Welcome back to everyone visiting from Parent Hacks!
Huck's been a remarkably tantrum free child. He seldom throws those horrible, wall-eyed fits. He's done it about twice in public and, lucky for me, Stephen was at the store with us both times so I was easily able to immediately snatch him up and take him to the car where we waited for Daddy to finish the shopping. He's under the impression, and rightly so, that public tantrums will be met with immediate removal to the car. Score one for mom.
But tantrums at home are different. For willful misbehavior we've used time outs pretty successfully and he's generally a very obedient kid. But lately, he will sometimes whine and cry for an extended period about something he wants but cannot have.
We're doing much better about not getting these moments started to begin with, which is the biggest key in my opinion. Because once they start, oh boy, he just can't seem to stop himself if he gets ramped up. I've tried this new method a handful of times over the past couple of months and it's working brilliantly.
I set a time limit on the tantrum. I give him ample time to get himself under control first and accept the reality that he's not getting the lollipop, or show, or whatever it is he thinks he must have or else he'll die. And then I say, "Okay, you have five more minutes of crying left and then I expect you to stop."
I mean hell, when I'm upset I can't always just turn it off like a light switch either, but I can work with a realistic goal in mind.
I use this Sand Timer. It has an hour glass with colored sand for 1 minute, 3 minutes and 5 minutes.
It's both a visual reminder of how much time he has left and a distraction. So far, it has not failed to help him get his emotions under control quickly. In the last few days he will even ask for the timer when he's upset. He seems to like the idea that he can have his big emotions but something besides me (the timer) can dictate when to stop. I think it he likes the feeling that he's ultimately in control of when exactly he stops. Of course, I know I am still controlling the situation by using the timer in the first place, but he doesn't really understand it that way.
And please be certain, I would never use this for crying fits related to fear or pain or any real sadness like say over a friend being mean or something. I just use this for protest and defiance fits over things he can't have or do. And I only use this method AFTER I've scrolled through the usual techniques--sympathy, distraction, reasoning, then the firm "I'm not discussing this anymore, you need to stop crying about it." If he's still having a fit about it or continuing to ask for the thing incessantly, he gets a time limit.
Now we all know that not everything works for every kid. But this is so damn easy, it's worth a try.
ADDED NOTE: This timer also works great for other more mundane transitions. You have 5 more minutes to play and then it's time to go to the store, pick up toys, get dressed, whatever. Gives them time to separate and helps kids too young to tell time SEE the time they have left.