Suddenly I have an angry toddler on my hands. I always thought the Terrible Two’s started at 2 years old. Much to my horror my daughter started with tantrums at about 1 year old and they have just been building in ferocity ever since and she is nearly 3 years old now. I came to the conclusion that firstly as a busy mom with my own business and a new baby she is looking for attention.
As much as I try my best to be an attentive, loving mommy at all times the truth is that there is just not enough time or energy to devote to this!
The attention she of course does get on a regular occasion is when she acts out and I lose my temper too. All the small little achievements go unnoticed and the naughty things get the kind of airtime she craves.
The second thing that I believe very much adds to this difficult stage is she was not able to understand her feelings properly and certainly not able to voice them appropriately.
I decided a little while ago to try and focus intensely on this “little” problem. I tackled it from the two areas I felt needed to be addressed. The first thing I did was start talking to her about feelings. If she threw a tantrum for any reason I would ask her if she is feeling angry, hurt, sad or scared.
Very soon she caught on to this and now very often instead of throwing herself on the floor she will voice her feelings in the correct way. She will tell me “I am ANGRY with mommy” or the one that really gets my heart strings tugging is when she tells me “Calista is very, very sad now”.
The next step in this process was to ignore as much of her bad behaviour as humanly possible (no easy feat!) and to try and acknowledge each and every good thing she did in the day and applaud and congratulate her.
To be honest in the beginning it was not easy because we were all (the entire family) stuck in a rut with her bad behaviour and when I asked my hubby to come on board with my plan he said he is struggling to find anything that works. My heart went out to my daughter at this moment, mainly because he was spot on.
I started with little things (because that is all I could find) and made a huge fuss about it. It did not take long at all for her to bask in the glory of Mommy’s praise. It made me realise how I had been dealing with things incorrectly for so long. I then decided that it might be good to give her specific “chores” every day that she knows will make us proud.
Her list of daily duties includes setting the table (minus anything breakable which really just means putting the salt & pepper and cutlery on the table), taking her plate to the kitchen when she is finished eating, taking her empty milk bottle to the kitchen sink every morning and making her own bed.
She has now been completing her daily chores every day with great pride. We also try and pack away her toys at the end of the day together. To be honest sometimes I don’t have the energy and just leave everything lying all over the floor!
A very successful tool that I added in here is a rewards chart. I just bought pretty cardboard, kokis and a whole stack of stickers. We sit down together and make her chart. She chooses the stickers she wants to decorate it with and stick it on the wall. Every time she does something good I put a gold star on the chart until she has 10 stars and then she gets a reward, something small like Jelly Tots or a bowl of ice cream.
We also used this chart for potty training; every time she used the toilet she got a star too. The difficulty with this method is that she caught on very quickly and each time she hit 7 stars she would stand in front of the chart thinking and then run to the toilet and make a wee. Then she tells me “Wee in toilet, want a star” and I put a star up.
Then she stands in front of the chart again and I can see this little mind ticking away and off she runs to the toilet to try and squeeze another one out. Even though she never actually produced anything she tells me again she needs a star.
The clever little manipulator was at work again. I stuck to my boundaries each time and told her it is only if she makes a wee or poop on the toilet, not for sitting on the toilet and producing nothing. Of course she would then cause a fuss.
My daughter still has tantrums but nothing like before. Some days we have no episodes at all which is a complete turnaround considering a few months back it felt like all day every day was a continuous tantrum to get through. Her first reward chart was on the 28th March, nearly 3 months ago and the change in my child has been tremendous. It took patience, understanding and a bit of effort to make a change but well worth it.
Good luck to all the mommies that are still struggling with this phase, I hope something here can help you get through the day!
Update 01/07/2016: I just reviewed some awesome products for Jitterbugs which included lovely reward charts and reward stickers!