We had quite the battle with temper tantrums when my son was around 18 months old. I did everything that I could to help him work through that stage. Some methods were more effective than others, but there was one main thing that drastically reduced the number of times he would throw a fit every day. Using this one simple trick, we were able to avoid most tantrums before they even started.
What’s this tantrum-stopping trick? Counting to 10.
I’m not talking about the “don’t make me count to 3” type of counting, this is something else entirely.
I use this trick anytime I’m about to change something. I’ll use bedtime as an example, but this works for leaving the park or getting ready to ride in the car and other small changes as well. Before I make the change and get him ready for bed, I tell him what was about to happen. I explain that he can continue playing while I count, but when I reach “10” the change would take place and we would begin preparing for bed. 90% of the time, he plays happily while I counted and then quietly comes along when I get to ’10’, avoiding any type of tantrum or outburst.
So many tantrums are caused by our little ones not being prepared for a change that is taking place. They feel out of control and do not know what to do with the uncertainty and disappointment they are feeling. Giving them even just a count to ten, allows them that time to process that a change is taking place in a tangible amount of time. For older children using terms like “in five minutes” works, but for children who have no concept of time, a number of minutes holds no meaning for them and doesn’t serve as much of a warning at all. Counting allows them to hear the words and recognize that they are passing by at a rate with which he is familiar.
This method also allows the parent to remain in control. I have seen similar methods used by moms at the park, things like “slide two more times and then we’re leaving”… The problem I see with this is that sneakier kids will take their time and dawdle as they obey the command and every one ends up being frustrated.
Counting to ten means the adult maintains control of the time limits but the child does not fear like he is being treated unfairly or being surprised by changes coming at him from all directions. “Ten counts” is a time frame even the smallest of toddlers can understand. My son recognized the numbers long before he was able to count to ten himself, and it actually helped to teach him to count at a young age as well! Sometimes he’d ask for extra time so we’d count to 12 or 14 together.
Simple and easy trick that has worked wonders in our home! If you are looking for more information on tantrums, check out this post of toddler tantrum tactics that I complied from more than 15 moms! Or check out this post about why I’m (sort of) okay with tantrums, this reminder has saved my sanity when working through the more difficult stages of toddlerhood with my kids.
For more awesome tips check out this post about how to parent without saying no (yes, really!)
What is your best tantrum avoiding trick? Have you ever tried this one?
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Do you have a favorite way of dealing with tantrums at your house? Share in the comments!