Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The dreaded temper tantrum....

I mentioned recently that Aubrey has picked up the lovely new habit of throwing fits. She has cried when she doesn't get her way for a while now, but recently she has started throwing all out temper tantrums complete with blood curdling shrieks when she wants something. The most frustrating part is that it's not even just when she wants something she can't have. She throws them when she wants something period. If we aren't giving her food fast enough she throws a fit. If she sees her sippy cup on the counter she throws a fit. These are things that I would give her anyway without a temper tantrum! A mom with older children at church told me that 12-18 months old is the hardest age in her opinion because they're old enough to know what they want but not old enough to articulate it which leads to lots of temper tantrums. Sometimes when she wants something, Aubrey will point and make a polite little noise so I know she wants it, but other times it's like she just goes into meltdown mode. I'm trying to teach her to say please, but she hasn't caught on yet. Tonight she spent the evening screaming and pulling on my legs while I cooked dinner because she wanted me to pick her up. She was throwing fits like crazy and nothing would make her happy. Then two seconds later she turned it off, and was running around blowing David and me kisses as sweet as can be. Talk about mood swings!

I just feel so overwhelmed with these temper tantrums because I have a hard time knowing how to handle them. I try not to give her what she wants until she stops screaming and "asks" nicely. But that's not always possible -- I can't withhold food from my 15 month old to teach her a lesson, right?! We pop her hand and tell her no, but usually it doesn't phase her. Sometimes I just feel like I'm not ready to actually parent a child. I can handle taking care of an infant, but disciplining a toddler?? Scary!

I need to read some good parenting books. I got David the book Shepherding a Child's Heart for Father's Day before Aubrey was born, and he liked it. I haven't read it yet. Any other recommendations for good parenting books?? Also, if anyone has any tips for how they discipline their 15 month old, please share!

As awful as the temper tantrums are, I really can't stay frustrated about them for long. As soon as Aubrey runs to me and throws her arms around my legs and gives me a kiss, my heart melts. My ears are still ringing, but my heart is full of love ;o)


Christy said...

The biggest advice I have is what you already know-it will pass. Your friend was right, her age is seriously one of the hardest phases. It is also one of the most rewarding because you get to learn more about their personalities and they are so affectionate and so cute!

What I learned from my children is that consistency is the best method for really making a change in their behaviour. When she is clinging to you and crying while you are cooking I would first try to distract her. Give her a cabinet of fun toys or pots and pans she can bang. However, only let her play in this cabinet when you are cooking. It becomes a fun activity that she looks forward to and you are getting to cook in relative peace. If that doesn't work and she is in a full out tantrum I would pick her up and calmly but firmly say, "You can not scream like that". I would then put her in the pack and play, her bed, or some other place that contains her and leave her there until she stops crying. Do this every single time.
Spanking her on the hand when she is throwing a tantrum will probably not work because she is too young (in my opinion) to connect the slap on the hand to her screaming and crying. It will probably only make her scream more. Putting her somewhere where she is safe, but where she can also calm down is better because she will learn to get a grip on her own. Even if she doesn't, she isn't clinging to you and screaming while you are trying to cook.

At her age she is too little to master her own emotions. She isn't able to calm down on her own but by you staying calm and walking her through it she WILL learn :) The tantrums will go away and then peak again around age 3.

When she is not throwing a tantrum, and does ask politely I would make a huge deal about it. Praise her for acting like a big girl. Emphasize the words she used/should have used. You will feel like an idiot fawning over such a simple thing but the more you do it the more she will realize that what she did was the right way to ask-not screaming and crying because screaming and crying gets her nothing.

I am so sorry this is a novel, but I have one more suggestion. I would spend a day or two watching and observing when tantrums are the worst. Do they occur more during a certain time of day? Do they occur more in certain situations? Then, attempt to head them off. If she is crying because she is hungry while you are cooking give her a cut up banana or fruit puffs in her high chair before or during dinner prep. If they happen later in the evening, put her to bed earlier. I might try adjusting her nap schedule and making sure she is getting a ton of active play during the day so she is worn out and sleeps harder.
It truly is a guessing game-she is transitioning from a baby to a child and it is almost like you have to get to know this new little person you are living with. It DOES get easier the closer she gets to age 2 and the more she talks. I am sorry I obnoxiously hijacked the comments!

J. Henry said...

I enjoyed the hijacking! =) Those are great tips.... hopefully I will remember them in a year/year and a half when mine is that age!