Correct. Redirect. Disconnect.
Before we dive in, let me address some potentially controversial points. When I talk about a temper tantrum I am going to assume that we can all use our best judgement to know what a tantrum is compared to a legitimate need, and I am also going to assume that these are for children that do not have any special sensory processing disorders or other special needs because I don’t know what the best approach is in those situations. And lastly I am going to go ahead and specify that this is for around 2-4 year olds. I personally believe that a child younger than 18 months is not manipulating a parent. There is tons of research to support that babies in the first two years of life need nurturing, loving response above anything else. I do not believe in “disconnect” with babies. I will have to stop there or I’ll start another blog post.
That’s my boy during his two year old photo session. He’s a doll isn’t he?
Okay, so yesterday we learned that most toddlers are going to act out of control for a couple years. Even though it might be inevitable that does not mean we let them get away with spitting, hitting, biting, screaming, thrashing, yelling… fill in the blank. No way! This is the most crucial time for us to teach our children the right way to handle their emotions and it is a privilege to do so. That is why of course we correct it every time. Even if it takes 100 or more times before we see improvement.
After we have addressed the issue through correction we can get them to move on to something else which is where the redirect comes in. In some cases this also means relocate. This is the part were we give our child a chance to calm down rather than blow up.
However, for those that have strong willed children they are focused on whatever they have their minds set on and they are going to dig their heels into the ground until there are ruts! That means it’s time for you to disconnect. I don’t think you should abandon your screaming child completely or leave them in a dangerous situation, but if you have already addressed the issue then there is no need stir the pot or cater to their disrespect. It’s time to let them ride the wave until they are ready to return to their senses. According to Love and Logic
“The best way to raise a chronically unhappy and poorly behaved kid is to make a habit of giving them a lot of attention or pizzazz when they are misbehaving.”
Sometimes it’s best for the child to be screaming in their room so the family can go about their business contecting with each other. It won’t be long before your little bug-a-boo (or whatever pet name you have) is totally recuperated and ready to be involved again.
Keep in mind this isn’t always a 3 step process that has to be done with all three in the same order. Sometimes you just have to correct and disconnect. Other times you don’t have to disconnect at all if the redirect part works. Exactly what this looks like will depend on the age and the situation, but I’ll give a few examples that I have dealt with in the past six years with my children. I’ll put asterisks with links next to the tips that have been previously mentioned in this series.
Correct: Tell the child “Uh Oh. We don’t take toys. You need to give it back and say sorry.” *Short and simple*
Redirect: Offer the child a different toy.
Disconnect: If the child is throwing a huge fit about it, you may just have to wait out the temper tantrum. Let the toddler know they can continue play time when they calm down and then do not give them attention in response to their whaling.
Two Year old:
You are at a gift shop on Vacation and you are buying batteries. Meanwhile your child has decided to pick out a $45 gigantic stuffed horse.
Correct: “Uh-Oh. That horse can’t come with us! He has to stay here, say bye bye horse”
Redirect: “Do you want to hold these batteries and we can go see some butterflies?”
Disconnect: In the real life story where this took place my daughter threw herself on the ground literally kicking and screaming. I had to check out, so relocating wasn’t an option. I was by myself and she is getting a little too big to try to hold when she’s flailing like that. So she made a huge scene and I stood there calmly knowing that despite what anyone else around me was thinking I was aware that “I control myself, but I don’t control others”. In these situations I will often have people comment “Ewww, that floor is dirty” In a helpful way trying to coerce the chid to get up. I just agree with them and keep controlling myself. No big deal (even if it feels like it is). Eventually it’s over, I haven’t had to spend the night in the store yet. Rest assured, they WILL grow out tot this.
4 Year Old:
I hope your child is mature enough to never, ever throw a fit at this age, but for mothers like me that may have late bloomers here is my advice. They are crossing a bridge developmentally at this age. Try to introduce a lot more of the timer, choices, enforceable statements, and logical consequences, but be feel free to treat them like a toddler if they choose to act like one.
For example, The child is having a great time on a play date until lo and behold it’s over and they have to go home! So they insist that they are not leaving.
Correct: You really love playing with your friend don’t you? Too bad, we have to go home. *empathy primes the pump for learning*
Redirect: Why don’t you see if there is a CD you want to listen to in the car?If they don’t take the redirect bait then go ahead and switch to the relocate tactics. I have been in plenty of situations where I have to use force to break up a play date. If your child is big enough to carry and I pray for your sake they are, then you might have to do what I call the bandaid technique. Just rip it off quick instead of prolonging the agony. In other words grab them and head for the door. Or if not, you’ll have to consider some logical consequences, or enlist your friend to help. My kids always listen to other people for some reason.
Disconnect: You might have to listen to a lot of screaming. The good news is you are in the car so it’s a little easier to ignore because they are stuck in their seat and you don’t have to look at them.
This is a photo my husband took when I was pregnant with my second and my 2 year old wanted to be carried everywhere! I just couldn’t do that all the time and she is my “throw yourself on the ground tantrumer”. So It took a long time to get anywhere in that season.
I repeat -This too shall pass!
This is day 21 of a 31 day series. For more Teachable Parenting click HERE.
Such a wonderful post Natalie, I really love this series! I absolutely agree it's essential to redirect and sometimes ultimately disconnect. In the end they love us anyway and nothing lasts forever even if it seems like the never-ending temper tantrum could… 😉
Oh, bless you… this sounds like my life. We do L&L in our family, but then my E (almost 4) goes through seasons where he just doesn't NEED as much of it, so we get lax. Recently, I've felt like I'm pretty much failing at parenting, so I've got our L&L book out to re-read. But this post helped. It sounds like I'm doing things right! Just lowering expectations for this age and trying to stay consistent…
Thanks so much for writing this, I love it! My first son was spoiled rotten and had terrible tantrums. Our hope is that we don't make the same mistakes with our 3 year old and his tantrums are starting to get more intense. This post brings me so much comfort and I'm sure my husband will agree! There's also a book that I was told to check out and it seems like it would be a great help, called "Help! I've Created A Brat!" by Chantal Kayem and her website http://www.chantalkayem.com.au is also very informative. Might be helpful to some other parents too. Thanks again for this!