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I need suggestions about how to nip early age (14 months) tantrums in the bud?

My 14 month old son has began to scream and cry and drop to the floor when something he wants gets taken away or he can't have something he wants. I am reacting to it by simply not reacting and ignoring the behavior, or re-direction. It seems pretty angry and intense though and our home is relativley calm and low key so I am just concerned.

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Asked by Charliesmom0219 at 9:19 PM on Apr. 30, 2011 in Toddlers (1-2)

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Answers (7)
  • Sounds like he's starting into his Terrible Two's already. My daughter started at 16 months. When she'd have a toy meltdown we'd just plop her in the middle of her floor and tell her she could come out when she was done screaming. If she had a screaming meltdown in the store we'd sling her over a shoulder and leave If it was a lay-on-the-floor-and-pout tantrum I'd just step over her and keep on shopping. Otherwise, just keep doing what you're doing. This is a (frustrating) phase.

    Answer by Rosehawk at 9:53 PM on Apr. 30, 2011

  • Given your calm, low-key home, I would assume that you are pretty responsive & in-tune with him so I would suggest that when he expresses his frustration, rather than NOT reacting and ignoring him (which I assume you are doing to communicate to him that this behavior is not welcome?), you might stay calmly engaged w/ him. Like whitepeppers mentioned, "help him get through it," which your presence does. This shows him that strong feelings make sense and are valid, that you don't recreate reality for him, but that you welcome his emotional expression. Resisting it (through ignoring it or sending a message of unacceptance) sends him the message that his feelings & expression are wrong, which is even MORE frustrating. Off-loading emotions is healthy & necessary. Feeding into a tantrum by desperately seeking for ways to STOP it can escalate the behavior & encourage it as a strategy to GET something, but that is learned behavior.

    Answer by girlwithC at 2:21 PM on May. 4, 2011

  • By staying engaged & supporting him, I am talking about really getting his reality (empathy) which lets you validate his perspective & feelings. Something has happened through no fault of his (or yours!) and he has had to go through a surprise & disappointment. He has feelings in response. He just wanted to (have fun, play, explore, try, whatever...) & you're "his person" & instead of helping him, you stopped him! And took it away! You knew what he wanted & could have made him happy, but inexplicably you made him frustrated and stymied, instead! Just seeing how someone's feelings & reactions make sense from their point of view is a gift, because it communicates acceptance. You don't have to pacify him, comfort him, distract or compensate him. You can understand & respect him, instead, which shows him that strong feelings are a part of life & not to be feared (distracting & compensating are highly anxiety-fueled on our parts.)

    Answer by girlwithC at 2:29 PM on May. 4, 2011

  • Hi again, I was thinking about this & I wanted to come back & say that your understanding & acceptance IS comforting to your toddler, so in that sense you most definitely ARE comforting him, but the effort to comfort in order to STOP a feeling/expression is a different sort of thing. That's essentially a negation, as are reassurances that strive urgently to "make it better" (if you think about it, from a child's point of view something DID happen, everything is NOT okay, something IS wrong, etc.) Validation is reflecting their upset in a simple, direct way: "You wanted to hold those scissors," "You wanted to stay in the park," "You weren't ready to leave," "You wanted more cookie." It's common to want to explain your reasons for interceding (interfering!) but remember, that's all about validating YOUR actions & it will be a negation (basically, an explanation of why they SHOULDN'T be upset) if they haven't had full expression.

    Answer by girlwithC at 5:13 PM on May. 4, 2011

  • I believe responding in this sensitive, accepting way to your son's honest feelings while he is still at such a young age will be instrumental in helping to avoid a lot of tantrum behavior later. Not that he won't express strong emotions in ways typical for young children, but so much of protracted tantrum behavior is frustration & rage, & he would have less frustration from being routinely negated & controlled, so there would be less "baggage" from frustrating patterns set up early-on, less rage to off-load. My 2-year-olds (twins) have grown up being "allowed to have their feelings" & when they express strong upsets, they typically pass through the feelings quickly & reach resolution/relief, often with the barest support from me (my patient and sympathetic presence & my understanding.) They're typically cooperative & cheerful, without me having had to disapprove of, or "teach" them that I wouldn't put up with "that behavior."

    Answer by girlwithC at 5:44 PM on May. 4, 2011

  • Ok, so girlwithC, when he has these tantrums, I do say to him, after I have upset him, that I am sorry he is sad, and that has made him sad but mommy is only helping him. I say I am sorry your upset over and over but I don't ALWAYS re-direct as sometimes I just want him to know that no means no, not that I will find something else for him. For instance, if he is playing with an ink pen and it's more about making a mess, I will take it, say I am sorry you are sad as he begings to get mad, then re-direct to something else, but if he is going for something dangerous, like a cleaner, or an outlet or anything that could hurt him, I simply take it, tell him no, that it can hurt him and that I am sorry he is sad, then I ignore the fit, and it usually subsides within 1 minute or so. Is this what you mean? Because he is only 14 months old, he doesn't exactly understand alot of comforting words. Thanks.

    Comment by Charliesmom0219 (original poster) at 8:25 PM on May. 5, 2011

  • Also when I say "ignore", I don't leave the room, or him alone ever, I just continue what I was doing and allow him to have the fit without reacting.

    Comment by Charliesmom0219 (original poster) at 8:27 PM on May. 5, 2011

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