, rather than according to their own foolish ways. You can do it! You really can.

Jess Connell said...

One more thought:

This does not mean that I never utilize time alone for my children. It just means that time alone is not the solution to an angry, bitter, tantruming child. A child who is tearful because they were up late and needs a minute to go wash off his face and change his attitude because he's a bit too tired but it's too late in the day for a nap and bedtime is an hour or two away may need a few minutes in his bed to collect himself and come back out to cheerfully pass the next hour or two. A child who has been arguing with one particular sibling (after asking forgiveness) may need isolation and solitude, and the bed may be a fine spot to accomplish that. But a tantruming child with an ugly attitude does not need to be left to brood and rage in his/her bed.

Leah Spencer said...

How do we make your advice work for a child that can't hear? You included a lot of verbal responses to a tantrum, but how do we teach a non-hearing person?

Jess Connell said...

Certainly that presents another hurdle to get over. I am going to attempt to answer this question, but absolutely would adjust this according to what is *reasonable* to expect of that child, given whatever communication is possible.

First, if it were me in our family, I would strive to learn how to grow in clear communication, pre-sign-language, with a non-hearing person.

Here are some thoughts off the top of my head:
I would use facial expressions, firm hugs, physical helps (like physically extending their legs to communicate that they need to stand up), and simple sign language (just like I do with my 8 month old for mealtime understanding) to communicate. I'm guessing that eye-to-eye facial communication would also be critical.

I might also treat it the way I do with my younger children, when I am not sure that there is clear communication & understanding. At that point, I think the thing to do is to communicate through facial expression & whatever communication is available to you (maybe a simple sign for "no-no"?), while also assisting & distracting.

So wash the face with cool water, and help them adjust to a new activity. I would also model with my face the transition to the new face/attitude. Again, I can envision using sign language repetitively with this situation too... (make the ugly face that mimics theirs, then sign "no-no", then change the ugly face, maybe even pointing to the pouty lip pulling inward, then pointing to their pouty lip, then the drooped chin pulled upward, then point to their chin, then the angry eyes changing to open and no longer grumpy-looking, then point to their eyes).

These are the ways (again off the top of my head) that I would try to consistently communicate and work through that challenge.

The goal would be for these things to help me guide the child in pursuing self-control & moderation, until such time that I *could* clearly understand and be understood by that child.

Does this help?

Jess Connell said...

I got this comment through Facebook from a friend:

To Leah who commented on the blog (comments wouldn't work):

Leah - special education teacher here. I'd use sign language cues if your child is signing. Even a simple, "No. Stop. Stand up." Could work (it has for me before). That actually can work with any child with special needs. Having picture cues can help too. One of your therapists should be able to help you make something, or you can use Google images.

I did want to comment that stubborn and willful is different than having a special need/disability, however, similar rules still apply in my classroom. Sometimes the strategy depends on the child in question. I have one child right now who a cue to have "nice hands" and otherwise ignoring him stops aggression in its tracks. I think particularly with a child with special needs it's important to teach what we are looking for (ask nicely, etc). Sometimes it also helps to frame your answers that may trigger a tantrum as "Yes, later," (i.e. Yes later we may go outside, but right now it's raining).

About the "look at my eyes," one book I've read suggested saying "Let me see your eyes," and it makes a big difference in how kids respond. Maybe it's gentler? But just another way to phrase that - may help some people!

Kim W.

Jess Connell said...

(By the way- is anyone else having trouble commenting?)

Please write me at MakingHomeBlog (at) Yahoo (dot) com and share with me what's happening when you try to comment.

Lizzy said...

I agree with most of this, but wish you'd included more of an emphasis on (as you said in the comments) not being "a jerk."

When a child is going over the edge, it's easy for mom to go over the edge, too. And a mom who is determined to not have her 'iron will' defeated needs to be very careful about her words and actions.

If a parent feels out of control of her own behavior, I think she's better off ignoring the tantrum until she's ready to handle it appropriately. I guess I would have liked to see that emphasized a bit more.


Jess Connell said...


I absolutely agree with you that not being a jerk is essential. Where we disagree is this: I believe that by "ignoring" the tantrum, MOST often, what happens is that her fury grows. She grows more and more embittered while the child grows more and more out of control, getting louder and more set in an emotional state.

In my experience, by nipping it in the bud right away, mom's less likely to *get* "out of control" because she hasn't let it go on and on and on.

Here's an article I think is helpful on that point:
Honing Your "Mommy Radar"

I believe that by acting SOONER, rather than letting things drag on, mom and child are less likely to be out of control, because she hasn't let things happen 10 times and she's "finally had it", but rather, she's dealing with the ugliness because it's ugly. Then moving on in a matter-of-fact, loving way.

I see what you're saying, and I don't know that we're that far apart in our attitude and approach, but I do think the motivation behind acting quickly vs. waiting it out is worth thinking through. What "waiting it out" most often produces is a more violently angry child and a more perturbed mother, whereas just nipping it in the bud allows everything to be dealt with, quickly, and then move along pleasantly in life together.


Anonymous said...

Oh I liked that last part about not letting it go on and on , I have thought some advice I see about now days , where people are encouraged to let the child express his feelings and half heartedly put into "time out" which ends with the screaming kid slithering to the floor a dozen or more times and the screaming continueing for hours probably actually contributes to some parents snapping and being abusive ,actually I saw this happen to a "nice sweet calm mom" who finally snapped and broke her childs arm , she over reacted because she let it his horrible behavior go on for years. It was a sad situation which could have been handled so much better and without letting him turn into the neighbor hood bully that no one liked , not even his own parents.

Erin said...

Thanks SO much for some of those specifics, as well as the link to the other article.

One thing I've been wondering about is how to practice "choosing my battles" AND consistency. It feels like the two are at odds, though I'm sure that somehow they can work together. Any thoughts?

Also, how do I be the authority without being a dictator? For example, today I casually told my nearly 3yo to put on a long-sleeve shirt but she really wanted to wear a summery sleeveless one. I feel like I should have just let her wear it because it didn't make any difference really (we weren't planning to leave the house any time soon), but it ended up turning into a tantrum/discipline because I insisted on her not wearing that shirt. Yes, she needs to submit to Mommy, but shouldn't I also allow her freedom to choose sometimes, especially when it is as inconsequential as a t-shirt? How do you know when to discipline and when to change your own course because it really makes no difference? (Does that make sense?)

I enjoyed and gleaned some good things from the link you included at the bottom, but it made me wonder if the author wasn't trying to "pick fights" with her children sometimes, just to see if they'd slip up and disobey, and I guess I don't understand that.

Jess Connell said...

Here are my thoughts, Erin:

"Choosing your battles" happens BEFORE you give the instructions... certainly with your 1st child or two you're going to hit situations where you don't *in that moment* know what to do. That's natural.

But when you are parenting, multiple times over:
* a child who refuses to go #2 on the potty after being able to go
* a child who starts battling over something random @ bathtime/bedtime
* a child who balks at eating certain foods in seemingly random ways (one day he'll eat it, another day he fusses)
* a child who screams and fusses over t-shirt tags & the way socks feel (and yes I know this is a current parenting trend, and yes I've had this happen in my home)
* a child who always comes up with some reason why they can't obey RE: sitting at the table during mealtime, staying in bed @ bedtime, sitting where you say they should sit

... you start to develop a "game plan" about these things. You can:
(1) get bogged down in the details, and start making a list of rules/norms/etc. that govern every area of life, with caveats and exceptions made for this child's whims, this other child's "differences", this child's preferences, and this child's "temperament," etc.
(2) Give up and just grit your teeth through these "stages"
(3) you can decide that you are going to strive to be a wise, loving, and dependable mother, and that you'll have (basically) one rule: the children must obey their parents.

Honestly, I think so much of this becomes more clear the more children you have. That's not a knock on moms with fewer children-- just, simply, that once you have 3, 4, or more children, you realize, I can't cut off the crusts for this child, leave off the spaghetti sauce for that one, cut the tags for this child but not that one, have 30-minute long discipline sessions, & have exceptions and accommodations for each and every child and stage.

Certainly, ABSOLUTELY, there are situations where we have to coach and intentionally, patiently, firmly, lovingly parent one child in a particular area *MORE* than we did with his/her sibling. Absolutely. But that is merely the short-term MEANS-- the end AIM is always the same: ultimately, the child must obey mom and dad.

So you might decide that in your home, it's not a big deal if they don't like oatmeal. Or whatever. YOU might decide these things, and that is OK. To me, THAT is choosing your battles, before they happen.

In your situation with the shirt, there are two things happening:
(1) she wanted to wear a different shirt.
(2) she decided to pitch a fit about it.

Concerning #1- in the moment, if you decide you've changed your mind, that's OK. It is also A-OK for you to decide, NOPE today she will wear the L-S shirt. You're the mom. It's getting colder and you are wiser than your 3yo. The only other thing I have to say about this is to let situations like this ruminate in the back of your mind. Make sure, when you give instructions about clothing choices, that you are only stating what must be done... what you are willing to see that they obey.

So if the issue is that they are undressed and you want them in clothes, "go get dressed" suffices. But if you really think it's wise for them to wear a long-sleeve shirt (perhaps for weather, perhaps because you know something that's going to happen that day and you want them dressed a certain way), then they need to obey and listen to mom who is a wise & loving authority God has put over them.

Concerning #2- No matter what you decide about the shirt, pitching a fit is never OK. So at that point, everything else stops to deal with the fit. AND at that point, I would probably just go on and have her do the L-S shirt and consider a "choice" next time if I truly didn't care one way or the other.

Jess Connell said...

Finally, concerning the author "picking fights," I don't see it that way, but I can see what you mean a little bit.

Here's the thing. I don't know your theology, but I believe our loving God sovereignly puts us and/or allows us to be in situations where we have to grow in certain areas. I think He challenges us, sharpens, us, softens us, and shapes us by intentionally putting us in situations that help us to grow and mature in our areas of weakness.

If you as a loving parent *SEE* an area in your child's life that is a weakness (emotional drama, physical outbursts, screaming a high-pitched squeal, making too big a deal out of which shoes to wear, starting to be picky about foods to an unnatural degree-- I'm not talking about not liking beets, I'm talking about more than maybe once/month having complaints about food), what do you believe is the loving way to go about that? The way you answer that question determines a lot about what you think RE: parental authority and guidance.

For my part, when I see a particular weakness or difficulty in my child's life, I want to help them to grow and mature in that area. In fact, Doug & I probably 2-3 times a year, during a date night or once the kids go to bed, we identify the current "focus" issue for each child... sometimes (now that they are older), it's "he's doing well, we just have to watch out for X"... with younger children it's usually a particular focus (often in this realm of tantruming/emotions).

I project those weaknesses forward and think about what that weakness will look like in 10, 25, 40 years. So I don't want my child to be perpetually controlled by his/her emotions and hold his/her spouse emotionally hostage. Physical outbursts in a 35-year-old husband and father are terrifying and unhealthy. I don't want my daughter to be a woman who has an inordinate focus on shoes or clothing. Nor do I want any of my children to be a rude and picky adult who needs all sorts of food accommodations in order to spend time with others (no I'm not talking about medically-proven allergies, I'm talking about pickiness).

Anyway, once you see those things, I believe that it's actually *WRONG* to try to avoid those areas. I think that is accommodating and tip-toeing around a clear character issue in your child. I think God puts us in their lives, as their authority, because of our vantage point-- we are more mature people who can SEE into their little hearts & minds.

So if there is an opportunity to help a child grow in a particular area, then it could actually be *WISE* to take those opportunities, even intentionally. Whereas some would term that "picking a fight," I believe it could actually be wisely choosing to shape our child's heart in a particular area.

Does that make sense?

Again, I think so much of this goes back to what you believe the role of an authority is.

For my part, I think a pastor who sees a large-scale weakness in his church is wise to preach and confront in that area, gently prodding and moving his congregation toward maturity. I think a boss who sees a flaw in his company is wise to work intentionally to help his company grow more capable in that area. I think a loving parent who sees a weakspot in their child is wise to deal with it on the front end rather than letting it drag on and on and affect the child's life & emotions on into the future.

Erin said...

Thanks Jess for taking the time to think on and write those responses. They have definitely given me a lot to think on and pray about as well. I would say I do agree with all that you said about seeing areas of weakness and tackling them head on (for their good and godliness) rather than tiptoeing around them, which I'm realizing I have done to a certain degree. And I didn't realize how much I wasn't nipping a tantrum in the bud, but letting it escalate, so just in the last 2 days since you wrote this, I have addressed every hint of an oncoming tantrum immediately and completely, which honestly, has probably led to a bigger one...but hopefully with the long-term effect of getting to the root of the issue and showing her that they will not be accepted. I'm praying for grace and faithfulness to carry on as I've started and not grow weary.

One thing I didn't quite follow was what you said about choosing your battles. You said you can't and don't cut crusts/use sauce/cut tags for each of your kids because it's just too much (right?)...but then said it's okay if we as a family decide that not eating oatmeal is no big deal, and that is what choosing your battles is. Can you explain the difference? Why would it be okay to not eat oatmeal but not okay to want the crusts cut off? And when a child has a quirky request like that, which you don't want to cater to, how do address it? Make him eat the crusts? Let him leave them on his plate? Endure his tears and demand he eat them?

Jess Connell said...

Yes, I see what you're saying. Sorry I wasn't clear. What I mean is this:

Watch your child and discern the heart.

If the child's heart is always clamoring to have things a certain way, accommodations made on a regular basis regarding meals/bedtime/bathtime/potty training/whatever, and immediately focuses on what she doesn't like rather than what she does, etc., then that's a heart issue.

If the child just doesn't like oatmeal but cheerfully eats most everything else, then that's something different.

Does that help?

By looking at overarching patterns and discerning the heart, we can help our children work out negative behaviors/attitudes.

For example, if they don't like veggies on their pizza, then perhaps that's a "choose your battle" moment. If your family always eats supreme, and you don't want to fight that battle for the next 2 decades, then it may be a battle worth fighting, but if it's once a year at grandma's house the day after Thanksgiving and they always order supreme, then maybe it's *not* worth fighting, and you might just opt to pick off the veggies and not make a big deal about it.

See what I mean? That's a "choose your battle" type issue, based on discerning the heart and also thinking about it in the larger context of life.

Rather than having hard and fast rules, "you have to eat your supreme pizza cheerfully," it's more about heart attitudes and how it fits within your family. Supreme pizza, or oatmeal, or cutting out t-shirt tags, may or may not be a battle worth fighting depending on the child and the family.

Hope that helps.

Jess Connell said...

OH! And kudos to you for tackling them head-on. You're doing well, and what you're describing sounds absolutely right-on. There is usually an escalation in the first 3-7 days, because they are mad that they're not getting away with what they used to get away with, but then very quickly the child will come to an understanding of what is acceptable and normal and will adjust accordingly. Honestly it's usually pretty surprising how quickly they *DO* adjust once they realize that mom really does mean what she says & once they truly recognize that they are under authority.

These are good lessons you are teaching her, for life... keep it up. Galatians 6:9 is a helpful reminder: "let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."

Catie said...

I just finished reading the comments--there's a lot of good stuff in here! (You should say that in your post so people know to read them! :)

I think I'll just email you with my question rather than write the longest comment ever.. ;)

Allison said...

I know this thread is so last week now, but it has helped me incredibly. I also have a 2.5 year old son, and I've started implementing these ideas in our house over the past week or so and I thought I'd share what happened yesterday.

So after several days of working on the tantrums, yesterday after nap-time I told him that it was time to go potty and he didn't want to go. (Disclaimer here - we did not just begin potty training. He's been using the potty for almost a month now and goes pretty consistently) He sat on the potty anyway, which was good, but then promptly announced that he was done (and it'd only been a matter of seconds with no results). I replied that no, he hadn't really tried yet and he needed to wait a few seconds. HE THREW A FIT! A screaming, raging, fit. But I decided that I was going to outlast him. I told him that his fit had to stop and that he could not get off the potty until he had stopped his fit. Out of curiosity, I looked at the clock when this began. It lasted FIFTEEN minutes. He cried, then he screamed - one of those staring right at me with obvious rage in his heart screams - and then he cried some more and tried to lunge himself off the potty. I stood my ground and calmly told him that "Mommy is not angry, but you may not act that way. When you are done throwing your fit, you can get down, but not until you have stopped." He kept on and on and not knowing what else to do and being afraid of losing my own temper, I just started praying out loud. I prayed for him and for what was going on in his heart and for his salvation, and as I prayed he calmed down. When I finished, he started again, so I sang a hymn and then prayed some more. Finally, the crying changed to a soft wimper and I could tell by his body language that the fit was past and it was now genuine tears so I got him down and I hugged him and held him and for the next 15 minutes of so we sat in the rocking chair and cuddled while I gently explained how much I loved him and why he could not act that way. We prayed some more and I sang to him and you know, for the rest of the day, he was a sweeter child. The next time he started to throw a fit, I told him to stop and he stopped and he has not thrown another fit on the potty since. He's a particularly stubborn child (more so than his brother anyway), so I've little doubt we'll have to go through something like this a few more times, but I feel like a major victory was won for both of us yesterday and I just wanted to share it. We'd been sending him to his bed when he'd throw a fit, but it never did seem to do all that much to curb the behavior. This is probably the best suggestion I've seen yet. Thank you. :)

Shannon Barker said...

Hi Jess!
Thank you so much for such tactical and Biblically based wisdom on disciplining. It's so refreshing.

I have 2 questions that are a few degrees off of 15mo old son (1st and only baby) is pretty laid back. He's a great eater and sleeper and is happy most of the time. We haven't had any melt down tantrums and for the most when he begins doing things that we've deemed 'no-no's' (like pulling cords out of the plug or playing in the dog's water) we can say no and then distract him. He now laughs and tries to do them, but then happily walks away when we say no and turn him away.

So, my question that ok? Or do we need to be more authoritative so he doesn't even approach the socket or the water bowl?

Secondly, and this is really unrelated to tantrums...we have MAJOR separation anxiety and have since he was itty bitty. He's not in daycare or any type of MDO, but we go to church on sunday and bible study on wed. He's in the same room with the same kids and cries from the time I hand him over until the time I come back to get him. I do not know what to do. He also struggles with babysitters, whether at our home or other places. The only person we have been able to leave him with without the crying is my mother. Will it change with age and should I continue with our twice weekly times in the nursery. Should I leave him more often so he gets used to it? I'm clueless...and it's heartbreaking. I haven't given up bible study, but I have so much anxiety that it's hard to enjoy my time.

Sorry this is SO long, but I'd love any insight.


Jess Connell said...

SO glad went well; I hope that has continued.

The best way to go about this at that age is to actually stop them before they start playing with the thing. If you are watchful, that will be relatively easy. You will see the gleam in the eye, the look to check if you are watching, etc... they know relatively quickly when they're not supposed to do something. Once they are convinced that you will not allow playing with the plug, they really will start exercising self-control on their own and just stop trying (eventually), if you are persistent and consistent in your pro-activeness. I wouldn't even think of that as authoritative... just training him, consistently, in the way he should go. Not to mess with bowls of water that are sitting on the floor, not to pull out plugs, etc.

The separation anxiety sounds unusual to me. He truly cries the whole time you are gone? Is he tired? Ready for a nap? Does he get snacks/need food?

Mine have never cried that non-stop (although all of mine start out crying... they get over it pretty quickly). Having worked in nursery since I was little, I'm trying to think if I've ever had a kid who wouldn't stop crying. Almost every kid cries at first but they almost all stop within 30 seconds-5 minutes.

I'm assuming you've asked the workers and know that he's crying the whole time, every time? If so, I too would feel uncomfortable with that and probably opt to wait maybe until spring or summer to join back up with bible study when he's a bit older. I don't think there's a right/wrong answer here... it's just what you're comfortable with.

Hope this helps as you think things through.