Sunday, June 24, 2012

A New Approach

I mentioned in the previous post that Grandma was pretty inspired about the tantrum situation. With Little P's permission, here is the new paradigm.

Little P is in charge of her tantrums from now on.  We understand that she gets pretty worn out after one of her performances, (she's not the only one) and that she hates being restrained, teased, and bossed.  She is a very spunky, independent little person, and has a great need for control.  We love her and want her to be safe, and want others to be safe in our home.  Everyone in our home must obey the rules, and must do his or her part to keep our home a safe place.

So, we presented those thoughts to her, and SHE created some "Tantrum Rules":  (with a bit of guidance)

1.  When she needs to throw a tantrum, she gets to go into my bedroom.  Everyone else has to leave.  She can lock the door, but no one else can lock her in.  (This is her "Safe Spot" or "Happy Place")  We are allowed to remind her of the rules, and guide her to the bedroom.

(Little P and I have talked before about the different steps that lead up to a tantrum, and sometimes if I alert her to the build up, she can re-direct herself and prevent a breakdown.  I will still help her with this, the ultimate goal of permanent elimination.)

2.  Everyone has to leave her alone.  No touching, teasing, or restraining.  Little P promises that she will not hurt anyone, including herself, and will not destroy anything or make any messes.  (One exception.  #3)

3.  In my room, there will be a special box, just for her.  It will contain a healthy snack, a cup, and some paper.  She can watch TV, eat the snack, get a drink, use the master bathroom, and either write on the paper, shred it, or crumple and throw it.  She has agreed to clean up the paper mess when she is finished.

I regret to add that the motivation level for the other kids to goad her into a tantrum will be significantly lower if they know that she will be able to enjoy some privacy, a special snack, and possibly some great monetary benefits from the tantrum.  (Sigh.  Every single one of them is still a heathen at some level. ;)     )

4.  She will not come out until she is completely DONE and happy again.  (I tried to talk her into the idea of setting a timer, but she insists that she has an internal timer that will tell her when to be done.)  We will not discuss anything or even interact with her while she is upset.

(She is totally unreasonable and demanding, and I also believe that our total disconnect with the situation will shorten and perhaps even help phase it out entirely.  Right now her behavior is nearly impossible to ignore, but if she is the one removing herself from the situation, and it is seen as desirable to her to be alone until she is in control again, then she will have ownership of her emotions, and we will suffer a lot less.)

I will make myself available when she is calm and rational to discuss her feelings with her, and to help her resolve any conflicts that were the source of the upset.  I will also provide her with a lot of positive feedback and help her to see what a great job she did.  She will have the control and attention she craves, and it will be channeled in a positive way.

5.  We will keep her little issue private, and not talk about it with friends or anyone other than immediate family--she did tell me that I could blog about it this one time--this includes being loyal to her and never ridiculing her.

6.  If anyone forgets, and messes with her when she is upset, that person will owe her $1.  (This was her idea, but it is a great motivator for the other kids to leave her alone.  It also added another dimension of control for her.)

I think that Little P feels pretty frustrated sometimes, and the only way she feels that she can express that frustration is by throwing a fit.  She gets a lot of attention from this, and does seem to get to a "Point of No Return" where she is completely unreasonable and out of control.  This has been going on since she was 18 months old, and is traumatic for everyone.  (Many times poor diet, low iron, and fatigue are catalysts, but I don't think that these are the source.  She just has too much control over when and how she stops, and there is not enough rhyme or reason, otherwise.  Her tantrums rarely wind down, they usually stop on a dime with a complete mood change.)

We worry for her safety, and for those around her, too.  We have to find a solution before she gets any older.  She has been getting more extreme, but they are happening less and less.

I REALLY feel that this will be the answer, as she is old enough now to express her emotions, to reason and to keep commitments.   When we presented the idea, the other kids, of course, asked the inevitable, "What if she doesn't keep her end of he bargain?"

She promised that she would, and I wouldn't go there with the discussion.  I just answered, "She will."

We also clarified that there is a big difference between crying because of pain, or being angry for a minute.  A tantrum is way more intense and lengthy.

If she breaks the rules, we will ignore it unless it is an extreme safety issue--then we'll stop her.  If it's just a minor violation, I will wait until she is calm later, and then we will come up with a consequence together, and try again next time.

I honestly think that she hates this problem as much as we do, and will really work to overcome it.  The main emphasis is a change of thinking for the entire family.  Little P is in charge of her tantrums.  No one else gets to have any power--she can handle it.  Everyone else's job is to just leave her alone.

7.  If she goes a week with no tantrums, then she gets to go on a little outing--Sonic for happy hour or some kind of small reward.
After one month of no tantrums, she will get to go somewhere fun that she chooses, like Seven Peaks or Trafalga, etc...
Then maybe a Quarterly, 6-month, then yearly award.  Hopefully, by then it will just be extinguished and we can move on to another crisis.  Rest assured, there will be one.  Such is life.


bluestocking mama said...

I need to bookmark this post. Great new approach!

Shennie said...

Good luck!

Becky said...

I'm glad your mom was inspired and could give you guidance.
Sometimes when we're in the thick of things, it is hard to know what to do.

Kristen said...

Having faced similar screaming and gnashing of teeth (mostly my own), I agree with your mom. P needs to feel that she has control and isn't just the little sister. I found that extra love and attention also helped sooth my little beast. Of course that was a bit easier as he was the last and not a middle. He is now doing a pretty good job most of the time of redirecting himself and when applicable, identifying the emotions that he is really feeling beyond rage. Good luck.