5 Ways to trick your toddler/preschooler out of a tantrum
Hey there mama, I see you, struggling to try to keep your head above water because it feels like the tiny human that you’ve created is literally trying to drown you for the better part of each day. Welcome to the wonderful world of parenting a toddler/preschooler!
I want to give some advice from the knowledge that I’ve accumulated during studying Early Childhood Education, as well as working with and witnessing toddlers and preschoolers in the “wild” at daycare over the past 10 years, that can help you overcome or even start preventing these moments from happening on the daily!
The Toddler/Preschool age is between 1-4 years old. These ages are some of my favourite to work with because honestly once you gain more knowledge and experience on how to deal with this age, their actually super easy to trick and miniplate, that sounds kind of bad but obviously for the greater good of a peaceful, fun, and happier life for the whole family or in my case daycare environment.
In previous blog posts I refer to my unborn child and now infant as a “baby body terrorist” or a “baby terrorist” but the 1-4-year old’s I find myself describing them more as adorable little dictators. Literally their sole job and existence is to execute their days exactly how they like, which most of the time wont exactly a line with how you would like your day to run. The sad truth of the matter is that this is a really normal apart of this new developmental stage they are going through, they are starting to try and figure out the world around them, what makes them happy, what makes them sad, what makes them scared, nervous, excited, shy, bashful, surprised, disgusted, confident, interested, satisfied, loved, the list goes on and on and really, we as adults are continuously trying to figure out these things in life as well. But it takes a lot out of them to start doing this, its physically and mentally taxing and how we have our lives set up is usually not the most ideal or supportive environments for them to be able to push the limits, learn explore and figure these things for themselves.
Mix that in with the fact that they LITERALLY are unable to experience empathy on their own, so they truly do not give a fuck about what you’d like them to do or how their actions may be affecting others around them. Empathy is a concept that has to be taught to children, its not something that is learnt behaviour for the most part.
(don’t worry mama’s I’ll get to a blog post of simple ways to teach your children empathy, I gotchyouuuu)
That all being said when a parent comes to me for advice about their toddler/preschoolers challenging behaviours and how to deal or cope with them, I do always start with re assuring them that this is normal, and is a normal stage of development for their child.
(even though it is totally tiring, exhausting and you probably want to just put your kids up for adoption at different points of your day kind of stage, it’s okay mamas you will prevail!)
But I’m here to help you take back a little bit of control. I need to break something to you that I think you need to hear now and remind yourself during a full-blown melt down or tantrum.
YOU ARE MUCH WISER AND SMARTER THEN YOUR TODDLER/PRESCHOOLER.
I know it must not feel that way when you are in the thick of a tantrum that is like world war three but you are. The advantage that these little (adorable) shits have on you is that they can use allllllll of their time and energy to breaking you down. They don’t have bills to pay, they don’t need to be keeping any other humans alive, or even themselves alive for that matter, they don’t need to worry about ANYTHING. If you’ve read this blog post up to here and can relate to what I’ve written, they have already figured this out, they have seen what the limit is to break you and the next time they will push you further and further to get what they want, or what they think they want in these moments. This is exactly how they get you, or win so to speak, because you do have limits to your patience, you are tired and warn down, from being a parent and having so many fucking responsibilities. So, knowing this new information about how you do actually have the upper hand on them because you are on a Sheldon from the big bang theory level smart and they are basically cave men, here’s a couple tricks so you can change the course and tune of the situation BEFORE they even start to try and ware you down.
1. Give them the power and control of the situation.
Obviously, I’m not suggesting actually giving them complete power and control of dangerous situations or un healthy situations but I want you to start re-evaluating why you want them to do certain things. All toddlers/preschoolers want is to be able to do what they want right, but the thing is most of the time when they’ve made up their mind on something, they don’t actually know why they’ve chosen to do so, the most common denominator would be to go against what you want them to do.
Here’s an example of something that is 99.9% of the time a HUGE BATTLE between parent and child happens, and I want to try and give you a new perspective on the situation and how giving them the power and control to do what they want will actually, eventually get them to do EXACTLY what you want them to do in the first place.
Mom “Anna we are going to the grocery store, lets get dressed and put your winter clothes on now.”
Fight breaks out with mother and child and child is screaming on the floor.
This scenario is SO popular even Robert Munsch wrote a book about it.
In these types of situations, I want you to stop and ask yourself if you choose to not fight your child on this and them do what they want, what will actually happen, and go to your worst-case scenario. For me it would be that probably twenty old ladies will be judging me that I’m a horrible parent and my child is going to get sick. But lets all collectively take a step back and take another look at this, the child will be in the cold for not that long for any permanent damage to be done to them, you know that your child won’t be getting sick from the temperature but instead from germs so that’s covered, and as for people judging you, fuck em.
I suggest handling the situation like this:
Mom “Anna we are going to the grocery store, lets get dressed and put your winter clothes on now.”
Mom “It is winter and cold outside, are you sure you don’t want to put on something to keep you warm when we go out?”
(This is a loaded question from mom, you are explaining the season, weather, temperature, and giving them an opportunity to have control and answer yes or no to being warmer as well as you are ever so sneakily just reinforcing that the trip to the grocery store is happening no matter what they chose to wear and you’re okay with that, it doesn’t bother you at allllll.)
Anna “I’m sure I don’t want to put my winter clothes on.” Or it will prob be a simple “yes”
Mom “okay no problem, I’ll put them in the trunk just in case you do get cold when we are out, just let me know and I can help you get dressed if you need it”
Whenever there is a conflict just taking that extra time to get down to their level, giving them a sense of power and control, letting them know you hear their needs and wants, and that you are there to help them if needed, will eventually if not instantly change the course of future getting dressed moments. Your kids don’t actually want to be cold but they can’t grasp the idea of that happening to them in the future because they only truly can live in the now.
2. Be as CONSITANT as humanely possible
Children THRIVE on consistency and predictability. They may not like that every single time that they ask you for a cupcake before dinner is a no but eventually, they will not fight that or completely stop asking because they can already predict the outcome.
The thing is this is where I mentioned they kind of have us in the achilles heal, our parent kryptonite if you will, if they break you or your partners consistency and expectation from them, your up shits creek and to get back on track is realllllllly hard. If you’ve said no to a cupcake before dinner ten times but on the eleventh time you find yourself to tired to fight them and give in …. The twelfth time they are going to make it their mission to do whatever it takes to get that god damn cupcake before dinner.
Figure out with your partner things that you would like to never make exceptions for and stick to them. These may change throughout them growing up and at different stages but just know that if you want your child to get with the program you need to write that program and stick to it.
In the end this is one of the hardest things to actually do, especially if its important for you that your kids like you a lot of the time, but I can say even from a developmental stand point if you set up this foundation up for your children they will in turn feel like you are a safe place, that they know what to expect from you and they can feel 100% confident in you, and that’s really important for them and their overall happiness.
3. Don’t give them punishments but instead logical consequences
Most children even in their older years are truly indifferent to punishments because one of two things will happen. They either are going to put their energy into making your life a living hell and breaking you down so the punishment either doesn’t happen at all, or doesn’t happen the way you originally say it will. Or your child actually wont care at all about doing his or her “time for the crime” and then literally you’ve just wasted your time and efforts because they wont care to challenge you again.
Instead let the logical consequences flow, and when you explain these outcomes to your children don’t do it in a stern voice do it super calm with a smile on your face and happy tune in your voice, it will Jedi mind trick them into having this consequence just being a matter of fact information that you are giving them instead of a punishment that they are going to get defensive about and try to fight you on.
Going back to that original example about the winter clothes. The logical consequence that you will explain to your toddler/preschooler is that they might be cold because its cold outside. So, they now know because you’ve given them that information that when they go outside in -30 weather and they think, oh yea I feel cold my mom said this might happen, and that if I want to feel warm, I can do that by putting my clothes on, my mom brought them in the trunk. The connections will start to happen in their brains on their own. Its really neat to see, like watching your baby discover their hands for the first-time kind of thing. You’ve eliminated a fight and they will be able to “come to that conclusion on their own”. See that, we’re giving them all that power and stuff, cool eh.
4. Learn your child’s basic need cues
This will sound kind of funny because I feel like I’m reinforcing how to take care of a pet animal, but for your child to grow up big, strong, healthy and happy they need:
• Sunlight (vitamin D)
A lot of the time your child I changeling you because they are overwhelmed about something. A lack of any of these basic needs will throw off your child in a different way and most of the time is a HUGE factor in children’s behaviours. When we learn in Early Childhood Education on how to make a successful daily routine in daycare, we need to factor in all of these basic needs as well as the timing in which we give them to the children. Stop the next time you are about to get a dose of crazy from your toddler/preschooler and think about if all of these basic needs have been met properly to set them up for success. Even though they are older and more independent then infants most of the behaviours are still outcomes of these needs not being met at proper times or in proper ways just like an infant would not be able to manage.
5. Make sure you are having fun with your kids
This ones for you, with all the crazy melt downs and tantrums that you will be experiencing the frustration and hatred can be REAL towards your kids. (also, normal and okay you’re not a horrible mom for feeling that way!) maybe start a journal or have a reflection period at night to practice letting go of all the (at times literal) SHIT that has happened that day and hold onto all the amazing moments. In everyday your toddler/preschooler will at least give you one. I think its like a survival instinct that they have built in that when they smell the murder on our breath, they turn to us with the most angelic smile and say how much they love us. Bring those moments into the next morning and the next morning and even though it may take some time eventually those amazing moments are the ones that during the day you start feeling the most! Your child will be experiencing a happier more patient version of yourself and if you start implementing tricks 1-4 eventually (it may take a long time but I promise you sooooo worth it so stick with it and be CONSISTANT MOMS AND DADS) your child will become better behaved and better at responding to you and your requests. Its all in the delivery mama, you can set the tone for illusion against your child, you got this, I just know it.
If you want a giggle or two when it comes to toddler tantrums Erica from @mom.break has created a movement to normalize the tantrum and the videos of her kids and other parent submissions are just pure gold! Go check her out on Instagram as well as her blog https://mombreak.ca/