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Tantrums and Transitions and Other Big Feelings

So I've been reading about tantrums, now that Little L is in the thick of being a terror-in-the-making.  She has mastered the whine, and isn't afraid to demonstrate her skills whenever she doesn't quite get what she wants.

Little kids are not good with transitions.  That is, unless they initiate it, they aren't good with changing activities abruptly.  They need time to ease out of one thing and into another.  And when grown-ups try to impose a quick change (e.g. from playing to going to bed, from reading to diaper changing), that's usually when a meltdown or tantrum occurs. At least, it is for us.

So now I've adopted some strategies, half stolen from the Internets and half from my own experience as an elementary teacher, to help my toddler switch from activity 1 to activity 2.

The first is, I tell her a few minutes ahead of time that we will be doing something different in X minutes.  Yeah, I know she has no concept of time...yet.  But still, it's a verbal "warning" to get her primed.

Then, when it's time, I tell Little L that I'm going to count to 5 and then we are going to do ___.  I start slow counting, using my fingers so that she can see.  After I've reached 5, she usually comes into my arms without much of a struggle, and we go to our next activity.

Whenever possible, we also offer her some choice, like, "Do you want to take your stroller or the bike?" when we have to go out, or "Which outfit would you like to wear?" before bath time.  A sense of control, however small or illusory, helps Little L feel like she is calling the shots and not subject to the whims of all the grown-ups in her world.

Once she is older, we plan to use a visual "schedule," AKA "shape of the day."  Using little velcro cards with pictures and words, I will put together the day's schedule so that she knows what is happening each day, and in which order.  Hopefully, this will mitigate anxieties and manage expectations.

In other news, Little L is still biting and pinching.  I'm told that this is normal and a way for her to express big feelings that she doesn't yet have words for.  In order to reduce the frequency of my being abused (since I am usually the lucky recipient of the bites and squeezes), I've been trying to empathetically give names to her feelings (or what I perceive are her emotions at that moment).  I am also doling out extra hugs and cuddles whenever she acts out this way.  

Some may say I'm spoiling her and harming her by not disciplining, but I say, "F*ck that noise! I'll do it my way, thankyouverymuch."  Actually, I don't say that, I just think it. What I do say is that experts agree that my baby isn't deliberately trying to hurt me because she's vindictive or manipulative or sadistic; she is just too young to have the skills to cope with "big feelings" like anxiety or jealousy or frustration or fear or disappointment.  This is her coping strategy until she can use her words and other ways to express and alleviate these emotions.  Until then, I just need to be compassionate and empathetic, and not punitive. 

What other tips and tricks and advice do you seasoned parents have for this newbie? I'm interested in hearing how you helped your kids navigate the rough waters of toddlerhood!


This is GOLD! I count down from 10 when Ollie is freaking out and usually by 5 he is calmer. I also love that you talk to her about what is coming and give choices. we do the same, but no a methodical. I plan to start that. and the velcro this is what we are doing today is AWESOME!! That is your brilliant inner teacher at work.

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