Temper Tantrums X 2: 6 Tips and Tricks For Ending Them Quick or Avoiding Them Altogether

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sometimes I wonder if my girls have crafted a plan to throw raging temper tantrums at the exact same time. I know you are identical, but really... identical tantrums?

Watching my children scream, kick, yell, and melt down isn't much fun, and we've had some real doozies in the past.

Yes, I was that mom that had to slide her screaming, laying on the floor twins out of the doorway when storytime ended at the library, and they weren't ready to leave.

Yes, I was the mom who continued to stand in line at Target with the screeching and crying twins trying to unbuckle themselves and jump out of the cart because I refused to return later that night to re-shop.

Yes, I was that mom who watched her twins kick and scream while scooting their little bodies around in circles at My Gym because they had to take turns on the trampoline.

And, yes, I was that mom that joined in with the crying one cold, snowy day when I literally couldn't take it anymore!

With my patience wearing thin, I knew I had to do something to help my two-year-olds work through their drama.

So, what did I do?

I read books, articles, and blog posts.  I picked up some great tips and tricks that I've made my own and have helped nip those awful temper tantrums in the bud.

My Top 6 Tips For Squashing Temper Tantrums or Avoiding Them Altogether

1.  As soon as I see a tantrum coming on, I squat down eye level with my little one and use Dr. Harvey Karp's (They guy who wrote The Happiest Baby and Toddler on The Block books) advice of Fast Food Rule and Toddlerese.  It's simple and really effective.

  • Fast Food Rule- repeat what your child is saying or trying to say for a few time until she quiets down
  • Toddlerese- do this using short, simple words and phrases in a slightly dramatic tone to mirror a fraction of your child's tone

Example: G begins crying because I won't give her another cookie.  I squat down to her level and point to the pantry in a slightly upset tone of voice saying, "Cookie! Cookie! G wants cookie!"
This stops all crying about 95% of the time.  No lie!  Dr. Karp says it's because your toddler thinks, "Hey, mama gets me.  She understands me."  I wonder if they are just staring at me thinking I'm crazy. But, if it works, I don't care the reason.
Once she stops crying I will say something like, "Mama says no cookie, it's almost dinner time. Then I try to give her options of something I want her to eat or distract her with something we can play together like  "Look at this, I see Minnie Mouse on this coloring book.  Do you want to use the blue crayon or the pink crayon to color her? Ok. Mama will use the blue crayon."  Sometimes, this means giving up five minutes from whatever I was doing to play, but I'll take that over 5 minutes of screaming any day.
Sometimes she will start crying again, so I go back to the first step of repeating until she has quieted down again.

Sometimes I feel silly when I'm out in public talking in toddlerese, but I'm so happy with the result that I don't care what a passersby might think of me!

2.  The Magical Hand Stamp: I have a non-toxic washable inkpad and stamp on every floor in my house.  My girls love being rewarded with a hand stamp.  Even more so when I let them choose which stamp they would like on their hand.
When I catch the girls behaving kindly or cleaning up I give them a hand stamp.  When I first introduced the hand stamp, I stamped their hand for the littlest things, sharing a toy, putting away a block, getting their shoes on without a fit, etc... Now, when I've asked for something to be done, and I see that little toddler angst rearing its ugly head,  I pull out the stamps and say, "Wow, wouldn't it be great to get a stamp for ...?"  Most of the time that kicks my little ones into high gear and mama's wish is granted.  That's why I call it the Magical Hand Stamp.  Plus, the girls love to share the stamps they've earned with Daddy when he gets home for work.
*the tricky part with stamps and twins is I never want to compare by saying "J did this, why can't you, G?"  That's why I've been against using sticker charts.  We don't need reminders posted on the wall of how someone else is better than us.  Luckily, the hands are a bit more subtle and they wash off, so we can always start anew.

3.  The Power of Choice:  My toddlers don't like to be told what to do all the time.  It's that whole developing a sense of autonomy.  One of my favorite child development experts, Erik Erikson's has a theory of child development that teaches us that toddlers need to develop autonomy to overcome shame and doubt.  As a teacher, I was always providing choices to my students. As a mom, I find myself doing the same.  I can avoid many temper tantrums by simply providing my girls with choices.  The key is to offer only 2 choices at a time, and to make the choices what I want to be done.
Example:  J doesn't want a diaper change.  Instead of fighting her and trying to diaper a crying, thrashing two year old, I let her chose which diaper she would like to wear.  The one with baby Elmo or baby Cookie Monster on it.  If I don't have different diapers, then I might offer a choice of where she wants her diaper changed or if she wants me or daddy to change her diaper.  The key is don't ask open ended questions here.  If you ask, "Where do you want me to change your diaper?"  She will say, "No!"  But, if I give her the choice, "Do you want Mama or Papa to change your diaper".  Then, she will have to pick one. Giving them just a little power and control in their day makes a world of difference.

4.  Be Prepared: I love being a stay at home mom.  But, running errands with twins often makes me think about returning to the workforce.  I don't have a sitter to leave the girls with every time I need too run an errand.  They need to learn how to occupy themselves when they would rather be doing something other than shopping.  How do they learn?  I keep an arsenal of fun things to do in my bag at all times that I change up on a pretty regular basis.  I keep a bookbag in the car filled with easy to grab activities so that I can pick and choose what to bring in with us.  For example, v-tech tablets are fine for the noisy grocery store, not ok at the quiet bakery.  I decided to empty out my bag and take a picture of what I had in there today.

v-tech tablets, fancy pens, baby food container entertainers (see below), sesame street guys, Melissa and Doug re-stickable puffy stickers dress-up scenes, a funny duck and cow from the dentist, fisher price magic writer,  books, crayons, stickers, and coloring books from the target dollar section
I use leftover baby food containers and fill them with little things like stickers, pom poms, wiggle eyes, play dough balls, etc... to pull out for those boring errands
As their attention span grows, they are content playing with one toy for a longer amount of time.  That means I only have to carry around 2 or 3 different toys per child (the power of choice).  My girls are in a I want what she has stage, so it's easier for me to be prepared.

Also, I pack snacks!!  When we are out shopping, my girls seem to get a serious case of the munchies.  I buy portable snacks that I can throw in my purse and pull out as needed (see photo below for some all-time favorites.)
The purple munchkin snack container(top right) is great for holding animal crackers, berries, or leftover breakfast items

5.  Give A Heads Up: I found that by giving my girls a warning prior to leaving a fun activity or having to clean up has helped stop many tantrums. Even though the concept of time is still developing, the girls get that when I say, "10 minutes until we put on our shoes to go home", means we will be leaving soon so I better get my last few minutes of playtime in.  I also try to give a 5 minute and a 2 minute warning. A lot of times by the 2 minute warning one or both of the girls have stopped playing and are ready to go.

6.  When All Else Fails, and/or It's Just One of Those Days:  I remind myself that we all have bad days, even 2 year olds.  As my dad says, "This too shall pass."
I sit down on the ground and count to 10 out loud so that girls can hear me calming myself down. Sometimes I might do this five or six times. Most of the time, they will crawl up on me, crying,  looking for hugs.  I model as I say, "breath in through your nose and out through your mouth" until we are calm.  Sometimes I will sing a soft song and rock back and forth as we hug.  Once everyone is quiet, I use simple sentences to review the problem, how we can make it better, and how we can act differently next time.  I also make sure to say, "I love you".  I believe its important for your kids to know that you still love them no matter how angry or sad they may have gotten.

I've tried separating them in separate rooms, but the other one will follow me back screaming. Although I've heard some moms of twins do this successfully, giving a cool down time for the one twin.  When my girls are at this point, they want hugs, not alone time.

There have been a few occasions when the screaming and crying has REALLY gotten to me.  I know I need a cool down.  I've put the girls in their bedroom, gone into the bathroom and turned on the fan to serve as white noise. It may only be 30 seconds, but that 30 seconds allows me just enough time to regain my composure and start from the beginning.

Sometimes just reminding myself that I'm not perfect and raising twins isn't easy, helps me get through those really tough days.

I hope these tips help you and your little ones regain some peace!

I'd love to hear any tips you might have for stopping temper tantrums, especially for twins.

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12 Responses to “ Temper Tantrums X 2: 6 Tips and Tricks For Ending Them Quick or Avoiding Them Altogether ”

  1. Great tips! I love the stamp idea. I am definitely nervous about the twins when they get to the two's and on. My four year old gives us a run for our money.

    1. Thanks! It always seems that just when you have one piece of raising twins under control, they spring something else upon you:) Guess, that's what makes it so much fun!

  2. That's a really helpful post. Thank you. I also used to teach and learned about the power of choices. I use this even when I don't see a problem looming, just so they feel they have some power in their lives e.g. choosing which stories at bedtime. It's also comforting to hear that not every mum has infinite patience. I wish I did though! (I found you through the loveallblogs parenting pin it party. My pinterest ID is www.pinterest.com/byelsieb).

    1. Thanks, Lucy! I couldn't agree more. The power of choice is magical.

      I love your shop.
      Those pillows are adorable!

  3. Very nicely said. I can't imagine you having too many tantrums with all those great ideas.

  4. NIce tips =P When my son is going to throw a tantrum I just let him be. WHen we are outside i just try to talk him out of it & if that doesnt work yes I just count it as one of those days. Oh to be a mother =P #pintitparty

  5. Fellow twin mama here. I love your tips and have used many myself. The power of choice is one of my absolute favorites. The magical hand stamp is a new one that I think our preschoolers would love, so I'll have to give that a try! I'm stopping by from the Monday Parenting Pin It Party, and I'll be pinning this one - thanks! :)

  6. Great tips. I love the idea of a hand stamp and might have to look at getting one myself. Thanks so much for sharing with the #pinitparty. have pinned :)

  7. Awesome tips! I like that the handstamp washes off and isn't like the sticker chart too! How fun!

    And, I too, have been there with the carrying screaming, hitting twin toddlers out of the library by myself.... Oh, and while like 8 months pregnant. It was a sight to behold I'm sure! Ugh. And I've let my kids scream in the grocery store too because why should I have to come back and give them the satisfaction that their screams destroyed our plans.

    I'm glad that most of the tantrum throwing is done... mostly...

  8. Thank you! It's so comforting to know that I'm not alone:)

  9. These are great ideas! My second child is quickly entering the terrible twos and this is a good reminder of what to do. I find that snacks really help my kids! :-) I'm featuring this at my link party tonight and pinning!


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