Dealing with tantrums using positive parenting

Jack at the park

Jack at the park

Jack is 19 months old now, and he is starting to have his own opinions about things more and more. Yesterday he had his second ever big tantrum, and I thought I would share how we deal with it in a positive parenting way. I got most of my ideas from The book Peaceful Parent and her web page ahaparenting.com that has a free email list you can sign up for which is great. I also joined a few facebook groups about gentle parenting which are nice to read other people’s suggestions.

So yesterday at night Jack was overtired which was my fault- I should have tried to get him to bed earlier. He wanted to play though and get really upset when I told him he couldn’t play with the water in his learning tower because it was bedtime. What I try to remember with discipline is LOVE and LIMITS. So I set limits and am firm with them (he did not get to play with the water) but I am empathic and supportive and loving. This looked like my husband coming over and us carrying Jack into the bedroom. I asked Jack if he wanted a hug but he pushed me away and was screaming. So I sat next to him and said that I would be there for him and love him. My husband tried to get closer too but Jack was too upset, so he also said that he was there if he needed him in a calm voice. I verbalized Jack’s feelings saying “it looks like you’re really sad and frustrated.” “I bet you wish you could play with the water, and we can play with it tomorrow.”  He screamed and cried for almost 30 minutes I think, and I would intermittently say things like “it’s ok to be sad,” or suggest something like “do you want to pet your fabric animals to see if that makes you feel better?”

For a long time he didn’t want to do anything or have anyone touch him and just cried, and my husband and I stayed nearby and calmly said something every few minutes. When Jack finally started to calm down we offered some ideas and he said he wanted a snack and water, so we brought it over. He independently came over to hug me while my husband got the snack which made me feel really good. It really reinforces that dealing with his big feelings in a supportive way lets him know that we love him no matter what. I’m so glad I read about positive parenting instead of thinking that punishment or ignoring is the best way to deal with tantrums. I can’t imagine how hard it would be for a toddler to get left alone or punished for there scary feelings he has which already feel overwhelming and make him feel out of control.  Going through this with my husband also made me fall in love with him even more- seeing how patient and gentle he could be with our son who was having such a hard time.

Update at 18 months

6.24books

 

I can’t believe how fast time is passing and that Jack is already 18 months old! I remember when he was a tiny baby we’d always be the youngest ones at meetups and things, and now he is definitely a toddler! I try as much as possible to be present and enjoy each day because they really fly by, and even if we have another child it’ll never be the same as having all my time to enjoy just Jack. Some things that have been going on lately:

  • Talking: Jack is saying about 10 words or so now. It’s on the low end of normal, but hopefully he’s just a later talker like his dad was. I make sure to narrate what we are doing all day and wait for him to respond to questions so he has the opportunity to practice talking. While he says 10 words he says the same 3 most often- ball, mama, and car. So it really doesn’t feel like he’s that grown up yet, I think once he is using his words all the time it will really feel like he’s not a baby any more.
  • Eating: Jack has gradually been eating more solids. He likes most things that are breaded such as organic chicken nuggets or fish nuggets. He is also eating more fruits such as peaches. Our meals are still pretty random things at this point though, like raisins and peanut butter for breakfast.
  • Babywearing: I still wear Jack for usually either a nap or to get him to sleep for bedtime. I also use the Tula a lot for when we are walking to of from a store or part of the time we are walking our dog.
  • Breastfeeding: Jack still nurses a lot! If I’m gone for 4-5 hours for work I start feeling engorged. He also nurses every few hours at night. Once his teeth are in I’ll try to cut that down, but he keeps having teething pain at least a few weeks a month so it doesn’t seem worth it to deal with the crying and lack of sleep of night weaning just to go back on it a week later when he has horrible teething pain all night.
  • Clothes: we have still been able to stick with 100% organic clothes! I’ve been happy to find toddler clothes at H&M, Frugi, Burt’s Bees, and some random stuff on amazon.
  • Cloth diapers: Jack is wearing mostly Bumgenius 4.0 pockets now because they are easy to change while he’s standing or walking. He goes to the potty when he wakes up in the morning and usually after nap and we get almost all poops in the potty.
  • Movement: Jack is almost running now which is cute. He is also climbing nonstop! He can push a chair to the kitchen counter and climb up on it which is scary. We are looking for a used learning tower for him to make standing at the kitchen sink a little safer.
  • Playing: Jack still prefers playing with containers or laundry over mot of the toys he has! Some favorite toys that actually get used often are books, his wooden cart, and his pounding toy which he also likes to remove the pegs from and put them places.

Overall he can entertain himself for longer and longer now- sometimes 10-20 minutes, so it’s getting so much easier for me! I can now cook in the kitchen sometimes while he plays in the sink or with some containers, or I can clean while he “swiffers.” He also sits in his high chair long enough for me to eat an entire meal often, although sometimes I have to give him a little container with a lid for him to put raisins into to keep him busy at the end.

I love how he learns new things almost every day, like how to make a new animal noise. He is starting to get upset when we tell him he can’t do things, but luckily after reading a ton about positive parenting (I love the book Peaceful Parenting) I feel pretty well equipped to deal with it and help him learn to calm himself down so far. I’m sure it will get harder (but in some ways easier) as he gets older though!

7 alternatives to saying “no” to your child

 
Jack trying to take Bear's toy (as usual)

Jack trying to take Bear’s toy (as usual)

 

Did you know that apparently children hear “no” or something like it about 9 times PER HOUR! Can you imagine how you would feel if people criticized your behavior that often? Also, hearing “no” is not very informative about what behavior is acceptable, or even what specifically is wrong about a behavior. Here are some alternatives (coming from someone with a doctorate in child psychology, so it’s all research supported to work!)

  1. Say the positive alternative behavior, like “gentle.” Jack grabs Bear (our dog) often, so we tell him “gentle” and model for him how to pet Bear. This show your child what the correct behavior is, which is more helpful than a vague criticism. Other examples are saying “walk please” if your child is running, or “let’s hear your indoor voice” if they are being loud.
  2. Prevent yourself from having to say no by babyproofing. If your outlets are all covered, you never have to say no to your child who is playing near the outlet.
  3. Choose your battles and be aware of age-appropriate expectations. Are you stressing and saying “no throwing food” to your 9 months old at every meal? That’s normal behavior at that age, so while you can remind them “food on the table please” it’s likely more worth it to let it go and just clean up afterwards (or get a dog!). Other examples are relaxing about the fact that your child will make a mess with toys, may bang things too loudly, or can’t sit still for very long. These are all normal for babies/toddlers.
  4. Redirect your child before a problem happens. If I see Jack about to grab Bear’s bone, instead of “no” I can say “Jack” to get his attention, and then offer him another toy or lead him to another activity.
  5. Say “I’m so glad you showed me you need help!” If Jack is ramming his cart against the wall, instead of saying “no” I can use that phrase and come over to help him turn around. This makes you seem like you are on your child’s team and they start to learn they can ask you for help when they need something without you becoming angry.
  6. Say “oops!” or “uh oh!” It’s great to get in the habit of using any of these phrases if your child does something that upsets you by accident. It diffuses the situation if they broke a glass and you say “whoopsy!” instead of “no, Jack! why did you do that?”
  7. Say the rule like “hands are for hugging, not for hitting.” If your child breaks one of the (hopefully few and easy to remember) rules, you can restate the rule in a neutral tone. Bonus points if your rule is a rhyme!