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Taming Toddler Tantrums -- Is It Possible to Reason with Them with Just a Simple Phrase?

I love my two toddlers to pieces, but they're driving me crazy!

They are constantly fighting (often times play-fighting, but still!), stealing one another's toys, whining, wresting, throwing small, mid-size and SUV-sized tantrums, grabbing at the dog, tearing up when they can't find their missing action figure-doll-Hotwheels-stuffed animal, or screaming that I picked out the incorrect school attire, snack/juice, or play activity.  

It's exhausting.

Sure, they're 2 and 3.5, so that comes with the appropriate development territory, and they're siblings (they both do not act up in school, where they are in separate classrooms with kids their own age)…but get these two half-pint hellions together for more than two minutes and something is bound to happen where someone cries, gets hurt, or screams for help.  

We have tried time outs, gentle redirection, spanking, ignoring, taking away privileges and just talking to the kids on their level about what they're doing that's not nice, or what's bothering them.  Somedays one tactic (or two) works and calm en mi casa is restored;  somedays nothing works.  

I recently tried a new tactic that I read about online.  It's only three words:  "Asked and answered."

For example, when my son asks, "Can I have my Batman cape back, please?" (after I took it away from him because he hit his sister after I already warned him not to do that again), I simply answer, "No."  And when he wails, "But MOOOOOOMMMMMM, I said sorry. WHYYYYY NOOOOOTTTT?"  I simply add, "I told you, 'no.'  Asked and answered."

"Can I have some juice?"

"No, but you can have water."

"C'mon, PUHLEASE can I have apple juice?"

"No.  Asked and answered.  You can have water."

It seems to be working.  Kinda stops their follow-up-question or tirade dead in their tracks.  Like their little brains must be thinking "Hmmm.  She's right.  No way I can argue that!" 

I started using this technique a few weeks ago with my oldest, but just in the last two weeks I've said it to my two-year-old and she looks at me in silence after I say it. Hey, silence isn't screaming or crying, and I dare think she's thinking the same thing:  "Did Mom just shut me down?" Hahaha.  Of course I think that's what she's imagining, as I pray I'm winning at this battle of the baby battles.

Have you tried the ASKED AND ANSWERED method?  Let me know!

Wondering what works for you when your kids are acting up -- anything general or specific you have tried?  I'm sure my kids aren't done with their whining and toddler tantrums, so I'd love to hear success stories!

[A few blog posts ago I mentioned how, as a New Year's resolution, I wanted to have more patience with my kids.  It's been a bit challenging during these meltdown moments, for sure!  I'm definitely trying, though.  Sometimes Mommy Timeouts work wonders, too!]

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Comment by Hackensack Meridian Health on March 31, 2014 at 5:32pm

Great post Alix! 

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