We’ve been subscribing to the method of “do nothing” when it comes to tantrums, and generally this works. We don’t ask questions, we don’t tell him, “It’s okay” (because clearly it’s not to him), we don’t say, “don’t cry” (imagine if you had a bad day and someone told you to stop feeling bad) and we don’t ask questions because it’s annoying to be asked questions and he’s in no mood to be answering anything anyway.
But I also think that in addition to keeping things minimal, it’s okay to semi-distract. It could still be simple, like standing next to a window so that he could by chance see the birds flying outside and give him enough pause to notice them. Today we had to do a combination of both.
First, my husband had to basically isolate our toddler in a room and let him get it out of his system. He calmed down and he passed LO to me, but not two seconds passed before LO tested me again by doing something he wasn’t supposed to (pulling on a picture frame). When I moved him away, he went back to his tantrum. My husband said, “We need to change his environment where he isn’t surrounded by things he’s not supposed to do.”
So we went outside, and LO still cried, but at least there was nothing he could do that would warrant us having to stop him from doing it. Instead I pointed my finger at the keyhole to the garage and said, “Circle.” That was enough to give him pause, and I kept going, pointing out more circles. He would stop and go with his crying. Then my husband came by and pointed out the flowers. And at that point, LO calmed down. It still wasn’t safe to let him run around, but he was calm.
We went around to the back of the house (mind you, this was during a loud family party too) where there were less people and more interesting things that he can do. We showed him the chimes, and he liked that he was allowed to run his fingers through them and make noise. Later he even let my sister M carry him so that he can turn the light switch on and off.
Only after almost an hour was LO back to normal and able to go back inside to the rest of the party. Yet even then, he still wanted to have me in clear sight of his view. And when people started crowding around him, he would withdraw, and we’d have to ask people to step back. I guess it’s not his personality to be hovered over. I can’t imagine most kids would like that either.
Thankfully we didn’t have to leave abruptly. Had he cried more, we would need to leave because clearly the environment wasn’t conducive to his mood at the moment.