Why We Tamed My Daughter’s Tantrums Early (Before It Was Too Late)

Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump
Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump

At around a year and a half old, my daughter had my husband and I losing patience. We were unsure of how to manage her new-found rebellious side. Her dinner was constantly being fed to the dog or tossed on the floor; her body was regularly thrown on the ground in fits of madness; and “no” was her response when told to do anything she disagreed with. She wasn’t even two yet! I wasn’t locked and loaded with my arsenal of research and behavioral books ready to guide me through this phase. I thought I had more time to prepare! So in a panic, and in response to my husband’s threats of enacting the timeout system, I went online to find out what methods parents were using to tame similar tantrums and what materials guided them to learning how to implement these techniques.

I decided to order the book, 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12. In Twitterish fashion, here is a summary: You give your child 3 chances to correct their behavior. After the 3rd chance they receive a timeout in which the parent does not communicate, negotiate, or request an apology after completion.

After reading the book I decided my daughter wasn’t ready for this method, but more importantly, I wasn’t ready to implement this discipline! At the time, we were actually teaching her the general concept of numbers and how to count to ten. I was positive she would confuse the purpose of counting with punishment, unable to differentiate their purpose at such a young, matter-of-fact age. So I bought her time. I bought us time. And we resorted to redirecting and correcting her behavior. But as she aged over the weeks and months we realized we were all ready to give the 1-2-3 system a try and it worked… quickly! Our daughter was responsive! She grasped the concept and more times than not corrects her behavior once we get to 3.  Many times when we say “one” she stops her bad behavior and responds, “no timeout!”

And in the words of our pediatrician, we try to be fair. We recognize she is a toddler and that most of her “bad” behavior is innocent and due to the fact that her communication is limited and her emotions are maturing. Sometimes we will count to three twice. Sometimes if she doesn’t stop the behavior at three, we will skip the timeout; but for the most part we are consistent and she, therefore, is responsive. We are teaching her who is boss, how to respect authority, and the importance of consequences – all simple concepts that so many parents overlook and wait far too late to try to insert into their child’s development. My advice to them? Seize the moment when it is easiest, when your child truly doesn’t have an alternate choice and doesn’t know how to talk back beyond the word “no”.

Have you started to use some form of discipline when dealing with your toddler’s tantrums? What has worked best for you?

Plus, more from The Bump:

Tantrums: Caught in the Act!

Does “Timeout” Work for a Toddler?

10 Ways to Tame a Tantrum