The best way we've found to deal with this type of behavior is not to give in. It worked when we took away her pacifier and when we stopped giving her bottles. It helps when she starts to do things that could hurt her, like slamming doors or banging on the television. It's completely frustrating and absolutely tiring, but it's worth it. Allowing her to throw a fit to get what she wants, even once, makes it a hundred times more difficult to keep her from repeating that behavior again.
|Just laying here, throwing a fit because mom wanted to take a picture.|
Last night was one of the longest, loudest and most difficult standoffs to date. In one corner you have Lauren, sitting in her highchair, tired, with a bowl of her favorite food in front of her. (Rice, sweet corn, black beans, kale and squash...weird I know.) In the other corner you have Tim and me, scrambling to recook dinner because I managed to grill our brisket into something that resembled the charcoal on the bottom of the smoker.
To start it off, Lauren decided to dump her entire bowl of food on her head. When she's not interested in eating she either flings her food or plays with it, so this was not a surprise. It was, however, messy and not exactly appreciated in the middle of our rush to get something edible made for the rest of us to eat. I scooped everything back into the bowl, reminded her that we do not play with our food, and left her to continue feeding herself. She was not at all interested in doing that so she stood up in her highchair and proceeded to scream at me.
Tim wandered by about this time and asked what I was doing. "Teaching her that screaming and flinging her food is not the way to get what she wants." I replied. She continued to stand there and yell and I continued to calmly tell her to sit down. (Staying calm is the most important thing. If I start getting upset it just eggs her on.)
Cut to twenty minutes later...she is still screaming, begging to get up and refusing to eat the one bite that we were requesting. Just one bite of her favorite food and we would go take a bath, which she considers a reward. Back and forth we went, reminding her that one bite and she could get up. Did she want to take a bath? Yes. Then just take one bite. NO. (Go ahead and tell me not to reason with a toddler, especially an almost 18 month old. I know it sounds crazy. Even I think it's crazy.)
And then, something amazing happened. She calmed down, opened her mouth, and took that one little bite. We all clapped, jumped up and down, high-fived her, and made complete fools of ourselves. I let her play in the bathtub for an extra 5 minutes as a reward for following directions. Then we put on her pajamas, read a few books, and she happily went to bed. Success!
Do I think these tantrums are going to be better now? Heck no! We haven't hit the terrible twos and the horrendously awful threes yet. However, it did prove that she understood us and knows that when we make a rule that we expect it to be followed. It also showed that our persistence and staying calm actually works for her. (I know every kid is different. This just works the best for ours.)
Our next big hurdles: sleeping in a big kid bed and potty training. Could someone please pass the Tylenol and the ear plugs?