It’s 9am and you have already experienced a toddler meltdown. They are cranky, and demanding everything he or she shouldn’t have. How do you short circuit a bad day and turn it around without giving in to your child’s tantrum? Create a distraction.
Our 2 year old, Lucas, is a pretty happy toddler on most days. Sometimes he goes through these days where he is throwing fits. He wants to cuddle but then cries because you aren’t cuddling him the “right way.” He wants to color, but he doesn’t want to color he wants you to color and has a fit if you don’t. When you and your spouse both work from home or if you have chores to complete it becomes vital that you find someway to short circuit a bad day.
Check out my post Diary of a Mom: Feeling Like a Bad Mom.
Finding the Distraction
I recently visited my parents in Chicago the first couple of days were good. Outside of Lucas being clingy he was pretty well behaved. Then it happened. The meltdown of all meltdowns. Hitting, screaming, kicking, the works. He threw his dinner to the floor and refused to eat it. He refused to sit in his highchair. He just wanted to scream, hit, and throw everything around him.
After about an hour of this I was about to lose it. That’s when my mom stepped in and told me to go cool down. I put him in his crib and stepped outside and away from the noise while my mom calmly ignored my son’s behavior.
I briefly cried then regained my calm. The tantrum was still going and I had the sudden realization that I needed a distraction before I picked him up out of the crib.
“Alexa, play Star Wars Soundtrack.” I said to the Amazon Dot.
The opening theme started playing and immediately my son stopped screaming and listened to the music. I breathed a sigh of relief and waited about 30 seconds while the music played. When he calmed down I picked him up and held him for a little while.
Once I heard him sigh I knew it was time to try dinner again. He ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and we just chilled for the rest of the night. Even bedtime went smoothly.
How I figured out what to do
Since my son was walking, at a little under a year, he has loved Star Wars. Rob and I turned it on one day shortly before Episode 7 came out. Instantly Lucas fell in love with it. He watched intently. Conducted the music and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I had noticed that the music always helped to calm him whenever we would watch the movie. However, when a child is having a meltdown visual stimulants aren’t the best way to calm those meltdowns. I thought the soundtrack might work, and boy did it. Bye toddler meltdown, hello peaceful child.
What you can try as a distraction
The key to finding a distraction is to find something that will calm a toddler meltdown without rewarding it. Music is a great way to calm a meltdown without rewarding the bad behavior. Food can be considered a reward. Play is a reward. Visual stimulants are rewards.
While Rob and I are huge Star Wars fans and don’t mind listening to the soundtrack over and over. I do have a few things you can use that have also helped to calm our son.
Pixar’s Inside Out Soundtrack and 4 hours of epic inspirational music work wonders on calming a meltdown as well.
If music doesn’t work, you can try white noise like a vacuum cleaner or a white noise machine. Try any type of calm music. Some of the 90’s slow rock or soft pop could work. Try R&B, or funk, or blues. Don’t give up eventually you will find something that distracts your child from their meltdown.
What to do after the meltdown
Your toddler is extremely egocentric. They don’t understand that other things need to be done or they have to wait. Your toddler still has to learn patience, or understand why they can’t have or do something.
Once the toddler meltdown is over and your child is calm you will want to reward your child. Reward the good behavior ignore the bad. So after you are sure the meltdown is over you will cuddle, give treats, color, any activity your kid really likes to do with you. By rewarding the calm behavior your kid will begin to understand that calm behavior gets more attention.
In order to teach our children the concepts of patience or danger we have to play a game of protect, ignore, and reward. Protect from danger, ignore the bad behavior, and reward the good.
Check out my post Best Toys For Toddlers for the best silent toys a parent could have in their arsenal of toys.
Let me know if the art of distraction works to calm your child’s meltdowns. What methods do you use to distract your child? Follow me on Pinterest and pin this to your parenting boards. Share it with friends or family who struggle with toddler tantrums.