We’re long-past this. DH was especially good at avoiding and defusing any potential situations. When he was gone for business trips, I would have to sometimes walk away and take a break in order to calm down and deal with a situation. But in general we did ok.
Early on, a lot of frustration is inability to communicate. For that reason, we still used baby signs even after DC was verbal. More. All Done. Help. Want. Eat. These all cut down on frustration for everybody.
Another thing to check is to make sure DC isn’t hungry and isn’t sleepy. Those are two meltdown triggers… we don’t want to get past the time when it should have been bedtime, and we don’t want a starving kid melting down at the grocery store (thank goodness for free cookies).
One of the main things that we did was we copied our very excellent daycares. We used their key words. Walk away. We don’t hurt our friends. Up the stairs, down the slide. When DC was at Montessori, we talked a lot about property rights and turn taking. When DC was at a religious pre-school we talked a lot about sharing and being nice. We learned from systems that worked and we were consistent with what DC was getting from other adults and later, other children. It is amazing watching kids do their own conflict resolution at a well-run school where everybody has been given the tools they need and the culture is to use them.
Offering two choices was another super helpful thing. Do you want X or Y for snack? Do you want to wear red or green? etc.
Also at that age, distraction was really helpful, and getting hir to laugh helped (Oh! what’s that?!). As I said before, if I ever couldn’t handle something I would just walk away. DH was better at not having to do that precisely because he was so very good at converting a potential meltdown into laughter. (And the daycare ladies were masters at distracting away potential problems before they happened!) Time for the tickle monster!
Another common trigger with kids these ages are transitions. A kid is happily playing and all of a sudden it’s bath time. And even if the kid loves baths, ze doesn’t want to take a bath now! With transitions what was really helpful for us was blaming the clock or some other outside influence. It is *snack time* because it is 7:30. It is X time because it is Y:YY. Oh no! The mosquitoes are coming out! It must be time to go home. And these reasons would become routine, and thus eventually expected. One of our friends had a lot of success with 5 min warnings and sticking to them, but we found that we didn’t need them.
Adding onto the idea of routine, once these are in place they’re golden. You can ask the kid, “What comes next?” and the kid will be excited to tell you and may actually do it of hir own volition. With our (lengthy) nighttime routine we tried to alternate something ze loved with something ze didn’t love so much. So, bedtime: not that popular, but we started it with SNACK, which was very popular (also helped keep DC from screaming from hunger at 5am). After snack, teeth brushing (not fun), bath (fun), pajamas (not as fun as nude streaking), being read to (fun!), staying in bed (not fun) while reading to self (fun). Your kid may have different preferences, but being able to say, “after you do not fun thing we can do fun thing” helped move things along.
We NEVER assumed ze was trying to manipulate, unlike a lot of women complaining about their kids on mommy forums. Maybe some kids do manipulate, ours did not. Some parents seem to attribute things to manipulation things far too early. Maybe some super-advanced two year olds can manipulate their parents, but an infant really can’t. Sometimes a kid just wants more attention. So we give more attention, but positively. “Do you feel neglected? Do you need more attention?” “Behavior X isn’t appropriate… but did you need a hug? You can always ask for a hug if you need one.”
We did a lot of explaining why it was in DC’s best interest not to do things that were icky. So, “Ew, that’s dirty” etc. Though we also did a lot of what the heck, it’s strengthening zir immune system. Our main things were: Dangerous, Dirty, and Not polite. Dangerous we always said with a scary voice and ze took it seriously. We let little things go. Clashing clothing? Whatever. Running into the street? SCARY! DANGEROUS! and unacceptable.
We did about 5 time outs that we took very seriously (once a time-out actually started to have an effect… DC was a late-bloomer), always for hitting. We used the standard Super-Nanny method. Get down to the kid’s level. Explain what they did wrong. Tell them they’re in time out for a certain amount of time. Then time them one minute for each year of age, restarting the clock each time the kid gets up. Time-outs would generally result in a very sad very apologetic DC. Then ask if DC remembers why ze is in time-out and request an apology and a promise not to do it again. “Are you going to hit again?”
On one of the mommy forums I was on, people would consider time-outs to be the worst possible punishment one could give to a kid. (Withdrawing attention is child-abuse, they say. And it is true that our excellent Montessori has never needed time-outs for little kids, though I have seen it do cool-downs for much older kids when something is going on with the kid, like acting out because mom and dad just had a baby.) On another forum, folks would argue whether or not parents who spanked were too soft. We have never spanked, mainly because I don’t want to model any behavior I don’t want DC to think ze can do hirself. I would have been mortified if DC started spanking kids at school, and how can we teach “no hitting” if that’s something we do? (Plus I don’t think it works– I remember sitting on a plane pre-DC next to a woman and her lap child. He would hit her. “Don’t hit!” she would say, hitting him back. Which he thought was hilarious, so he’d do it again. “Don’t hit!” WHAP! progressively harder back and forth until the kid got hurt and started screaming.) Thankfully we’ve never needed to spank, especially with all the tools we’ve picked up watching the real experts (folks who interact with kids, not just those who make money writing books telling mothers they’re destroying their kids) along the way.
What do you recommend for the avoiding the terrible part of the terrible twos/threes?