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Dealing with a Toddler Tantrum Gently- One Tip that is Actually Working for Me


October 16, 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Raising a Parent


Dealing with Toddler Tantrums Gently- One Tip that is Actually Working for Me - Baby & Beyond

Baby N (now Toddler N actually) has an attraction towards anything electronic and electrical. He probably takes after his Electronics engineer mom. A month or so back, he was fiddling around with the AC remote and managed to open the battery slot. I tried calmly asking him to hand the remote over to me, tried distracting him with some other toys, but nothing worked. When he managed to pull the batteries out, I panicked and grabbed them from his hand. Of course this led to a major toddler tantrum of the screaming, crying and collapsing onto the floor variety.

 

I tried every trick in the parenting handbook – reasoning with him, trying to distract him, scooping him up and trying to soothe him, ignoring the tantrum altogether; nothing seemed to work. Then all of a sudden I remembered an article my sister had shared on Facebook some time back. It talked about the most powerful response when your child is inconsolable.

 

So here is what I did. I picked him up again and said “N, do you remember where your new shoes are? I can’t find them.”

A thoughtful look passed over his face for a second and then he was back to bawling. So I tried again.

“N, do you know where your new shoes are? I can’t see them anywhere. Did we leave them at school?”

He shook his head and continued crying.

“We didn’t leave them at school? So you know where they are?”

He nodded yes and pointed in the direction of the shoes. The intensity of his crying was starting to reduce.

I pretended to search. “Where? Here under the bed?”

“Nooooo”, he said. “Heeerrreee”, pointing again towards the shoes. He had stopped crying by now.

“Oh! Under the chair”, I said pretending to look.

“Noooooo”. He jumped down from my arms and walked tentatively towards the shoes.

“Where? Inside the drawer?”

“Nooooooo…here!” He ran towards the shoes and brought them back to me. He was smiling by now, remote all forgotten.

 

19 month old N is officially a toddler now and for many parents, toddlerhood is synonymous with toddler tantrums. Though I dislike negative labels such as “terrible twos”, there is no denying the fact that this is a tough age and the frequent meltdowns and tantrums often try my patience too. Anything could trigger it – he wants more time on the swing or in the bathtub, he wants something he shouldn’t have (usually electronics or some food item) and the most common ones – he doesn’t want to wear clothes or diapers and doesn’t want to sleep. When all else fails, I have used this trick and it almost always seems to work.

 

Amanda, a Children’s Mental Health Counselor, writes that when we get upset, our brain starts functioning in its more primitive system, that which controls our emotions. The ‘logic’ part of the brain finds it hard to function. This is why we sometimes feel like we are so emotional that we cannot even think straight. As adults, we still manage to switch between the emotional and logical sides of the brain. However for little kids, if one part of the brain is very active (in this case the emotional part), then the other part (logical) finds it difficult to function.

 

So the tip Amanda shares to calm down an inconsolable child, is to encourage the child to start thinking so that the brain moves its functioning towards the logical side. She suggests asking the child to identify objects of a certain colour, or perform simple addition. However N being too small for this, I try to bring his attention to things he remembers and can relate too. I ask him to find objects around the house (like the shoes incident), or to help me with something (pack his bag for school or put away his clothes in the cupboard). In a way this is similar to distracting the child away from the source of the tantrum, but instead of distracting with a toy or book or something else, it is intentionally guiding the brain to use its abilities to interpret logic instead of emotion. There is no 100% guaranteed solution when it comes to a toddler tantrum, but more often than not this works for me. It takes time and I need to repeat the question clearly and slowly several times, but I can actually see the effect as his facial expressions change from hurt / angry / frustrated to thoughtful.

 

Remember that both adults as well as children experience outbursts of emotions. As adults we are able to control and express our emotions better, but children find this harder to do. So what we call a toddler tantrum is not about the child trying to be disobedient. It is just the child trying to express his feelings. Instead of becoming stern, shouting or punishing, I believe we need to find gentler ways to calm the child down. This tip seems to be working well for me, but if you are looking for other non-aggressive ways to keep peace with tantrums, my friend Karuna has shared some great tips here.

 

Photo Credit: Aaandrea, Pixabay

I am taking part in The Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge. This post is for the 16th October prompt: “Disobedience”.

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Comments
  1. Suzy said on October 16, 2017 4:05 pm:

    That is a good tip. Parenting is not easy and you handled the tantrum well.

    1. Baby & Beyond said on October 17, 2017 12:17 pm:

      Thank you!

  2. Aesha Shah said on October 16, 2017 4:17 pm:

    That’s an awesome tip to calm a toddler. Patience is an essential virtue while dealing with toddlers.

  3. Leo said on October 16, 2017 4:19 pm:

    Distraction, huh? That’s a good trick. 🙂 Good that it worked, and that N was smiling at the end.

  4. Apeksha Rao said on October 16, 2017 8:42 pm:

    Wow! I’m going to try this trick with my boys. Thank you for this, Mahak.

    1. Baby & Beyond said on October 17, 2017 12:16 pm:

      Let me know how it goes!

  5. SHALINI BAISIWALA said on October 17, 2017 9:02 am:

    I admire you moms for handling this with such equanimity; I have watched my sister too with her child when he was younger! Its a fine balancing act in my opinion. I find the squalling screaming children such a chore and itch to smack them (not the ideal solution I know) but I dont think I have the patience to handle them!
    Your tip sounds really good and makes me realise how much moms have to think on their feet all the time

    1. Baby & Beyond said on October 17, 2017 12:13 pm:

      You know what, I used to feel exactly the same way when I would watch my sister or friends with their kids. But somehow becoming a mother myself has made me a more calm, patient and mindful person on the whole too. It is incredible!

  6. Lata Sunil said on October 17, 2017 5:13 pm:

    Thats a very useful tip. But now my children are teenagers. Better to try it out on my nieces and nephews.

  7. keerthi vydyula said on October 17, 2017 6:36 pm:

    That’s a neat trick i must say! Will share it with my friends and see how it works for them!

  8. Soumya said on October 17, 2017 7:21 pm:

    Genuinely needed this tip right now. More for my husband than me. Was a helpful article

  9. Sreedeep said on October 17, 2017 11:09 pm:

    That’s a great tip. Didn’t know about that switch between emotional and logical. Nice piece, Mahak!

  10. Anjana said on October 21, 2017 10:24 am:

    Totally great and foolproof tip! Works at home most of the times. With the toddler or with me 😛

    1. Baby & Beyond said on October 23, 2017 10:49 am:

      Haha!