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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Preventing Tantrums through Play

Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Through Play

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how challenging discipline situations can be met with play. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Ever since Baby T has been old enough to throw tantrums, it seems like my #1 parenting principle and mantra has been: Prevent Tantrum. It guides my day and parenting style. I’ve heard of the book “Playful Parenting” and have wanted to read it, because it seems right up my alley. I have found that the following equations are true:

Stern voice + controlling attitude = Tantrum
Loud voice + controlling attitude = Tantrum
Firm demands for compliance = Tantrum
Playing a game = a lot of extra time carved out of your day = an accommodating, happy-go-lucky kid

I never particularly planned to go this route, but it just began to happen. Toddlers need guidance well before they are old enough to use logic and reason (or even to be able to completely understand what you say to them). But they can sure throw tantrums before they have logic, reason, or communication.

So as Baby T began to need little bits of guidance here and there, we dealt that guidance with a fun, playful attitude. If we didn’t, it turned into—you guessed it—a tantrum. As you can see from the equations above, all we needed to do was throw our plans for efficiency out the window and keep a playful attitude. We were on toddler time now.

Playful Ruse #1: THROW!
Not at me!

Probably the first thing we did that caused Baby T distress (in the form of a tantrum) was take things away from him. We didn’t do this often, but when he had the plug from the lamp or a newly sharpened pencil in his hand, we had to take those things away. Then came the times where he wasn’t holding something imminently dangerous, but it had to go nonetheless. Think leaving the toothbrush in the bathroom after brushing teeth and before bed or leaving snacks in the car when we got to daycare.

I would give Baby T the option to put the object down, but of course he never wanted to. It would go something like this:

“Can you drop the toothbrush now?” Nothing.

Ok, “Please drop the toothbrush.”


“Drop the toothbrush. Put it down.”

White-knuckling it.

O-kay… “Can you throw the toothbrush, Baby T? THROW!!! Right here in the sink. I’ll show you. See? THROW!!!”

And Baby T put his arm in the air, threw the toothbrush into the sink, and turned around to head for the bedroom.

So now, whenever we get to daycare, he throws whatever toy, snack, or drink he was holding onto the floor or the seat next to him before I unbuckle him. He likes to toss his pacifier into his crib and see if he can make it (instead of throwing a fit because we’re trying to dislodge it from his teeth). If he has something he doesn’t want to relinquish, throwing it is pretty fun. It has become an almost fail-safe routine.

Playful Ruse #2: I’m going to count to 3.
When I say "three," I'd like to to stop touching the clock.

This isn’t the usual count to three business. It involves no punishment; it’s just a way to prepare Baby T for what is coming next. I started this pretty early too. If I wanted him to do something that he wasn’t doing—say, get him to come lie down for a diaper change, I would simply say, “I would like you to come lie down here. I’m going to count to three. When I say THREE! I want you to lie down here. If you don’t, I’m just going to come get you.” (I would say this in kind of a playful tone, as though we were about to play a really fun game.)

Then I would count. One… Two… THREE! And if he didn’t come, I would say, “Now I have to get you!” And I would playfully grab him. The key was to do this in a fun way, not a harsh, controlling way. Holding him upside down or playing “Flying Baby T” would usually accomplish this and have him giggling.

Now, I almost never get to three. When I tell him I’m going to count, he gets excited and does whatever I asked him to as though it’s a game.

Playful Ruse #3: Tackle!
Triple tackle!!

Racing and tackling have become a way to move Baby T from A to B. This is mainly a Big T activity. But somewhere along the way, he discovered that Baby T loves being “tackled.” Big T will chase him to his bedroom, where Baby T will jump onto the bed and Big T will pretend to tackle him. This is a great way to get him to his room to get dressed, go to bed, or get his diaper changed. When Baby T is whining that he doesn’t want to go, Big T will say, “Do you want to get tackled?”

And Baby T is off like a speeding bullet, yelling, “Tackle me!”

So much of what we do on a daily basis involves singing, making up funny songs, tickling, and flying through the air. It’s how we get diapers changed, shoes on, naps taken, and teeth brushed. Are these tasks accomplished in record time? Not even close. But I cringe every time Big T or I loses patience and gets antsy about how long Baby T is taking to do something. Because I know that if we push him, he will lose his patience, and we’ll be dealing with much more than lost time.

Keeping things light and making things into a game is how we keep sane in our family. My sister recently said something to me that really made me feel great. I was expressing how I was frustrated with Baby T for some reason, and she said that she was impressed with how little she heard me raise my voice when I was frustrated with him. I try not to raise my voice often, but I didn’t realize I was succeeding. I think a lot of it has to do with making life fun and easy. That makes for a very happy family.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama said... Best Blogger Tips

Love your formulas! They are so right on.

I also love the pictures - particularly the football being thrown at your face ;-) So funny!

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said... Best Blogger Tips

Such great ideas mama - I especially love the "throw" idea, that sounds like a perfect toddler game!

Zoie @ TouchstoneZ said... Best Blogger Tips

These are some great ideas to keep the fun in the situations that can be stressful otherwise. Keeping it light, fun and happy I think helps them to know that they are, by definition, okay and loved. That's the best foundation we can give them-and "all" we have to do as parents is remember to play.

Hannah said... Best Blogger Tips

Yep, love the 'throw' idea and adopting it immediately!

Hybrid Rasta Mama said... Best Blogger Tips

Ok...hope this comment doesn't post a million times...blogger is being quirky tonight! Anyhoo, I wish I had read this post before today! I could have used the toothbrush game last night in a big way! I also love the Count To Three game! Great post...gave me some food for thought!

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said... Best Blogger Tips

Those are such wonderful ideas! I'm going to give these a try. I think the throw game is brilliant, and Mikko loves being tackled, too. I've been wondering how to handle transitions in a playful manner, so I'm going to try counting as well.

Isn't it fun that your sister noticed how peaceful your parenting is? You must be doing something right! :) said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm glad these ideas sound good to other mamas, because all of YOUR ideas sound so good to me!

And yes, it really made me feel great when my sister praised me for my parenting. As much as I feel like sometimes I am too impatient or frustrated, I do my best... and if it's noticeable to an adult, it has to have an impact on my kids, right?

teresa said... Best Blogger Tips

I absolutely love your equations and "toddler time"
We've followed a very similar path to yours... I just feel better about it after reading your thoughtful evaluation of it.
Thank you!

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