How to deal with tantrums part 2, the 5 techniques for coping with tantrums

tantrums 2Thanks once again to the marvellous Rachel Fitz-Desorgher, all-round parenting guru, who has kindly written for Live Oxfordshire this two-part guide to dealing with tantrums. Last week she looked at the 5 principles to keep in mind during the tantrum years and, if you didn’t see it, then it is definitely worth reading before you look at these techniques. This week she will cover, in detail, 5 specific strategies to try once a tantrum is in full swing to minimise the distress to you and your child and, hopefully, prevent them from becoming a frequent weapon in your child’s armoury.

1. Ignore: This approach can give the quickest result but can also be the trickiest to implement. Your child will learn very quickly that her tantrum gets her some degree of attention, good or bad. Completely withdrawing ANY attention allows an individual tantrum to dissipate in its own natural time rather than causing it to become an attention-seeking device. However, ignoring completely means just that. Here are some ways that parents who are trying to ignore a child inadvertently give attention and reinforce the behaviour:
  • “I’m not listening!”
  • “I’m counting … 1 … 2 …”
  • “Stop the tantrum and then I’ll listen.”
  • “Don’t start or I’ll be cross!”
  • Silent glare
  • Fingers in ears and singing
  • Giving the “Speak to the hand …” sign
If you have decided to ignore a tantrum then you really have to ignore it, calmly, confidently and completely. Carry on doing whatever you need to do: read a book, make a cup of tea, hoover the stairs. Just don’t get drawn in. Your child will try and try to get your attention but do not waver. Think of a drinks machine. You put in £1 and press the button … nothing. You press the button again … nothing. You will keep on pressing until you are satisfied that no drink is coming and then you will give up. If you kick the machine and you get a drink, next time, you will try the kick again. Why wouldn’t you?
As soon as the tantrum is really over, invite your child to join you and then give praise for something as soon as you possibly can, “OK, Poppet, all done! Come and give me a hand with the laundry. There, you found your two blue socks – well done you!” Don’t harp on about the tantrum or discuss it in any way. It’s gone. Don’t rub her nose in it!
2. Remove and Ignore: If you find it hard to ignore your child during a tantrum, or if he grabs you or tries to throw things around, remove him to somewhere completely safe and free from valuables and then ignore him. All you need to do is calmly warn him that that is what you are going to do, “I can’t let you stay in with me to shout and throw things. You will be safe in here until you feel better and can come back to join me.” Then do not say any more at all. If he comes out mid-tantrum, calmly and silently pick him up, pop him back in the safe area and shut the door if you need to (you may choose to leave it open if you are sure you won’t want to keep checking up on him and engaging.
When all is quiet, leave him for a minute to be sure and then calmly ask, “Are you feeling better now? Ok, come on out and let’s get back to making that train track.” Remember not to revisit the topic, “but you are still not having your brother’s red train!” unless he does and then stick to your guns, “I know how much you want the red train and you can have the blue or yellow one, you choose.” If the tantrum starts up again, go straight to putting him in the safe area without a warning this time. Hard to do over and over again but your child will need dozens of opportunities like this before he learns adequate emotional control.
3. Natural consequences: Older children may respond better to consequences. It is also a good approach if you just cannot ignore the tantrum. However, you WILL have to carry out the consequence if pushed so make jolly sure you can before you say anything. Most tantrums (or, if the child is older, most rows) take up time. So the most natural consequences are time-related ones. A pre-bed tantrum may mean no time for a book.
If this is a regular occurrence, pick a good time to make a bedtime ritual chart with your child and then she can tick off each ritual in turn each night. If she has a tantrum, she will have to lose one, then two, then three rituals. However, when the tantrum is over, cheerfully say “Ok. Now, choose 2 things from your chart.” If she says she wants three things then stand firm but don’t harp on about the tantrum, “No, you haven’t got time for three, choose two quickly.”
With an older child, you may feel that you do not want to spend the afternoon shopping with someone who is yelling rudely at you. This is just the way of the world. If people are horrid to us, we don’t want to spend time with them. But deliver the news firmly and congruently. No apologetic voice signaling your uncertainty and guilt! Try “I suggest you stop speaking rudely to me double quick or I’ll be in no mood to go shopping with you!”
Be quite clear that you will have to follow through on your consequences a number of times before your child realizes that you really DO mean what you say.
It is fine to put consequences in place that really will make it clear that there are limits. If an older child has lurched from one ‘scene’ to another all day, then it is not unreasonable to refuse to have supper with him, or to put him to bed half an hour earlier or to leave him at home for the day whilst you go out with the rest of the family as planned. Just don’t threaten anything you are not 100% sure you can go through with. And remember to remain congruent.
4. Choices: Using choices can help both to distract and manage a tantrum. If a tantrum is brewing in the supermarket then distract, “Shall we have fish fingers or jam sandwiches for tea? You get to choose.” But if you find yourself in the midst of the real thing, use a choice to cut it short, “I can’t allow that in here. You stop and walk with me or you can sit in the trolley. Quickly, choose.” If she chooses to sit in the trolley but continues to tantrum then YOU have a choice – ignore her and carry on shopping or push the trolley somewhere quiet and handle the tantrum in your chosen way.
Remember that any consequence for a toddler needs to make sense and be immediate, “You need to calm yourself down. I will count slowly to ten. If you are not calm by then, we won’t have time to buy the doughnuts we wanted for tea.” If you possibly can, avoid consequences that are too far away time-wise as you are likely to just precipitate another tantrum, “If you carry on, there won’t be time to feed the ducks this afternoon”. Your child will have forgotten about the tantrum by the time she has had lunch and will not want to be reminded of it when it comes to time for feeding the ducks.
In truth, with a toddler, a tantrum is so overwhelming that, unless it has barely got going, your child will be in no fit state to make a choice so only use this if you have got the timing right. With older children who are trying to make you do what they say against your better judgement then keep choices small and don’t be deflected, “I have said no to a sleepover. You can have a pizza evening with two friends or a breakfast picnic tomorrow with three friends. You choose”. Do not be talked into compromises “Why can’t I have a pizza evening with three friends?” “The choice is, pizza evening with two friends or breakfast picnic with three friends. You choose.”
The purpose is to get the child to make a choice and accept that she can’t always have what she wants. If she stomps off saying “Fine, I won’t have either!” That’s ok. Of course, she may reflect for a while and then choose the breakfast picnic. That’s ok, you were not wanting to punish her anyway. She still hasn’t got the sleepover and she HAS made a choice, “Great choice. What do you want to prepare for breakfast?”
5. Hold: This is the most loving way to manage your child during a tantrum. You provide the control, calm and loving reassurance that your young child desperately needs at this moment. However, make sure that you can do this calmly and lovingly. Often, you find that holding your child during a tantrum helps you to calm down yourself and feel your love for them return. But if your anger is too strong, put him safe away from you and ignore him. It may take a LOT of will power so maybe get a relaxing tape especially for such moment!
In order to hold your child, put him on your lap facing away (so he can’t bite or head-butt you), and talk gently to him, “you’re quite safe, I’ve got you, you’re ok, Mummy’s here, I love you …” and so on until the tantrum is over. Then stay still and just cuddle. When you both feel better, get on with whatever you had planned. Nothing should change because of a tantrum and never re-visit it.
If your child tries to hit or pinch you, gently say, “Pinching hurts, I’m going to hold your hands so you can’t hurt us” and then do it – sometimes it is even necessary to cuddle his arms right around his tummy to stop the violence. Likewise, kicking can be restrained with your legs crossed over his. Be sure not to get angry – he needs your reassurance that you are not as overwhelmed as he is.

Remember to go back over last week’s points and look at the principles. After you have dealt with the tantrum and it has gone (at least until the next one) remember to reassure & move on. And NEVER LET A TANTRUM CHANGE ANYTHING.

Rachel Fitz-Desorgher offers “Confident Parenting” courses comprising six

2½ hour workshops designed to equip parents with tried and trusted strategies that leave both children and parents feeling empowered and capable. For more information, or to contact Rachel, you can visit her website – Rachel Fitz-D

How to set your AEG Competence oven to come on automatically

So occasionally, when out and about, I like to pretend that I’m more organised than I really am, or even that I’m in two places at the same time (hey, every mum has a superwoman complex really). At times like these it’s handy to be able to set the delayed start function on my oven (an AEG Competence) so that my food can be cooking whilst I’m away from the house and ready when we get back. Despite consulting the manual it still wasn’t clear and easy to figure out the settings, so I created a little video in case anybody else needed to do this.

In short, though, set the length of cooking time using the duration setting, then work out when you want your meal to finish cooking. Hey presto, no need for the apparently missing start function!

Was this helpful? Hope so!

How to deal with tantrums part 1 , 5 principles of the tantrum years

how to deal with tantrumsI am lucky enough to work with a wonderful midwife, lactation consultant and parenting guru, Rachel Fitz-Desorgher, who (amongst other things) runs courses on confident parenting. She has written, for Live Oxfordshire, this wonderful two-part guide to dealing with tantrums. In this part she discusses the general principles surrounding tantrums and how to (hopefully) avoid or deflect them. In the second part she covers how to handle a full-blown tantrum to minimise the distress to you and your child and stop them becoming a regular feature in your life. I hope you find these as helpful as I have!

Tantrums start in a child’s second year – so any time after the first birthday – and peak in the child’s third year. Three and four year olds still have tantrums and they can be less frequent but more prolonged. After that age, most children grow out of the classic tantrum but will still have times when they lose control and have “a hissy fit”!
Tantrums take different forms – screaming, crying, breath-holding, head-banging, biting, kicking and destruction (sometimes of favourite toys). All stem from the same cause: the child’s frustration at not being able to have or do something becomes overwhelming and he is not sufficiently developed enough to manage the ensuing emotional overload.
5 Principles for the age of tantrums
The mid-tantrum toddler is lost to the world, swept up as a result of an emotional blown fuse over which he has no control. It is horrible and exhausting for you and terrifying for him. You know it will end and he will be quite ok again, he has no such internal reassurance.
Even though you know that this is a developmental stage, tantrums still rattle your nerves and give you grey hairs. It does help to know that tantrums really are terrible to endure for both of you and that what your child lacks (self-control) you have to provide.
There are a number of strategies for handling tantrums. As with all other aspects of child rearing, what suits one parent will not necessarily suit another. However, whichever method you choose, the 5 principles remain the same:
  • Avoid
  • Distract
  • Handle
  • Reassure & move on
  • Praise
1. Avoid: Given that tantrums arise from frustration, it makes sense to remove as much frustration as you possibly can. Tantrums are just horrible and you may as well reduce the number you all have to live through to a minimum. Ensure your child’s room and all other “free” areas in the home are as child-friendly as possible. Ensure your child can reach and open “free” cupboards, use child steps, have child-friendly clothes and shoes, keep hair short, hide “banned” foods, and so on. The fewer times you have to back your child into a corner with “no’s” and “don’ts” the better.
2. Distract: This can work very well with the younger toddler. Just as you sense a tantrum building – remember that it will be triggered by frustration at not being able to have or do something – quickly distract in whatever way you can think of. An airplane outside, a spider on the wall, a cat needing feeding or, if you are a wee bit late, that big fat tear that’s just about to tickle her nose!
Sometimes it can help to name his feeling and kindly acknowledge it, “I can see you feel really frustrated that I’ve said no to sweets, it’s a horrid feeling and one that needs a hug and a race …” then race him to the supermarket door. It IS horrid to want something so badly and not be able to have it and sometimes we need to learn how to cheer ourselves up! Remember that he is your disciple so be a role model when you are frustrated and voice your feelings,  “Oh, I am soooo frustrated that my car’s got a flat tyre – I really wanted to go to the garden centre. Ah well, a good dig in the garden will cheer me up!”
Some children are able to find another outlet for their pent up feelings with art or music if you can grab the opportunity in time.
3. Handle: Either you are too late to distract or this tantrum is just going to be unavoidable due to one reason or another so here you go … what now?
How you handle the tantrum will depend on how you feel emotionally, what the trigger was, where you are and what you find works. The main point to remember is this:
When the tantrum has run its course, carry on as before. Neither give nor do what was demanded, nor refuse what you were going to give or do in order to punish or vent your spleen. A tantrum needs to be of no consequence in itself even though it may result in lost time and therefore the loss of anything time dependent (ie a bedtime book). There are at least 5 ways of handling a tantrum and we’ll look at that in greater detail next week.
4. Reassure & move on: It is essential that your child understands that her tantrum or emotional blowout changes nothing one way or the other. She needs to know that you expect her to learn to manage her very strong feelings in an appropriate manner and that you think no worse of her for going through this learning phase. Your calm confidence and ability to quickly get back to normal as soon as the tantrum is over are all that is needed to let your toddler know that her tantrum is not all-powerful and can’t destroy either of you. It can be really difficult not to simmer for ages afterwards and return for a fresh nag or dig – we are, after all, only human, but we want to show our children how to manage those unsavoury feelings. Share the feelings with your partner or a friend.
If your child is older and has had a major blowout during which he called you names, then you are into disciplining territory and rule setting so you may feel it appropriate to keep a distance before re-connecting. Then it will be sensible to insist that you sit down and restate the rules and more appropriate ways of dealing with anger. But don’t then keep bringing up the subject. Hugs and “I love you”s are really needed after a fall-out. Just don’t then fall into apologizing or allowing your child to get the impression that YOU were the one behaving unreasonably! Moving on means not reminding your child about yesterday’s tantrum, even in a good way, “You haven’t thrown as many tantrums today as yesterday! Crikey, you were a cross-puss yesterday!” She doesn’t need reminding of yesterday’s issues.
Remember that children have acute hearing so don’t go talking about your child at all within his earshot. You know how horrid it is to catch someone talking about you! Don’t regale your partner with a run-down of today’s tantrums and misdemeanours over supper with her there either – you have dealt with it so there is nothing to be said (at least, not until she is asleep!) Shame is a really uncomfortable feeling and there is no place for it here.
5. Praise: As with all aspects of child rearing, use praise (well-timed, specific and appropriate) to your advantage. The very second a tantrum has passed, look for an opportunity to praise. Ignore the tantrum, so try not to say, “Well done, you handled that tantrum well!” although it might be nice to say something like, “That’s better, big hug and then let’s go and hang the washing out.” Just be extra vigilant and take the first chance to give praise. This is just as important with an older child. All of us love praise, even for the smallest things, but try not to qualify it, ie -“That was a lovely cup of tea, thank-you. Such a shame we had to have the nonsense before it!”
Lastly:  None of these ideas and strategies will “cure” your child of having tantrums. They are developmental and pass with time. All you are trying to do is to handle them in a way that keeps you both safe, preserves dignity all round, keeps them to a minimum, keeps each one as short as possible and most of all, does not create a situation where tantrums are kept in your child’s strategy box as an ongoing weapon of mass destruction!

Next week we will look at the 5 techniques for handling a tantrum.

Rachel Fitz-Desorgher offers “Confident Parenting” courses comprising six
2½ hour workshops designed to equip parents with tried and trusted strategies that leave both children and parents feeling empowered and capable. For more information, or to contact Rachel, you can visit her website – Rachel Fitz-D

Visiting a new mum – come bearing gifts

visiting a new mumSo, in a fine display of blog wankery I turned up at my friend’s house to visit her and her lovely new wee baby but before I did anything else had to take a photograph of all the stuff I brought over for her so I could put it on this blog. My initial plan for this post was to prove that I practice what I preach and, when going to visit a new mum, took over the recommended present for baby, present for older sibling, a meal and cake for the family. However, I was rendered so horrified by my display of blog-mindedness that I had to share how much it’s taken over my thoughts!

feetsI also had to share this photo of his little tiny feet – aren’t they lush?

Anyway – chickpea and lentil curry, cumin seed pan bread, chocolate crispie cakes, a handmade crocheted ripple blanket for the wee man and a set of dolly baby clothes for the new big sister. My job here is done.

What’s in the news – Friday round up

newsroundupweek1There’s a common belief that when you fall pregnant and become a mother you lose the use of your mental faculties. It even has a name – Baby Brain.  I would like to strongly refute this myth. I would like to, but I can’t. Unfortunately I have discovered that it is all too true.  I blame it on a mix of hormones, exhaustion and suddenly having to keep track of 100 things more than you ever used to – I may even have to do a spinoff post on this topic it’s so prevalent.  One thing I am guilty of  is not paying as much attention to the wider world as I used to so I’ve decided to try and tune in a bit more and maybe even do a news round up for the brain dead and sleep deprived.

Well. What a week I chose to start this…

The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, is accused of being fellated by a dead pig.

I’m not sure anything I can say on this will even begin to be as entertaining or thought provoking as some of the material already out there, so here are three of my favourites:
Getting Piggy with it by Cassette Boy

A compilation of top tweets and headlines
And why the nation has united to laugh at David Cameron – more of a thought piece, definitely worth a read

11 Edinburgh schools in pilot scheme to close down surrounding roads at drop off and pick up time

Now this isn’t something that really affects us. We live in a smallish village with its own school and from what I’ve seen about 80% of the children walk, scoot or cycle to school, including us, but it’s on a narrow road, people live there and it must be a massive inconvenience to them and to kids who are in any way physically impaired – temporarily or permanently – if the road is blocked by cars.  If closing the surrounding roads helps reduce this issue then that’s a good thing, especially if it also encourages children and families to walk some or all of the way.  

We’ve only experienced preschool, but I’ve found that walking there in the morning allows a good chat about expectations for the day and on the way home is ideal for a debrief, plus we can stop off at the playground to run off any extra steam. It might, however, make things more complicated for working parents, particularly those with more than one drop off to do. Would this affect you if they decided to bring it in nationwide?

Dementia Crisis
1 in 3 babies born this year will develop dementia in their lifetime? I’m not sure how scared to be by this. Yes, this refers to my daughter and her peers, but their lifetime could be as much as 100 years+. It’s no wonder incidences of dementia will rise when everyone lives longer, but I have to point out that that’s 100 years away and who knows what research will have achieved by then. Perhaps stem cell treatment will cure debilitating brain issues. Perhaps we’ll have introduced a kindly euthanasia policy.

Basically – I think there’s more critical things to worry about first.

So there you go. My utterly uneducated brain farts on this week’s top (according to me) news topics.  Anything that’s caught your eye you’d like me to comment on?

It’s never too late

How many times can you microwave a cup of tea before you should just give up and bin the whole idea of a hot drink altogether?  I’m currently on my third go round and, undoubtedly, something will happen to stop me drinking it this time, too. The way my day’s shaping up I suspect this post will be written in small chunks!  Life as a mum is fairly relentless, but at the end of the day, you look around and you realise – you may as well have just sat on your arse all day for all the noticeable difference you made.

Seriously. I was talking to a chum yesterday about how I should pin that internet meme ‘what did you do all day today?‘ on the front door, because I swear The Man doesn’t quite realise how much running it takes just to stand still when you have a three year old in the house!

I think the main problem right now, though, is that I’ve finished the large project I was working on whenever I got a few moments to myself (usually engineered with the help of CBeebies during The Girl’s nap) and now I feel all ho-hum glum because I haven’t got it to work with. I mean, I still have UFOs, naturally. Goes without saying. But that’s the one I was really into.  On the plus side – it was the painting for my blog header and, now it’s all done, the shiny new look for my blog is on its way. Just need to scan in the image and completely rehaul the whole blog, you know, nothing much!

Now, instead of doing the washing up, I think I’m going to write a treatise on how one should do the washing up, if one is to do it correctly. (Hrm, this is what happens when you save drafts for later publication – I’ve already done the one on washing up!)

It’s never too late to procrastinate!

And time goes by so slowly…

The Girl, my little girl, is rising six months old already. How did that happen? I remember how long the first six months of babyhood took with The Boy and how much easier things seemed to get when we reached that milestone. The reverse seems to have happened here – the time has flown by and now she’s mobile, into everything, nosy, wanting to be entertained!

At first I thought I was just engaging in a little light hyperbole when I made the supposition that the time actually had gone more slowly with my first baby. Perhaps because it was all new, or because it was so stressful to have a baby who needed a 45 minute feed every 90 minutes throughout the whole 24 hours of the day, but then I got to thinking – The Girl cosleeps with us (more on that here), something I stupidly didn’t catch onto until rather late in the game with The Boy, which means she sleeps longer and better and it’s easier to resettle her. I have definitely been getting more sleep. The reason that it felt like six months with The Boy took longer than it has with The Girl is because it actually was longer… in awake hours, anyway. I was probably awake for about 19 or 20 of the 24 hours, as opposed to the  15 or 16 I’m awake with The Girl.

time goes by so slowly3660 hours awake with The Boy
2745 hours awake with The Girl

That equals 915 more hours awake.

Equivalent to 38 days and 3 hours.

Thirty-eight DAYS!  That’s right. I was awake for over a whole extra month the first time round. No wonder time seems to have flown this time. No wonder I spent that first experience of motherhood constantly singing the Righteous Brothers…”And time goes by so slowly….” But wow – can’t time do so much? That little baby is at preschool now and, thank heavens, did learn to sleep eventually (although he still likes an early start) and now I look up and nearly four years has passed.

Sensory play day

The Girl is now reeling from the same uber slimy cold The Boy had over the weekend so yesterday tempers were a little frayed chez LO. I decided a wee bit of sensory play was in order to try and distract small people from their screaming abdabs without recourse to the digital babysitter. It worked better than I hoped.  The Girl was plonked in her high chair with a large wedge of orange and I gave The Boy a tray of coloured chickpeas to play with.sensory play day

I got the rainbow chickpea idea from the ‘And next comes L’ blog. I had a bagful of dried chickpeas in my cupboard (god knows how long they’d been there. I think they’ve moved house at least three times – I long ago worked out it’s actually cheaper to buy tinned ones, once you factor in the time and expense of soaking and boiling the bloody dried ones but I digress) and some fab gel food colours so I could make at least three different colours from the quantity I had.

IMG_6760I put about 2 or 3 tbsp of water into a bowl, added a good glob of food colouring and poured in a third of a 500g bag of chickpeas. Very little happened. Swallowing down my disappointment I stirred them a few times, they went vaguely pinkish but it was nothing like the vibrant colours I’d seen on the other blog – but then the magic happened! Bright red peas!IMG_6755

I repeated the process to do purple and green – each time nothing seemed to happened until bang! it did. Astonishing and fun. I let them dry, which didn’t take long, then turned The Boy loose on them.
sensory play with coloured chickpeas

He did a bit of pouring. We discussed ‘less’ and ‘more’. Then he looked at me sideways and said, in a quiet voice, that the game was a bit boring. I’m not sure if he was expecting directed play or what, but I quickly told him he could do anything he liked, yes, even mix up the colours – well, then some fun was had. sensoryplay3

Watching him stirring and shaking I soon realised I needed a deeper container unless I wanted to spend the next week treading on unexpected chickpeas so I got a drawer from a plastic unit.IMG_6800

IMG_6773The Girl looked on as she sucked nearly a whole orange dry – BLW is going well. It was so nice to find something peaceful and vaguely educational for them to do before The Boy demanded bloody CBeebies back on! Hurrah for preschool today.

Run Spider, Run. The joys of foraging

So about this time every year, except the two I was pregnant (pregnancy sickness/tiredness and foraging do not go), since 2009 I have started collecting elderberries to make my tried and tested home-cure cold remedy: elderberry cordial.  With The Boy about to commence his second winter at preschool I am even more keen than usual to have large stocks of this anti-viral wonder in my ‘pantry’ (no. I don’t have an actual pantry, but I always wanted one so I like to throw the word around for fun. They’ll probably be stored in the garage.)
So anyway, today The Boy, The Girl, The Mater and I went on a brief ramble to see what we could grab before the kids started wailing. I’ll probably expand on this at some point in the future as we did rather well and I’d like to brag a bit, but right now I’m halfway through prepping elderberries – the most tedious, thankless, spidery task ever – and I need to get back to it.  As soon as I lifted the lid from the box leggy bastards rose from the depths and started sprinting across my kitchen table, dangling from my fork (you need a fork to remove the berries from the stalks).  There were also aphids, thunderbugs, unidentifiable mini-beasts and even one <shudder> earwig. But mostly there were spiders.

I saved as many as I could because I like spiders… in principle. Not so much in my house, but oh well.  I feel all shuddery and itchy now. Ugh. Time to get this finished up so I can freeze the berries until a more convenient time to turn them into syrup.