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20 month old and non negotiables...how do I handle the tantrums?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

My DS just turned 20 months. He is extremely bright and lovely most of the time...DH and i have made our home a "yes" environment, where he is free to touch almost everything and explore the entire house. The problem I run into very frequently is when I absolutely HAVE TO say no to something because it's dangerous. For example, he was touching a CD rack which seemed unstable, so I was afraid it would topple over and possibly hurt him. My response was to say "Don't touch!" firmly. When he completely ignored me, I removed his hand and again told him not to touch. He still ignored me, so I removed him from the room, at which point he started to kick and scream. I placed him in the middle of the living room and he had his tantrum while I was nearby. He does not like to be held, nursed, or looked at when he goes into tantrum mode. Basically the whole thing lasted about 15 seconds, but it has me worried. He does NOT respond when I verbally warn him, and if he were touching something really dangerous I'm afraid he would end up hurting himself because he doesn't listen. Any advice?

post #2 of 8

What you're describing sounds 100% age appropriate. A 20 month old is still too young to really be expected to listen consistently or really understand why some things are forbidden. It sounds like you're doing the right thing -- be gentle but firm, don't fret too much about the protesting, and just handle the situation calmly and matter-of-factly. What worked wonders for me in that age was a whole lot of distracting. If DS was interested in something taboo, I'd just direct his attention to something else, and it usually worked. When they get into the twos, you'll have more luck with the following directions (thought it's still a lot of repetition), and by three, it'll be much easier.

post #3 of 8

I agree with MamaJen to an extent. Up to the point where she says 2 and 3 will be easier, I'm in full agreement. My DS did not listen to me at 2, and still doesn't at 3. With non-negotiables, I employ the method you used with your DS in regards to the cd rack. If he doesn't listen the first time, I remove the object, or DS from the situation.

 

I only give one warning - and thats because I find that if I give one warning only every single time, he listens more often. More than one warning, and he doesn't listen ever because the consequence seems arbitrary to him.

post #4 of 8

Two things to add:

 

Once a child this age has started to do something, it's very difficult for them to stop. Stopping in the middle of something is much harder than stopping before you start. At this age, their ability to shift tasks is limited. So, it might help you to think that he's not willfully ignoring you so much as he can't shift focus and listen to you yet. He will be able to, but it's a slow process that takes until 4-5 to be reliable. (And I swear, even my 7 and 10 year olds persist in doing things that they have been told to stop! I completely lost it with them the other night because they were supposed to be reading, and they were tormenting each other, even after repeatedly being admonished.)

 

Second, the biggest eye opener I had was realizing that my job shifted between infancy and toddlerhood. With toddlers (and above), your job is not to prevent all frustration and crying. It's to help them learn to deal with their powerful emotions. If his tantrum lasted 15 seconds, that's pretty good. My kids had tantrums that last 10 minutes or more at that age. Like your son, my son wouldn't be comforted, I just had to be there for when he was done. My daughter needed to scream in my arms. Ds' strategy was easier on my ears, but harder for me to watch.

 

As they grow, you can help them link their thinking brain with their emotional brain so they can better deal with their emotions. I just finished reading The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegal (author of Parenting from the Inside Out). It has some ideas for helping children do this that I found very useful. So useful, in fact, that I'm going to buy the book. I rarely buy books. I'm too cheap to buy them if I can get it from the library. But this one had to go back and I need to read it again.

post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies! I was really starting to feel like using distraction or just removal from a situation was not teaching him anything. I guess I'm really curious about when to start explaining things to him and realistically expecting him to understand. It's kind of frustrating to know that he can follow verbal directions when it comes to something like, "Get me the pillow in the bedroom" but when I'm standing there saying "NO! STOP!!! DON'T TOUCH!!!" he doesn't respond. Sometimes with "gentle" discipline I feel like he's just walking all over me, kwim?

 

 

post #6 of 8
Hmmm, I see it a little differently.

I have a 20 month old, and I have tried to create a "yes" environment, but there are some things that are just off limits and there is no way around it. For example, we heat with wood, so in the middle of our house is a huge cast iron wood stove that is very hot. I build a fire in it every morning and she knows how hot it is. She has put her hand near it, but not touched it. Because we have something that is always off limits and she can associate me telling her "No, no, its hot!" with "do not touch that no matter what" there are other things we are able to tell her no to as well. I left a knife too close to the edge of the table while cooking the other day and I saw her reach up to grab it while I was draining a boiling hot pot of pasta. I (aside from almost pouring boiling water all over myself) said, "No, no! Do not touch it!" and she replied with, "Is, hot?" so I said "yes. It is hot. It is very hot."

Also, the natural consequences of her actions have led her to be more cautious in the past month or so (and she is closer to 21 months than 20). We have let (well, didnt get close enough to stop her in time) her pull a tablecloth off the table, which resulted in 2 dishes falling in the floor and one breaking. It scared her. She pushed her cup off the side of the porch (second floor) and when we went down to get it, it was cracked and leaked milk all over her. Every time we go onto the back porch she holds her cup very close to her and says "no fall down".

I think that if we did not have something that was off limits all the time, I may well do something like put a humidifier or a space heater where I could monitor the action around it all the time but also teach them that it was off limits, hot, could hurt them, ect. IMO, if a child lives in a 100% danger free "yes" environment, what reason do they have to listen to someone saying "no" about something if they have no reference point for something being dangerous or scary?

I do think that at 20 months a child has a hard time stopping something that they have set their eyes on, but I also think that it is important to teach some form of NO that will be understood as "this is really scary and dangerous, and I shouldnt do it." I understand what you are saying about how frustrating it can be that they can follow simple directions all day, but then when it comes to being told no, they can just keep moving right on with the same action. At the same time, I think they are capable of learning that some things are just not for them.
post #7 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrs.t View Post

Thanks for the replies! I was really starting to feel like using distraction or just removal from a situation was not teaching him anything. I guess I'm really curious about when to start explaining things to him and realistically expecting him to understand. It's kind of frustrating to know that he can follow verbal directions when it comes to something like, "Get me the pillow in the bedroom" but when I'm standing there saying "NO! STOP!!! DON'T TOUCH!!!" he doesn't respond. Sometimes with "gentle" discipline I feel like he's just walking all over me, kwim?

 

 


 

Start explaining now, and you'll see a difference when he starts to understand. I always explain whats going on when removing DS from a non-negotiable. My ds has connected the words with understanding, and he now KNOWS he's not supposed to do certain things. But he lacks the impulse control, and the ability to shift focus to actually stop doing something when I've told him to stop. Now though, he's almost 3yo and he argues with me over what he's supposed to do (he has a VERY large vocabulary for his age - and he's going to be the top paid negotiator in the country when he grows up at the rate he's going....).

post #8 of 8

Some things they have to know for themselves.  I'm not saying let him get hurt, however you can't always be eagle eyes and he's going to eventually knock the CD rack over.  I remember telling DD1 not to pull on the christmas tree over and over... and one days the whole thing came down.  Now even at 9 she cautions others not to mess with the tree, it's for looking at not playing with. 

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