How do you teach them to go somewhere else until they calm down? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 09-14-2011, 06:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, the title pretty much says it all.  I have an almost 3 year old who is starting to have temper tantrums (for lack of a better term) more and more frequently.  Sometimes he gets mad because we say no to something (like going outside in just his underwear- lol) or we have to come in for lunch, or he wants me to stay with him for rest time but I have to go attend the baby (I have an almost 7 month old too.) 

 

Some of it is his age, some of it is having a new brother and just moving to a new state in May.  Theoretically I understand this, but the screaming, the crying, hitting, lashing out, etc. is really getting to me.  I start off well, sympathizing, etc., but it ends up going downnhill.  He upsets his baby brother and ends up making him cry, so then I've got 2 frantically crying children to deal with.  Plus it really raises my tension levels until I get to the point where I scream or yell and have even spanked.  (Great model for teaching self-control right?)

 

Distraction doesn't work for him, I can spend 45 minutes trying to distract and he'll still end up melting down over whatever upset him in the first place.  I've read Positive Discipline for Your Preschooler and I'm currently reading Discipline Without Dustress, but I'm not sure how to handle situations where he gets upset, but doesn't yet know how to control his emotions. 

 

Both of those books and lots of posters on here suggest having the child go somewhere else until he calms down.  Love the idea, but how do I put it into practice without seeming like I'm putting him in time out or that its punishment?

 

We created a nice space with a dinosaur blanket & pillow, some favorite books and toys in his room, but when I suggest he go there or take him there when he's upset, all he does is cry and scream "Mama" over and over like I'm abandoning him.  It doesn't calm him at all.  Should I just leave him there like that until he stops, even if it takes an hour or more?  Not to mention, he just comes out and to the top of the stairs crying for me to come get him.  I've tried walking away until I calm down, but he just follows me, screaming and crying, which only gets on my nerves more.

 

His feelings are valid, and I'd like to teach him how to work through him, but its really upsetting our family's equilibruim.  The whole house has to stop to deal with the meltdown, which lasts forever.  DS2 cries and gets no attention while I try to get DS1 to calm down, I can't get anything done around the house or the plans we have just go out the window (even if its just going outside to play or cooking dinner).   

 

Well, this turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it would.  Thank you for reading this far- I can't wait to hear your ideas.  I need help!


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#2 of 11 Old 09-14-2011, 07:10 AM
 
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I am not so sure about having young kids go somewhere else to calm down. I think it could work great for kids with certain personalities but I know it would be devastating to my DS. To me it is the equivalent of you having a bad day & because you can't stop crying your husband just walks away and tells you to talk to him when you're calmer. I'm the kind of person that needs companionship when I'm upset, and DS seems to be the same way... it sounds like your DS might be like this too?

At the same time, it's not your job to make him calm down... just to be there for comfort and company. He will calm down once he's released all that tension and all. But that can be really hard if your sensitive to crying, or if you have another child to deal with, or it's really disrupting your life. So I'm not quite sure what to tell you... I only have 1 kid. Usually I just hold DS for however long he needs... sometimes he's flailing or doesn't want to be held, so then I just let him know I'm right there when he needs me and stay close by & (try to!) stay present to him. It's hard not to try to stop him from tantrumming but that is just the best way he can express his strong feelings so I make a big effort not to intervene & just listen & be there for him. I know this is not all that helpful to you practically, but maybe it can help you change your focus a bit with regard to your role in his tantrums?

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#3 of 11 Old 09-14-2011, 11:18 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Crunchy_mommy- I was wondering if he's too young for something like that.  And maybe your right & he needs contact when he's upset.  Its just the only idea that I can come up with that wouldn't allow chaos to reign.  If it didn't upset DS2 to the point of tears, then I would just have to deal with my own reaction to the meltdown and I think I could handle that.  The freaking out DS2 is why I try to calm him down, otherwise I do understand that "comfort and company" is a much better alternative to letting him work through things.

 

But where I struggle is that everyone in the house is subject to his meltdown.  And while he certainly has a right to his emotions I'm not certain that he has the right to scream/cry so hard that it scares the baby and causes him to cry.  I'm the adult, so whatever the meltdown does to my emtions is my issue to deal with.  I grew up the in the "stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about" type of home, so I'm desperately searching for tools to use and ways to cope as the upsets are a new thing. 

 

So what can I do with 2 little ones?  For instance, Grandma called this morning just to talk to DS1 and she listened as he prattled on for over an hour to her, but when she had to go (even though I warned him ahead of the call that it would happen and then again a few minutes before she got off) he started crying, flailing, and yelling at me to get her back on the phone.  I sympathized, "I know, it was really fun talking to Grandma.  We'll do it again tomorrow.  Right now she had to go."  Still melting down 5 mintues later with more empathizing, try cuddling him with blanket and paci, still flailing and crying.  DS2 is crying by now.  Then I try distraction, "H do you want to taste the applesauce we made yesterday?  Let's go see if its good."  He slows his crying, but doesn't stop.  I get him a bit of the applesause and then he starts screaming at me to turn the water off because I rinsed the spoon I used for the applesauce to put it in the dishwasher.  I calmly said, "Mommy was just washing the spoon." and then turned the water off.  Then he starts screaming at me to take the towel off my shoulder (which had been there since getting the applesauce out of the fridge) and any little thing you can think of.  And in between all of this he keeps saying that he wants to talk to Grandma and DS2 is fussing and crying in his high chair.  I don't even remember now how it finally stopped, but it went on like this for several more minutes. 

 

What should I have done?  What do I do?  I feel like I'm catering to him and his meltdowns, its disrupting and overwhelming and DS2 is not getting the attention he needs as a result.  I feel like my peaceful home is, well, not peaceful. 


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#4 of 11 Old 09-14-2011, 12:23 PM
 
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Can you move his quiet corner to a more central location in the house? So he's not so isolated? Later when he gets better at self control you can move it to an upstairs hallway and then to his room.

 

Is he getting enough 1:1 time with you? I know its hard with a new baby (been there, done that) but more time with you can help prevent some of these meltdowns.  It made a world of difference to my older kids when I would put the baby down for a nap instead of wearing him or her. Having more then one kid means you have to do a lot of triage parenting, sometimes the baby comes first but sometimes the toddler does even if the baby cries for a few minutes.


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I do what works and when it stops working, then I do something else.
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#5 of 11 Old 09-14-2011, 12:28 PM
 
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The way I've been doing it (and this only just started working, so I'm no expert) is I calmly walk DD to her room or another room in the house, and try to stay with her.  Remove her from the situation.  Of course, she's still screaming on top of her lungs, so I gently say, "I'm sorry, I'm not mad at you, but that's just too loud, I can't stay in here with you," and go to leave.  Usually then she'll suddenly stop screaming and say, "No, mommy wait, I need you!" and we can begin working things through.  It's the *only* thing that works.  Time out doesn't work, like you said -- she screams for me until I'm practically on the brink of exploding, and of course I feel terrible about it.


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#6 of 11 Old 09-14-2011, 04:44 PM
 
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Hmm the only thing I can think of is, do you think he might benefit from being more in control? Something you wrote (can't put my finger on it) made me suggest that... Perhaps if HE could be the one to hang up the phone, and HE could put the spoon in the dishwasher, things like that? Somehow what you wrote gave me the impression that maybe he feels powerless & that's why he's tantrumming. I could be totally off though.

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#7 of 11 Old 09-16-2011, 06:35 AM
 
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Hmm, it seems to me like he gets a lot of attention for throwing tantrums. As someone else said, it's not your job to make him feel better - it's your job to comfort and reassure, but only he can work through his feelings.

 

I think I would try to stay calm (not add to the emotional overload), comfort him, acknowledge his feelings, and go about your business - wash clothes, wash dishes, play with the baby - don't ignore him, but treat him exactly as you would if he wasn't having a fit - invite him to help with laundry, whatever might be a normal activity for him to join you (if he wants to). Or give him a choice - do you want to come in the kitchen and help me make lunch, or do you want to sit on the couch a cry a little longer?

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#8 of 11 Old 09-16-2011, 07:33 AM
 
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Model it. Let them see me admitting when I'm feeling intense emotions and also admitting I need to go somewhere else to calm down for a few minutes until I can rationally respond and not react to the situation. They will catch on after a while until then empathisize with them when they get angry. Let them decide when they need a "time-in", as we call it here, I wouldn't send them to a time-in as for me that would feel like a punishment.


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#9 of 11 Old 09-16-2011, 12:10 PM
 
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At this age I remove myself. I let ds know where I am (usually the next room or close by) & when he is ready I am there for me. Distractions, trying to soothe or sympathize doesn't help - it generally makes it worse, so I give him room to have his breakdown & then when he has calmed down we cuddle & discuss it. As he gets older it would be nice if he could take his own space but I honestly think that is a tough skill for people to pick up - I know adults who haven't learned this skill yet!


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#10 of 11 Old 09-17-2011, 07:42 PM
 
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I think he might be too young as well.  At that age I typically did time ins with DS.  Of course I didn't have another baby under 1, so this might not be helpful, but I think hugs tend to diffuse tantrums better and maybe offering an out as well.

 

The other thing I used to do when things got really bad was offer a snack or a nap.  He almost always chose the snack.  Usually kids that age are not as vocal about their food and sleep needs as an infant and it can be hard (especially when looking after an infant) to remember to feed them and rest them so their blood sugar can dip dramatically.

 

I started at about that age to carry high protein snacks at all times and he was offered a chance to take a snack (hard boiled egg, peanut butter crackers, nuts, ham, edamame, whatever we had) or he would need to go for a nap or an early bedtime depending on the time of day.

 

Now and then he would choose the nap.

 

I'd get really serious, I'd swoop him up, take him to another room, and I'd get right down in his eyes and say "you are out of control.  You either need food or a nap, which one is it?"  and he'd protest and I'd repeat "Food or nap?"  and he'd protest some more and I would just stand there with my arms folded repeating food or nap for about 5 times until he decided or if he didn't I'd say last chance, :food or nap" and if he still was screaming I'd take him to his room, turn off the lights, close the curtains and lay him down in bed and stroke his back until he'd either sleep or sniffle "Okay, I'm ready to talk."

 

This phase only lasted about 6-8 months. 


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#11 of 11 Old 09-17-2011, 08:37 PM
 
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My 2 yr old son has been having major trouble over the past year learning to calm himself down when he gets upset. I started taking him to his room and lying down with him on his bed, cuddling and just hugging him for a long time. I'd breathe loudly and deeply near his head to model learning to take deep breaths. I also gave him his lovey to hug, to help him learnt o self-soothe with it. It was too disturbing for my daughters to have him throwing these raging tantrums multiple times a day, which is why I started going to his room. His bed is a "safe" zone for him (thank you, co-sleeping) so it seemed a natural choice.

Over time, this routine started to calm him down faster. We stopped having to lay in there for 20+ mins and after a few weeks it was more like 3 or 4 mins. Then came the day where his emotions got out of control and he said "Me go be by myself!" and ran into his room to cuddle his lovey on his bed to calm himself down. When he calms down I try to talk to him about it, but often by then he's redirected himself and isn't interested in discussing it.

It is absolutely NOT about separating him out, punishing him, or anything like that at all. It was about allowing him to feel his emotions while sill feeling safe and loved, and at the same time teaching him how to cope with these big feelings. It's harder for boys to learn that, and I don't think 3 is too old to begin that lesson.
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