Tuesday, April 15, 2014

1-2-3 Choose!

I hate tantrums. My son hates tantrums. And yet, here we are living in tantrum central. I know all three year olds have tantrums, but my kid is like Dr. Jekl and Mr. Hyde: normal days are really quite manageable, CSID reaction days (when he feels like he has the stomach flu) are hellish. But since we're going to be living with it for a long, long time, we have to find a way to maintain good behavior.

We've tried many, MANY different tantrum taming tricks (ignoring, 'asked and answered', redirection, and on and on) they have not worked for us. In desperate moments we've even tried spanking, and *News Flash* it does not work-and it teaches him to hit in anger, and it leaves me feels like the worst. Yikes.

But you know what my three year old absolutely LOVES?


Having choices is the bomb. Really, it's like the best thing ever when you are three and constantly hearing "no" on top of  "I'm sorry, you can't eat that, it has sugar and/or starch, here's some kale." Being three is a trial. Being three means being patient while other people make choices for you, and you aren't really sure what 'be patient' means. So choices ROCK!

I don't know WHY didn't think of this earlier, but we are starting a new strategy. 1-2-3-Choose. When we read books we sometimes stop and play a 'game' called "Naughty or Nice" where I review the behavior of the characters and ask, "Was that Naughty or Nice?" and he has to figure it out. He loves it. 1-2-3-Choose is the live action version of 'naughty or nice.'

This is how tantrums start: He wants to do something. I ask him to stop. He does not stop. I say something untenable, like "No." He freaks out.

Here's how I'm changing the dialogue:

He wants to do something.
I ask him to stop.
He does not stop.
Instead of yelling or saying 'no' I say "You have a choice to make. You may choose to stop doing X (or insert redirect activity here), or you may choose to go to timeout. I'm going to count to three, then you choose. Ok? 1-2-3 Choose."

If he doesn't get it the first time, I say "Let's try that again: 1-2-3 Choose." He usually chooses to stop, or to do something else. Sometimes he chooses time out, then leaves the room and sits in a chair for a minute. Sometimes he actually thanks me for the choice. It is completely bizarre and peaceful. Of course, sometimes I have to walk him to time out and monitor him-which is not fun. But overall, life is better with choices. Much, much better.

It's only been a few days, and we will probably still have a few tantrums, but life feels much easier than it did this time last week, and I'm ok with that.

This has evolved into choosing between naughty or nice. It goes like this: "You have a choice to make. If you choose to be nice you will do (desired behavior), and we will do (fun thing). If you choose to be naughty, then (consequence).
"If you choose to be nice, you will sit at your table and you can have a snack. If you choose to be naughty, you will go to time out."
I have to up the consequence for diaper changes, especially at bedtime...
"If you choose to be nice, you will let me change your diaper, and we can read a book. If you choose to be naughty and kick me, you will be stuck on the changing table for time out, and every toy I pick up while you choose to be naughty, you will loose." He can end the time out at any time by saying he chooses to be nice. So far, diaper changing timeouts are shorter and no toys have been lost.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant, Jen. Hope it works for as long as it's needed.