One Secret to Ending Toddler Temper Tantrums

By Dr Randy Cale

When dealing with toddlers who are struggling with behavior problems, such as toddler tantrums, whining or meltdowns, our tendency is often to end up responding to them with lots of instructive words.  In other words, we tell them what they need to do.  We do it over and over again.

In fact, the more a toddler tantrums, we often make the mistake of putting more and more effort into controlling their behaviors.

If we get frustrated, we can talk in very controlling ways.  We speak to them as if we have control over them, and we don’t.

Do We Control Our Children?

The bottom line is that we don’t control our children.  The more that we end up falling into the trap of trying to control them, when we don’t have control, the more we end up in futile battles and constant struggles.

In many ways, when you open to this truth, you also open to an enlightened way of parenting that gives you tremendous power to teach your children critical life lessons and to help them learn to negotiate through the world more effectively.

First however, let’s review what it sounds like when you’re really trying to control your children, and it’s not working.  It could sound like any of these comments:

  1. “Now just calm down.”
  2. “Cut that out.”
  3. “Put that away.”
  4. “Put that down.”
  5. “Stop hitting your brother.”
  6. “You’re going to eat everything on your plate.”
  7. “Clean up your room.”
  8. “Do your homework.”
  9. “Get off the phone.”

You notice the theme.  You’re responding and talking to your children as if you did have control.  We act as if our words “should” control their actions and their emotions, when they simply don’t.

As adults, do we like to be talked to in this way?  Of course not!  And neither do your children.

So what’s the alternative?

The alternative is to shift your focus from controlling your children to controlling the environment and everything that surrounds them.  You can control you!  You can control your home.  You can control access to the goodies.

On the other hand, many frustrated parents come to me as they try in vain to control temper tantrums with their words.  They also try to control tantrums with punishments, and try to force the temper tantrums to go away.  It doesn’t work that way.  We can’t control those temper tantrums away.

However; we can very quickly teach your children that the tantrums do not work for them anymore BY controlling the consequences.

This is a critical distinction that shifts your focus from the illusion of having control over your children (because you don’t) to the reality of what you do control…your environment.

In fact, you control everything that your children really care about.  You control whether or not the electricity works, whether there is a TV or cable in the house, whether the car goes to soccer practice, whether the phone works, and even what food is in the refrigerator.  You control everything that they care about.

So instead of trying to focus on controlling your children, I encourage you to focus on controlling the environment in response to your children’s choices.  If you keep your focus here, you can now control the consequences to every choice!  Your children then begin to learn from the consequences of their choices.  Tantrums, whining and all the negativity will disappear within days when you become a master of this lesson.

Learn to Love Reality!

Notice how this concept reflects the reality of life.  We don’t buy cars that will only go sixty five miles an hour.  We all buy cars that will go well over the speed limit.  There is no one who says you can’t drive a hundred miles per hour when the speed limit is sixty five.  Instead, we have policeman who give us tickets and we have to pay the fine.  This is the consequence for going over the speed limit.

Your employer doesn’t come and pull you out of the bed if you don’t show up.  Instead, when you come to work late, they tell you to go home…for good!  That’s the consequence for your poor choice!

No one tells you that you can’t write checks when there is no money in the account.  Instead, you account is overdrawn and you are penalized severely.  In some cases, the consequences are worse and this is what does the teaching!

But please learn from this lesson, as it will sever you in dozens of ways as you parent your child.  Not just from these ugly meltdowns, screaming tantrums and all-out-blood-curdling screams, but with all the challenges of parenting.

At home, I encourage you to have a similar philosophy.  You establish the limits, by controlling the environment.  When your children step over the line, you make sure there is a consequence.

Notice that this doesn’t guarantee that they’ll stay on the right side of the line.  It only guarantees the opportunity for them to learn that it’s in their interest to stay on the right side of the line.  When you really get this approach, you move into your power as a parent.  You move into a world where you focus on teaching your children…rather than controlling them.   How doe children learn to drop temper tantrums?  By realizing that it is no longer in their interest to tantrum!  We just need a few days to teach them that!  It happens fast!

Revolutionize Your Parenting

This approach can completely transform your parenting, as it gets you out of the world where you use lots of words to try to manage behavior.  Words will not teach the lessons you want to teach.  Consequences will.  And you control all the consequences that are really important to your children.

When you make this fundamental shift in the way that you parent, there’s a world of additional strategies and approaches that can make life even better.   You can learn about these at my website, at www.TerrificParenting.com.

I encourage you to use this idea as a starting point, and ignore all the many voices out there that are encouraging you to repeatedly talk to your children when dealing with problem behaviors.  Of course, when dealing with an occasional moment of upset, talk with your children.  But, when you are struggling through a pattern of temper tantrums, meltdowns or acting out behavior, remember to love reality… and focus on control of the environment…not your child!  You will see those temper tantrums disappear in less than a week, if you can really master this lesson.  I wish you the best.

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