Dealing With An 18 Month Old’s Tantrums? Try This!
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Does toddlerhood feel terrific to you, or maybe a bit stressful?
It’s true, tantrums come as our babies start to grow up and it’s not fun – for them or for us. By 18 months your toddler might be having tantrums on a daily basis.
If you’re a first-time mom you might not realize this but MOST mom’s (of children of all ages) say that their biggest struggle as a parent is PATIENCE.
I believe it.
Patience has never been my strong suit. And now as a missionary, I live in a culture where waiting is just a usual part of life and the “go, go, go” mentality of the Western culture isn’t prominent. Maybe this has been God’s way of preparing me for a toddler? So many lessons for patience to be found in Africa!
Being patient is hard. And there are some days where you are just so exhausted that when your little one starts crying for the smallest reason you just feel like you’re going to die inside.
Ok, maybe a bit dramatic, but really, there are days where I know I feel like I just “can’t even” when my daughter starts crying.
But I have learned a way to dramatically decrease the crying in my home, and I knew you’d want to hear about it!
But first of all, what is a tantrum?
I actually don’t really like the word, “tantrum” because it has so many negative connotations, but it’s the word people are familiar with so it’s the word I will use.
Tantrums are totally developmentally normal for young children. It may seem like an uncontrolled, immature outburst of anger but it’s much more than that.
A tantrum is communication.
Your toddler doesn’t know yet how to say something like, “Mother, I am very tired right now, please take me to bed.”
Wouldn’t that be nice! So their crying and screaming is their way of telling you something is bothering them. It might be tempting to just be annoyed and ignore them, but the best thing to do is to try to solve their problem in a way that works for both of you.
Dealing with tantrums can be exhausting, which is why I try to prevent them in my home. It doesn’t mean I let my daughter run the house and giver her everything she wants, but from seeing things through her eyes I have learnt to do something that makes a huge difference.
I tell my daughter what I’m going to do before I do it.
Yup, that’s my big secret.
I know what you’re thinking, that’s pretty simple, that can’t work…can it?
For MY child it works, and it might work for your little one.
Let me tell you a bit about my daughter, she is a very determined, curious girl who is always looking for more independence and to explore her environment.
She loves to pick up everything and check it out…including of course things I don’t want her to pick up.
As you might know, I’m all about Gentle Parenting so part of my parenting strategy is to set firm boundaries. I try not to give her access to things I don’t want her to touch, but sometimes she gets a hold of something she shouldn’t.
This can turn into a huge tantrum trigger
My happy little nugget is exploring something SO EXCITING but mommy is about to come in and take it away 🙁
I would be sad if I were her too.
If someobne came and ripped something out of my hands I would be annoyed. Imagine you’re looking at baby pictures on your friend’s phone and while you’re still looking she just swipes the phone from you with no warning.
Um, rude right?
But what if she said she needed to make a call and then got the phone from you? Much easier right.
This is how my daughter feels about stuff. If you just unexpectedly swipe it from her it’s going to turn into a tantrum. A full blown, turning red, screaming as loud as she can, tantrum.
And it’s NOT because I took the object away from her.
It’s because she didn’t KNOW I was going to take it away from her.
I respect my daughter’s feelings while keeping her safe
I know how I would feel if someone swiped something out of my hands, so I respect my daughter’s feelings but I also have to keep her safe.
So if I have to take something away from her I tell her about it.
I say, “Oh, I didn’t know you could reach that! I need to put it back on the counter where you can’t reach it. I’m going to take it away now.”
When I do this she transitions really well. She doesn’t cry, she just let’s go and finds something else to play with.
If I swipe something from her (and hey, sometimes I do) then she’s really surprised and suddenly very attached to the thing she’s playing with. That’s when the tantrum begins.
I tell my daughter what I’m about to do out of respect.
It prepares her for what’s going to happen and makes the transition a lot easier. Transitions in general are a toddler mom’s best friend. If you want to get your toddler from one activity to another then you definitely need to be easy on them with the transition.
When I give her the same respect and consideration I expect as an adult things go a lot smoother.
She knows what’s going to happen so when it does she’s not surprised or upset.
Respect is actually the first pillar of the 6 Pillars of Gentle Parenting, and truly the entire foundation of Gentle Is respect.
This strategy works in a lot of different scenarios
I use this strategy to avoid tantrums in my 18 month old in a lot of different ways. By telling her what I am going to do before I do it she’s prepared and much calmer.
I use this strategy whenever I’m about to…
- Pick her up.
- Put her in the bath/taker her out
- Change her diaper
- Dress/undress her
- Walk out of the room
- Start the blender (because she hates it)
- Cut her nails
These are just some examples of occasions where I like to tell my daughter what I’m going to do before I do it in order to avoid a tantrum.
Another tip to consider for avoiding tantrums
When it comes to taking something away from my daughter that she shouldn’t be playing with I don’t always go extreme with taking it away.
What I mean here, is that, depending on the object, I don’t necessarily take it completely away. I might tell her she can still play with it but we have to sit together on the couch, or I have to hold it.
Often times there is still a way for her to have fun that works for both of us.
Compromising helps to decrease my 18 month old’s tantrums.
The difficult thing about compromising in these situations though is that often it goes against my initial instinct.
For instance, sometimes my daughter gets her hands on a glass of water (and we have tile floors). My mind instantly starts imagining broken glass and water everywhere. I know my daughter drops her cup sometimes so I know she’s not ready to hold a glass on her own yet.
My instinct is to take the glass away from her – even with telling her what I’m going to do, I want to completely take it away because it seems dangerous.
But it’s actually not the glass that’s dangerous, it’s her holding it alone that’s dangerous.
So if I can tell she’s really interested in the glass I join her and eliminate the actual dangerous part.
I hold on to part of the cup so if she drops it, it doesn’t fall, or I do something silly with it to amuse her. I allow her to continue her fun while also eliminating the danger.
I still tell her what’s going on though. I tell her dangerous so I’m going to help her hold it. This goes over well most of the time.
What if a tantrum still happens?
This strategy works quite often for me, but not always. Sometimes the tears still start and sometimes they take awhile to stop. When this happens I start to ask myself these questions…
These strategies give me more patience
By using these strategies there is less crying and it does wonders for my own emotional state day after day.
One thing I’m learning about mom patience is that it requires you to slow down and see things from your child’s eyes. When I do things the way she wants them everything goes a lot smoother.
I still have a lot to learn about my daughter and what works best for her but it’s an awesome journey. If you want to learn more about Gentle Parenting then I’ve got an awesome free course for you!
It’s called Gentle Foundations for Parenting. We will spend 7 days going over the basics of Gentle Parenting and how to implement the strategies in your home.
Sign up below!
The Moving Mama
Lizzy Mash is an experienced early childhood educator now living in Africa as a missionary working with children and families.
She teaches Christian moms how to take a more respectful and Christ-like approach to motherhood by using Gentle Parenting strategies.
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