If your household is anything like mine, tantrums and defiance are a daily occurrence. Instances range from mild to severe and you can never be sure what will diffuse a situation. Here are my go-to tactics for helping our days go a little smoother.
1. Many tantrums are triggered when she doesn’t get what she wants, immediately. I usually fall back on one of several phrases;
I can’t understand what you need when you scream. Please use your words.
Yelling at me is not the right way to ask for what you need.
I know it’s hard to be patient but we need to wait our turn.
You’ve been playing with that for awhile; now it’s a friend’s turn. That’s what we do with our friends, we share.
While it’s important to me for her to hear me say those things, I know they don’t help calm her down. So while I hope that my words sink in (and, more and more, it appears that they do), I also try to put into words for her what it appears she’s upset about. In fact, when I combine the two, that’s when this tactic seems to work best.
“Are you upset because the other kid took your toy [that you abandoned 10 minutes ago]? You’d been playing with that for awhile; now it’s a friend’s turn. That’s what we do with our friends, we share.”
I don’t believe that every tantrum should be pacified; I think it’s actually detrimental if kids don’t experience anger and upset feelings and they shouldn’t always get everything they want, because that’s not practical. But this isn’t necessarily about being a pushover; it’s about creating a teachable moment. And keeping the general peace.
2. Other tense situations at our house happen when my daughter won’t listen. When I’m outright ignored or she’s being defiant. Again, there’s usually a reason for this. She had a treat that day and is hopped up on sugar. The television is on and she’s completely distracted. Maybe it’s her witching hour. Or, you know, she’s just being two.
Again, I have my catch phrase (I try to avoid yelling and do my best to say, “You’re not being a good listener right now”) but again that does very little to make her actually hear me about what behavior needs to stop or what I need her to be doing instead of ignoring me. Here’s where redirection works for us. It was effective when she was an infant and still has its moments today. Instead of offering my Plan B to her Plan A (which she’s been ignoring), I go for Plan C. Plan C is whatever she’s into at the moment. Currently, completing her bunny puzzle or reading the “Santa story” (‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…no idea why this is her most recent book of choice) are both good options for my Plan C. Plan C should always be a quiet activity, and one where we’re engaged together, so that I have her attention once we’ve completed Plan C so I know she’ll hear me when I then throw Plan B back into the mix. See what I did there? It’s the ol’ bait and switch, mama style.
3. Of course, there are days when nothing will work, no matter how mighty my efforts.
If all else fails, I simply bribe with popsicles.