09 October 2006

How to diffuse a tantrum

Gretchen at The Happiness Project recently passed along her seven tips for diffusing a child's tantrum. Great stuff here you may not have read elsewhere, including acknowledging your child's feelings by writing them down ("weirdly effective," says Gretchen).

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One thing that's been really effective for us lately has been to head off a tantrum by offering a really special sticker. Our daughter is 2 1/2 and loves dragonflies, so we have these cool, lifelike dragonfly stickers. She doesn't get to play with them like she does her other stickers--they only come out in emergencies. So basically, if she starts a fit about, say, having to get out of the bath, we tell her that we hear her, but she has to do it...and then ask "would a dragonfly sticker help you control yourself?" Usually she says yes and then she gets to select the sticker...and then do whatever it is and then get the sticker on her hand.

I'm not big on bribes, but since a sticker is pretty much just a tangible approval symbol I feel like we're reinforcing bigger girl behavior while letting her know that we know it's tough.

Writing it down might work for an older child. How do you handle a toddler who won't respond to rhyme or reason? My two-year-old can still be defused using distraction, but as she gets older, the amount of distraction required gets more intense. Right now I pretend to be blind several times a week.


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