Taming Tantrums with the Three Ds


Yesterday, when we were pulling into our garage, my oldest son insisted that I pull the car back out so that he could “see the big trees” through the car window. However, as I explained to him, I was unwilling to do that, because baby brother was crying and we needed to get inside. This set off a tantrum the likes of which I have never seen before. In fact, baby brother stopped having his own tantrum, only because he was so fascinated by brother’s tantrum (hopefully, he’s not taking notes).

Times like these are when I remember what my doctor’s office told me at my son’s last checkup: Three-year-olds can behave irrationally. And it seems like he’s been quite irrational, quite a lot lately, even though he’s eating well and getting enough sleep. To deal with these moments, I am trying a new strategy, which I’m calling the three Ds.

If I can, I try to diffuse the situation. “Did brother knock down your building? I know that’s frustrating, but it’s OK – here, let’s built it again and make it even taller this time.” I’ve found that if I’m overly sympathetic or apologetic, sometimes it can makes things worse and can take the tantrum to the next level.

If “diffuse” doesn’t work, I try to distract. I am amazed by the power of distraction with children. “Did you see that cement mixer over there?” “Listen, honey, the Wiggles are playing!” “Are you ready for your snack?” Usually, there’s something that will get his mind of his troubles.

And if those things don’t work, if appropriate, then I discipline. Usually this involves either sending him to his room for some thinking time, or taking away a privilege or toy.

So far, the three Ds seem to be working fairly well. We'll see what happens. And if all else fails, I know there's a fourth D to help and support me: Daddy.