Monday, July 11, 2011

Tips for The Terribles

“The Terribles” are different for every kid (and every parent). Some are smacked in the face with terrible twos as early as 19 months. Some don’t see the wrath until 2 ½ or nearly three. Some, thinking they have magically escaped The Terribles altogether, are blindsided with a three-year-old straight out of a Chuckie movie.

My daughter fit in that second category. We suffered a serious case of The Terribles last fall, when she was around 29 months old. And let me tell you, those were three months of pure torture. I did not know what kind of crazy child I raised, and I did not know if I had what it took to continue being a mom.

Now that Amelia is three years (+ a few months) old, I have a solid grip on my parenting. We’re entering the dramatic, cry-about-everything world of a feisty girl, but I’m not scared. I faced The Terribles, and I came out on the other side! Our little family of three is still intact, and happier than ever.

I read my Twitter stream several times a day, and I know some of you are in the dark place right now. I cannot claim to be an expert (goodness knows I’ve failed many, many times), but maybe I have a tip that can help you face the dreaded Terribles.

Tip 1: Consistency, consistency, consistency. This can be a lot harder than it sounds. When you are in the midst of an all-out toddler/preschooler tantrum, panic mode can set in. The temptation to end the shrieking, flailing chaos at your feet is tremendous. But giving in? Is the worst thing you can do. If you said NO, you must stick with it at all costs. Similarly, punishment should be the same every. single. time. I was not physically capable of sitting my child in a timeout chair or even keeping her in her room. My solution? I put myself in timeout. I told her “I cannot listen to this.” I removed myself from the room. She would follow and I would sit, breathing deeply in and out, calming my own body and mind. I did this every time (er, almost… like I said, it’s so hard!). Pretty soon, she realized that she would get no attention from me until she used her words and calmed herself down too.

Tip 2: Do not negotiate or over-explain. Children in tantrums are out of control. They are not able to listen or reason in the heat of the moment. At the start of “The Terribles”, when I allowed panic to set in, I could hear myself talking too much. Trying to explain to her why she had to calm down. Almost begging, giving her this option or that, frantically searching for the magic words to turn off her screams. She simply could not process anything while the emotions were so strong. Once we reached a calm point, I then took the opportunity to explain what happened and why her tantrum response was not acceptable. Usually, I reviewed this information before bed. Kids need boundaries and rules, and they appreciate these discussions. It is important to present the information when they are actually capable of absorbing it.

Tip 3: A calm voice. I admit, I am horrible at this one. If my daughter is a drama queen, it’s because she got it from me. Her tantrums used to send my heart racing. I felt like my blood was literally boiling; sweat would begin to drip. Similar to tip 1 above, when I managed to pull myself together and change the tone of our interaction, her curiosity took over. Tantrums were always quicker to end when I refused to give into the frantic, angry tone.

If you are facing “The Terribles”, feel not alone. Most of us have been there. If I made it through, you can too. Power to the parents!
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