I don’t know if this will work for everyone, but we have come up with a calming technique that really helps diffuse an upset that is about to turn into a tantrum.
Around 18 months things started getting difficult with Lexi.
We hadn’t experienced any tantrums at that point, because we, for the most part, allow our daughter to make her own decisions, or give her options that are acceptable. However, that age (18-24 months) was the most difficult in terms of managing all the new desires and emotions. She was finally capable of many things with many wants, but at the same time she was still too small to do other things or understand many concepts like time. She was asserting her independence and in many way that led to her getting upset.
One day Andrew tried to show Lexi how to calm down. Just for fun. They would sit on the floor, close their eyes and then breath in and out and chant “Caaaaalm dooown!“. It was like a game.
He did it maybe three times and then we continuing trying to remind her of it any time she would get mildly upset whenever we remembered. It didn’t seem to be sticking but we figured it was a good lesson nonetheless. We weren’t doing too often, just when we would remember.
To our surprise, later we discovered that virtually every single lesson we gave during that period of time (18-24 months) was completely learned and then regurgitated back at us when the speech kicked in enough to say full sentences. She would repeat our lessons back to us word for word months later without reminders. It was amazing.
So needless to say, this lesson stuck, too. Seeing how receptive she was to it, we continued asking her to do the calm down technique every time she experienced unpleasant emotions. If she was upset, crying/whining and trying to say something, I would say “Honey, I cannot understand you when you cry. Can you calm down and then say it again calmly?” And she would put her hand on her chest and slide it down chanting “Calm down!” three times, and then repeat her request again but with a calmer voice.
It worked so well, but it did require repetition. She knows that mommy and daddy will always help, but that they need to be asked calmly and nicely. We are always kind with her when she is upset, but we try to focus on helping her calm down and understand the issue first, before we can resolve it or explain why it won’t work.
To date we have only had one full blown tantrum ( the one where they are not in control of themselves, crying really hard, not being able to stop, kicking and screaming), which was caused by tiredness and me forgetting to give her the tooth brush first (“I do it myself!”) and instead attempting to brush her teeth myself since I figured she was too tired and needed to go to sleep fast.
Big mistake, mama! Don’t you know that toddlers need to feel in control especially when it comes to little things?
I quickly caught myself, but it was too late. It was an all-consuming powerful tantrum like you see in the movies and it caught me a bit of guard. Once I was able to coach her through calming enough to tell me the root of the problem (“I want to brush teeth MYSELF!”), we were able to quickly resolve it, apologize for taking the option away from her by mistake and explain that next time she doesn’t need to get upset or cry and just calmly explain the problem and we will work together to figure it out.
Now a few months later, countless minor upsets and lessons later, she really gets it. Ask and you will be helped.
Of course, she still whines and gets upset and becomes insistent at times, she is a kid, but never does it escalate into something uncontrollable.
I HONESTLY don’t know if it would work for other people. Every child is different and it’s hard to figure out where parenting and personality meet, but it’s worth a try. The key is consistency and trust. No toddler will listen, if they don’t trust you to be there for them rather than flexing your hypothetical power muscles for the sake of “being in control”.
Video: I apologize for the quality. It was almost impossible to get her to sit still enough to show the technique. And obviously, she is not upset in the video. I simply asked her to show me how she calms down.
Explanation: She takes a deep breath, while sliding her hand from her chest in a downward motion ( as in pushing the bad feelings away from her chest where they are normally felt. It is actually a very pleasant feeling if you’re feeling stressed) and saying the words “Calm Down“. Then after 2-3 tries, she announces what it is that she wants to do [that supposedly upset her]. So here she says as an example “I want to sleep on this bed” (she came up with it herself).