Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tantrum Free Toddlers... or so they say

I guess you could say I'm a bit of a pre-planner (or anal psycho spaz; whichever you prefer).  I just like to be prepared and avoid headaches whenever possible-- what's so weird about that, right?  So I've gotten into the habit of doing things a bit early over the last couple of years.

I was the least pregnant person in my birth class (about 3 months when we started compared to everyone else around 6-7 months); I just finished all of my Christmas shopping this week (mostly online to avoid my inner mall rage); and I bought a discipline book when Niall was 8 months old.

Call me crazy, but that last purchase was the smartest thing I've ever done- I am about 3/4 of the way through this book and I'm wishing I had started even sooner.

I mentioned that Niall has started having some unpleasant little tantrums lately- like scream, hit, kick, grab, arch back so you can't strap me into the high chair, throw my spoon across the room, hold my breath and make my face turn purple tantrums.  Really enjoyable.

It sounds crazy to have to worry about discipline before a year old- or even after a year old.  I was just trying to get ahead and be ready for the terrible twos.  What I didn't realize is that this book is mostly about prevention; feeding the so-called baby meter so that you won't have to deal with so many tantrums.  It makes a lot of sense.

But the discipline part- that's another story.  When I first read this guy's philosophy, I thought he was completely nuts... and my husband said he would never be associated with me if I did any of this in public.  But I'm dead serious- after a few tries of this crazy method (in the privacy of my own home), I believe him!  Now it's just a matter of getting the guts to do it in public.

Get ready to laugh... His suggestion is that you get into character and repeat the toddler's feelings of anger and frustration to show him that you understand what he wants.

Demonstration:  (picture me doing this in the middle of a meltdown at the store with everyone staring at me...)  Toddler starts flipping out because he can't have a candy bar he spots as you're checking out.  You drop down to his eye level- we wouldn't want to be threatening to their fragile egos ;)- and with the same amount of emotion and lots of hand gestures, I would say "Niall want candy bar.  Niall WANT!  NOW!  Niall want candy bar.  Niall MAD.  Mad, mad mad!  Niall says "Mean Mommy!" etc. and then say "but noooo, no candy right now.  How about we play with one of our toys?  Do you want the car or the teddy bear?"

So he ultimately thinks that you need to acknowledge their feelings before offering a distraction (preferably offer options to give them some control), which I get.  It must be very frustrating not being able to communicate well, or even know if your parent understands what you want.  It's just SOOOO embarrassing.  Imagine if it didn't work!  Then, I'd be the ultimate headcase.  Niall would do something like that, too, just to make me look like an idiot.  He's a smart little bugger about that stuff.

But seriously, if your kid is approaching the terrible twos, the concepts in this book really do work.  I am so happy that I got it.  I honestly think I'm going to have to re-read it when I'm done and make some little bullet point lists to use all of the information.  It's called "The Happiest Toddler on the Block," by Harvey Karp, MD. He has used these tactics on his own little tricky patients in the pediatrician's office, so he really knows his stuff.

Does anyone have any other helpful resources or advice for dealing with temper tantrums/ terrible twos?  I'd love to hear them!

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  1. Okay, that does sound like it would look insane...haha...but I see where he's coming from with. I watched the Happiest Baby on the Block dvd and loved it. I think this guy really knows what he's talking about. Using baby sign language - which you're already doing - is also supposed to help prevent tantrums, because your giving your child the ability to express himself. The idea is that if he can tell you what he wants, then he won't be so frustrated and won't have a melt down. Of course this doesn't work when you know perfectly well what they want and then deny them the object of their desire (no you cannot have my cell phone and order any more apps I don't need for $10 a pop!). You can also teach them emotion signs so that they can express themselves with words/signs instead of tears. Nate still arches his back, hits and throws his share of fits, but I think it might be much worse if we didn't have sign language to understand each other. Sorry for the novel! Good luck - to both of us :)

  2. My sister has read these books and kinda swears by them. I can totally get behind ackowledging feelings and then offering an alternative, but truthfully I can not bring myself to get all toddlery and up in their mix. :) Still trying to figure it all out with my 1-year-old, 2-year-old and 5-year-old. Thanks for stopping by and following my photo blog! You can also find me at (Me As A Mother) where the aforementioned kiddos are profiled in great detail! Going to follow you because I like what you have to say and really dig the barfing pumpkin pic!

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  4. Nope, does not sound weird at all!!! Parents should worry about discipline before their child is a year old. We start time-outs around 16 months old. Get involved in Early Childhood classes with your child at your area school. It will help tremendously! We spent a lot of time talking about toddler frustration in our 2's class and how to acknowledge their feelings before distraction.

  5. Huh, that's really interesting. It makes sense too! I love his book Happiest Baby on the Block so I'll have to check that one out too. Not sure if I could get up the nerve to do it in public but if it works, who cares I guess! Right now, I explain how she's feeling to acknowledge and even make a mad or sad face but not to extent that you mention. Very interesting!


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