Friday, March 21, 2008

Whispers in the Storm: My Grandmother's Toddler Tantrum Secret


Vocally, Ranger can rival the wail of any storm siren. During his infancy we tried to weather the inevitable screaming without damage to our hearing or nerves. At two and half, we desperately needed an effective way to shut down his high decible screaming.

Ranger screams inconsolably when we had to leave the house or I couldn't fit a basketball into my pocket. Short of buying clown pants and never leaving home (though the former action may encourage the latter isolation), we needed a better solution.

We checked out a library copy of Harvey Karp's Happiest Toddler on the Block, but I couldn't implement toddlerese or physically mirroring toddler tantrum behavior. I was embarrassed just watching the adults on the video. Such behaviors threatened my remaining vestiges of adulthood. It also seemed counterintuitive: don't we want our kids to eventually join the adult world rather than all of us moving to Planet Toddler? Needless to say, the video was returned long before its due date.

So Ranger wailed on- frightening livestock, deafening dogs, and sending people scrambling for storm shelters under clear skies... every time we ran out of yogurt or no, he could not watch Busytown.

My mom came over for one of these afternoon operatic solos. I don't remember the cause of the incident, but I was so embarrassed. My mom's a great elementary school teacher and a super-great mom, so it's mortifying that I can't get my son to stop screaming.

She's actually a second-generation super-great mom, but we'll get there in a minute.

So Mom took Ranger on a walk around the kitchen and he returned calm... and quiet?

It was amazing and mysterious.

Later, I decided to ask how such magic was accomplished.

Her reply- feel free to take notes:
It's something my mom used to do. You lean in really close and whisper "Ranger... Ranger... I want to tell you a secret. (long pause.) Do you want to hear my secret?"
So what's the secret?
It could be anything. "We're having pot roast and potatoes for supper." "I love taking walks with you." "When you put your shoes on, we'll go see Grandpa." "You're very special."
Seriously, that actually works?
Well, my mom was always able to distract me with it... well into my 20s.
Jim and I have been experimenting with this, and it seems to work with great consistency. The bigger the blowup, the more times you may need to quietly repeat the offer to tell a secret...

***This is the independent opinion of the geek parents at Baby Toolkit, (c) 2006-2008. We have no relationship with Harvey Karp (and little chance of one now, I suspect) and we happen to be closely related to and greatly esteem Ranger's Grandma who normally isn't selling anything beyond a love of Lewis & Clark, mathematics, and the Iditarod. Your mileage may vary.

11 comments:

Jennifer said...

I love this! You brought a smile to my face on a day where I didn't think it was possible. I am going to try this with my very difficult four year old; sounds like a winner to me. Thanks to you and your mom!

Nutmeg said...

This is great. I have a 15 month old who will definitely be a handful. He is already stomping his feet and screaming when I ask him not to do something or to do something he'd rather not do.

We are going to need this.

It does hearken to how I would keep a classroom full of preteens quiet. Saying something they need to hear in a quiet voice.

Thanks for the tips. It's important for those of us who don't have role models in this.

nwlimited said...

Gotta love a grandma that loves Lewis & Clark. Sounds like a great woman with a talent like that. :)Great read!!

Patrick Rogers said...

I do something similar with my daughter, instead of a secret, I say, in a really quiet voice, "Did you hear that? What was it?", then we pretend that we're tracking down a bear or lion through the house.

She has to be quiet, so we can "hear" the animal we're following, and after a few minutes she'll usually be calmed down as well.

Jamie said...

Thanks for the tip! I like this simple solution! It's worth a try at the very least!

Sarah said...

I've been try to find something that might work with my 2 1/2yr old. I'm going to try this today. Thanks to Parent Hacks I found your blog!

indywriter said...

My mom has always done something similar when my girls were melting down. She would always say, "Let's go for a walk." Most of the time the walk was just down the hallway, but 99% of the time the little one was quiet when she came back. And often times they were asleep.

My mom has real, magical powers!

It's so hard in the midst of your own child's tantrum to just remove both of you from the situation. It's like we always feel the need to "finish" what's going on, no matter what. I'm much better at remembering to distract child #2.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't do the "Happiest Toddler" stuff either. For one thing, with the weekday-morning separation anxiety tantrums, I'd be sitting there saying "You don't want Daddy to go to work! Come back, Daddy! You want Daddy to stay here! Stay here, Daddy! Stay here!" And it would always remind me of that scene in Hope Floats when the little girl is standing by the curb with her suitcase, crying and screaming and sobbing while her father drives off to go home to his new family. That scene always makes me cry, but I don't want that kind of drama every morning. :-)

Fortunately, that particular issue seems to have gone away, but I'll try whispering next time Mr. Kicky doesn't want to leave the nursery at church or the Thomas aisle at Target.

Mimi & Moe's Mom said...

perfect. sometimes something so simple works. i love it, and will use it...probably often!

RookieMom Heather said...

I'll have to try this one with my occasionally screaming 3 year old and my just getting started 1 year old. Thanks for sharing grandma.

Cassie said...

hmm, wonder if it will work on a preschooler... I don't know...