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That Tips Really Work! How To Deal With Toddler Temper Tantrums

Reason

There's a reason that people refer to the age two years old as the terrible twos. And that's because that's usually around the time that temper tantrum starts. If they're going to. Sometimes there's a really colicky baby and then they're really calm when they hit their toddlers their toddler ages. And sometimes I've noticed that it works the other way around too. 

Sometimes they're such a calm baby and then they hit those toddler years and they just are like shot out of a cannon. And everything is exciting and everything is bigger than life including their frustrations and their anger and their emotions and everything else.

So, those are usually the parents that say, "Oh, we are in the terrible twos." Because usually that child before was not as much of a handful when they were younger. So, what do we do about those toddler tantrums? Well, this article is all about how to prevent those toddler tantrums before they even start? 

Toddlers Are Capable Of More Than Their Parents Often Think

In fact, they can learn communication skills. They can even learn how to self-analyze. Which some people think is a pretty mature skill to learn. Even though their prefrontal cortexes of the brain are quite small, they are still learning cause and effect and some of that cause and effect can be pointed at analyzing themselves. 

This is good to know because this means that they actually can make progress on controlling those toddler temper tantrums. In this article, I'm going to tell you the story about three-year-old Julie and her amazing successes. Then we're going to talk about the best way to stop those toddler temper tantrums before they even start. And as part of that method, I'm going to share with you Julie's parent's calm plan. 

The other day some friends of mine who have a little 3-year-old daughter named Julie told me that Julie was doing an incredible job of learning self-government. And of course, I was very excited about this because I love self-government and that's something that I teach and I taught Julie's parents how to do. Well, they explained that Julie was so good at all of the four basic skills. 

So, we teach these 4 basic skills. In fact, these children's books each teach those 4 basic skills. They teach following instructions, accepting no answers, accepting consequences, and disagree appropriately. Disagree appropriately, 3-year-old Julie who's actually just barely three is disagreeing appropriately with her family. 

That means that she knows how to look at the person, keep a calm face, voice, and body, say that she understands the other person's point of view, share her point of view, listen to what they have to say, say okay, and drop the subject. That's awesome. Little Julie, if only she had enough words to teach this to you. But I'm just going to tell you about her experience. So, her parents said that she knows all 4 of the four basic skills. She also is really great at analyzing. They were able to tell me that she knows exactly when someone is calm and isn't calm. This was something they taught her. 

It wasn't something she was just born knowing. Now, of course, some people might have a little bit more of an intuitive nature when it relates to seeing what a person's feeling. But even so, Julie's parents pulled her aside and said, "This is what a calm face looks like. This is what a calm face doesn't look like, right? This is not calm. This is calm. This type of voice is not calm. This type of voice is calm." And so they gave her those examples and they practiced being calm, being not calm so that she would know the difference. 

So, when the parents are not being calm, guess what little Julie does? She says, "Dad can I disagree appropriately?" And then dad immediately knows here comes Julie from the mouths of babes, we are going to be taught now what we should be doing correctly. And so, he'll say, "Yes." And she'll say, "Dad, right now, you're upset. You're supposed to be calm." Oh, ouch. But it's a good ouch, isn't it? To help each other along the path to calmness and better communication as a family. Little Julie, age 3 could do this. 

Self-Government

Another thing that Julie knows is she knows that her family is working on learning something called self-government. And she knows that the reason they're working on learning self-government is so that they can be a happy United Family. Julie thinks this is a good goal and she's in support of it. Now, that doesn't mean Julie's perfect every second of the day. But she is unified with her parent's intentions and they're working on it together. This tells you what toddlers are capable of doing. So, when did Julie's parents start teaching her about following instructions, about calmness what it is what it isn't? And about this big term self-government or self-control? 

They started teaching her when she was 2 years old. And she started working on it. And she learned things quite quickly. Of course, at first, some of the words were a little bit of a mouthful and they had to simplify them just slightly. But she was able to learn the concepts and to self-analyze herself. These are vital steps for helping that child conquer those tantrums that can happen when they're toddlers because of frustration and not being understood before those tantrums even start. Julie was taught not simply managed. And there is a difference between the 2 of those. Many people think that toddlers just need to be managed. Tell them no, keep them away, lock everything up. 

It doesn't mean you can't have safety locks on things and stuff like that. Sometimes it's smart to have those things. But if we just think of changing their environments so that they don't find problems, then they're not really learning anything. 

Disabling

Some ways, they're being disabled because they don't get the opportunity to ever learn, "No, this is something I don't touch. This is something I don't say or I don't do." 

They miss out on all of that confidence and empowerment that comes from learning how to control themselves. Well, little Julie has this confidence. Her parents created a plan for how they were going to help her conquer the desire to have a tantrum before she even started getting into having tantrums or breaking into that phase. Tantrums and toddlers usually lead to whining complaining crying. Many things are involved in a temper tantrum. 

Calm Down Place

But after the toddler years, comes a new phase which often involves whining or getting even more aggressive because they're bigger. So, if we can stop the toddler temper tantrums, that's a mouthful I keep almost slipping over it. If we can stop those before they even start, then we also have made great strides in stopping some of those later behaviors that follow after those toddler temper tantrums. So, here's Julie's plan: julie does not go to timeout. Now, I know that's weird. Julie has a calm down place. Timeout is a consequence. 

The consequence is to remove the child away from people so that they feel that they're not being socially acceptable or they are taught through that timeout experience because you're not doing something that we like then we don't want to be with you. 

That's the message that comes with a timeout. Julie does not have a timeout. She has a calm down place. So, if Julie starts to go completely out of control, if she doesn't use the skills that she has been taught, which I think most of the time she does, but she's still a toddler. 

She's still little and probably quite impulsive. So, she's not going to be perfect every day. And we do need to embrace that as parents of small children, right? Well, if she doesn't use her skills then her parents have told her that they would take her to a calm down place. This is just a trigger spot. It's a place that triggers her to get calm. That's why it's called the calm down place. 

They gently walk her to the calm down place and she stays on the calm down place which could be a little stool at the edge of the counter. It could be a little mat or a cushion on the couch. wherever they choose best for her but usually not in her room with her toys. Not around other people or other distractions. She needs to have it be a place where she's just focused on getting calm. 

Because Julie needs to recognize that she made a choice to get calm. She can recognize that choice even when she's a little tiny toddler. So, she's told that she's going to stay in this calm down place until she's calm. And one of the ways that her parents know that she's calm as if she can say that OKAY. And she can have a calm face voice and body. Which is something that they have practiced before. So, this is the first part of their plan. If things get really bad, where does Julie go to trigger her to make a change in her brain to do something different? And that's Julie's calm down place. 

Accepting Consequency

The second part of Julie's plan is that she knows how to accept a consequence and correction from her parents. They've taught her that. So, remember one of those 4 basic skills is accepting a consequence. This is a very motivating skill. If a person gets the opportunity to accept a consequence or accept a correction, then they can learn self-government. If parents just take things away, that's not accepting a consequence. 

Accepting consequences being able to calmly say OKAY and following through with a task that is assigned to them. In our family, we use extra chores as the negative consequence the majority of the time. So, does Julie's family. So, when Julie is corrected, her parents go through an effective teaching skill set which has 7 steps to it. And then Julie gets the opportunity to accept a consequence which is again a skill set that has multiple steps to it. 

Part of this consequence is staying calm so she keeps a calm face voice and body. She says okay that she accepts that she earned an extra tour. And then she gets the opportunity to do that age-appropriate chore. But another key part of this especially for toddlers is vital and that is she gets to have practice time doing whatever skills she first messed up correctly multiple times to make sure that she really understands the skill. 

When they're toddlers, the front part of their brain, the prefrontal cortex is so very small. So, we need to think in terms of training them more than expecting them to have desired results immediately. I think parents sabotage themselves and their child's happiness by expecting that their child would just know how they want them to act. No. They have to be trained and it takes time. 

Pre-Teaching

That brings me to the third part of Julie's plan which is the pre-teaching that occurs. Julie was pre-taught about everything. She was pre-taught the skills she needed. She was pre-taught how the parents would do the corrections. She was pre-taught that she would get the opportunity to do those practices as part of her negative consequences in her corrections. 

She was pre-taught where her negative consequences would be that they would be little age-appropriate, extra chores and she was pre-taught where her calm down place would be. When she would go there and when she would be able to leave. The parents taught her all the skills that they would use to help her. This liberates Julie and her parents so that nobody needs to have anxiety when somebody accidentally misbehaves. Which is going to happen with toddlers all the time.

I know there's somebody out there thinking, "Yeah, but what if your child will not stay in the calm down place?" I know. I get that question asked to me all the time. I had 2 children that didn't want to stay in the calm down place. One after I helped him stay in the calm down place, maybe 2 times he was fine. But there was another one that I had to help stay in the calm down place quite a few more times before he decided this truly was a good and okay place for him to get calm. Some children, especially toddlers, think it's funny to be oppositional.

One of the reasons they do that is because we oftentimes laugh at them and even tell them they're funny oppositional stories to other people. Some people even videotape their children being oppositional and let the world laugh at the children. But the truth is that behavior is not good behavior and makes a problem in the relationship with the parents, especially in the long term. So, it's important that the family address every behavior the moment it occurs and not laugh at it but treat it as something that needs to be conquered. 

So, these oppositional children, when they are in the calm down place or when you initially take them to the calm down place, might say, "No, I'm not staying." Or they might just wander off when your lot not looking. Or they might run away and make you have to run after they trying to catch them and then we have this toddler chase thing and they think it's incredibly funny.

Power Stuggles

All of these things they're doing are called power struggles. And you mustn't give in to power struggles. But it's also important you get them to that calm down place so that they know this is the place they have to learn to go to to get calm and to self-assess themselves. So, what I tell my children is that if they're not being calm, I will gently take them by the arm and I will take them to the calm down place. If they try to pull, I'm not going to pull too. I'm just going to keep gently taking them by the arm. But I'm not going to release my hold either. 

This means they're going to come with me to the comb don't please. And I'm going to tell them, "Now, you can either sit on the calm down place yourself and get calm and just say okay or I'll have to hold you here." Now, if I hold them there, I have to make sure that my heart is in the right place. I have to feel calm not like I'm wrangling some child and not stressed or emotional. 

I have to think, "This is okay. They'll get calm. You can be calm." And I'm probably gonna say something to my childlike, "Do you want mommy to hold you?" And they'll say, "No." I'll say, "Mommy doesn't need to hold you if you can be calm. Just choose to be calm." So then, if they can say, okay I'll let my hands go and they can stay there.

Sometimes, when you've been using the calm down place for a toddler for a while, they'll get calm before they even need to go to the calm down place. It became a very common occurrence for me to correct my son and him to go out of control and then for me to say, "Oh, Porter. You're whining. It seems like we need to go to the calm down place." And I would gently take him by the hand and take him toward the calm down place and then he would go, "I'm calm, mom. I'm okay." And then I would praise him right there. 

Guess what? He didn't need to go to the calm-down place. The calm down place is not a negative consequence. This is powerful. Little children absolutely need the security of having that calm down place so that they know there's a place where they can make a change. And Julie had that. I don't know how often Julie's had to use her calm down place. I didn't ask her parents that. 

But I do know that they are incredibly impressed with the strides that Julie has made. And with her understanding of herself and of self-government. Julie and her parents have given each other permission through this plan to stay calm and proactive all the time. Instead of being reactive to tantrums which a lot of people do. 

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