- We discuss the triggers that can lead to tantrums.
- Coping strategies to diffuse and discuss the behavior.
- Managing timing to avoid overtired & overstimulation
- How to build consistency & why it equals less anxiety.
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Podcast Episode Transcripts:
Disclaimer: Transcripts were generated automatically and may contain inaccuracies and errors.
Welcome to the kids sleep Show podcast where we dive into the magical world of sleep, and all things parenting. Join us as we embark on a journey filled with expert advice, practical tips and heartwarming stories that will transform your little ones into sleep superheroes, and empower you to navigate the beautiful chaos of parenting. I’m your host, Courtney Zentz. And I’m on a mission to change how the world view sleep and provide accessible sleep coaching resources for all families to build healthy sleep habits in their home for children and adults of all ages. As an award winning speaker, author and pediatric sleep expert, myself and my team of consultants work intimately with families around the world to teach healthy sleep habits to children and adults. I believe wholeheartedly that sleep is the foundation for which a happy home is built. So let’s sleep together. Hey, everyone, welcome back to this week’s episode. I’m your host, Courtney Zentz. And we are diving into toddler tantrums this week. If you don’t know me, welcome, I’ve been teaching sleep for almost 10 years now I found in tiny transitions, and infant toddler child and adult sleep coaching agency and have an amazing team supporting me, who also works with families all over the place to build healthy sleep habits from birth. So we’re going to jump in today to one of the questions that I get oftentimes is toddler tantrums, because they don’t just happen at bedtime. Oftentimes, you’re gonna see after today’s episode, how it’s all connected, and how tantrums can actually lead to poor sleep. So I know a lot of parents will say, you know, my kid is in this terrible twos. Toddler threes toddler tornado stage, right. And they’re pushing boundaries. But you also have to remember, there’s a lot happening inside their brains at this age at this stage, you know, things are new, they want to feel independence, they like to know they have a voice now, and sometimes they use it too much. I was just reading an article today that says Princess Kate and Prince William actually have one rule in their house, which is that they are not allowed to shout. So their children are not allowed to shout and then they emulate good behavior by also not shouting, if a child is misbehaving. They are removed from the space talk to in a calm tone. And then, you know, appropriately.
You know, kind of given the given the sentence, if you will, right. Are they have to sit out? Do they get a timeout? Do they have to go to their room? You know, I don’t know what disciplinary action they do over in the United Kingdom. But I will say for me, right? As someone who deals with this every day in the business of sleep that we work in, you know, parents have a lot of different reactions to toddler tantrums. And I’ll tell you, if I’ve asked my kids five or six times to get their coats on and get ready for the school bus, I sometimes escalate. And I’ll be the first to admit it, though. I don’t certainly think it helps. It makes me feel better sometimes. But I will say I am this year tried really hard to take a breath. Before I do that and think about perhaps things I could have done better as the mom to make sure we are ready and out the door on time. And I’ll tell you January’s been going pretty smooth as it relates to me not freaking out to get to the bus on time. So we’re going to talk today about how we stop toddler Trent tantrums because they can be challenging. And there’s a lot of different strategies you can do to kind of redirect to make that tantrum disappear or to lessen the severity of it based on what the root of the tantrum is. Now I am a toddler sleep coach, right? So people say to me, What does behavior have to do with sleep? And I’ll tell you usually the behaviors the issue, not asleep, surprisingly, right. And that can kind of start as early as 18 months, all the way up through 24 months old, right? Children have that voice, they want to use it and depending on the family dynamic. They do use it and sometimes to the chagrin of the parents. So when we talk about stopping a tantrum is first assessing what’s triggering the tantrum, right. Are there any big changes that have just come about in your child’s life? So try to put yourself in their eyes for a second and think you know, have there been any major changes, new school, new friends, new family dynamics, any death in the family? Any welcome addition to the family like a brother or sister? Right? Is there something like hunger playing part in it right? Are they hangry as we say as adults, right? A lot of fatigue maybe they’re not sleeping great overnight, which we’ll get to and that’s causing kind of the daytime to be a little bit more frustrating for them and then also frustrating for you. Are they looking for attention is
is the trigger to like, throw the food because then they know you’ll clean it up, and then you’ll sit with them. And then you’ll feed them the food, so they don’t throw it. And all of those things are like, Oh, well, if she’s gonna feed me the food, and all I have to do is throw it to get her to do that, then I’m gonna throw the food every day, right? So you have to kind of first take a look at if you can identify what seems to be triggering the tantrum, is that always at the same time of day? Is it always the same situation or with the same person, so you can start to dive into that further? Right? I will tell you, most sleep issues start in the daytime. And if we fix the issues in the daytime, sleep gets a heck of a lot better, to the point where you not might not actually even need to hire a sleep coach for your toddler, right? So it could save you some money, because you might just not be looking at behavior in the way in which you’re seeing after this episode, that it links back, you know, to sleep. The important thing because I think as parents, sometimes our response when kids are yelling is to yell higher than that right or to yell louder than them, or to yell them in a tone that they just immediately are like lockstep because they’re scared, right. And I know as parents, none of us ever want to scare our children, like truly scare them. So it’s very important that when you have a toddler who is having a tantrum, in the moment, it might seem right for you to be like, Ah, right, and just have an outburst. But it’s actually really important that you do two things. First, is stay calm. It is really hard to stay calm and composure. Sometimes I have two kids myself, I get it. But it generally only escalates the situation, right? depending on what’s going on you yelling isn’t going to fix anything, because you’re going to yell and they’re going to quiver in fear, which you don’t want, right? None of us ever want to scare kids, right?
Or you’re gonna create them yelling back to you. And then you guys get into this back and forth. And it doesn’t end well. Right? Staying calm is important. Because it allows them to show that you have control over your emotions, and then you can respond in a reasonable tone. I tell parents, like kids are tiny, right? So don’t look down on them as like you’re a dictator, get to their level, look at them at eye contact, right? I know, you can’t see me right now. But that’s what I’m doing is I paced around my office to record this, you got to get down, and you got to be an eye contact with them. And you got to stay calm. And you know, that key phrase I actually use with my daughter, which everybody actually seems to find very funny, including my aunt.
How can I service to your needs? Right? I don’t know where I came up with it. I’ve been saying it to her for a long time now. And in the face of both positive and negative situations, I look at her, I stay calm. I sit down, I get to eye contact with her. And I say how can I service your needs?
Right? In the moment, that might not always be the best statement, but I find humor in it. So it makes me kind of chuckle a little on the inside. Instead of blowing up? How can I serve as your needs because she obviously needs something. She is now seven. But like I said, I’ve done this for years, right? The other way to look at it is to just manage with a calm tone of I understand you’re upset. I’ll wait until you can take breath and tell me what’s wrong. Right? So give them permission. We don’t like silence, right as adults, we don’t like silence. There’s never silence like hey, how are you? I’m great. How are you? Oh, so how about the bills? Right? Like, nobody likes dead air time. Sometimes kids need a minute to collect themselves, right? Because they also weren’t sure what your response is going to be. So if you get down at eye level, and you look at them, and you say I understand you’re upset.
I’m gonna give you a minute. And then you can tell me what’s wrong. Or if you know what’s wrong, like you took their toy, you can say, I understand you’re upset that I took your toy. We’re going to eat dinner now. And then I’ll give you your toy back when we’re finished. Do you understand?
Right? So you’re trying to maintain composure, because calm breeds calm, right? But you’re also trying to understand how they’re feeling because especially as toddlers whose verbal skills might all be at different stages, right? They may not be able to articulate what they want to say and that can be super frustrating. Right? The next thing that can really help with toddler tantrums, depending on the situation, the tantrum is like why are they having the tantrum? Right? So you’ve got to look at like what else could be leading it so I’m gonna talk to you about a couple different things that also kids really thrive well in right first routine. Everybody loves routine. We are like clockwork here in his aunt’s house, right? We’ve got a relatively great after school and bedtime routine. Bedtime is for sure great after school. I will say it depends a little bit on the 9000 sports my kids play, but like we come home, we do our homework
We get a snack, they chill a little bit. They want to watch a little TV. That’s fine. I’m totally cool with that after school, and their homeworks done. And then we are zooming off to sports. We get home from sports, we dinner depending on what time practice was, or we’ll eat dinner before practice. And then at 745 We’re upstairs, we read, we cuddle, I do some back rubs and they pass out by 815 830 Every single night. Okay, same exact routine, every single night. Routine kids love. They thrive on it. Toddlers love knowing what’s coming because they don’t like things that are thrown at them. Right? So if they start to know and you can do this through like visual charts, we have plenty of them. You can always ask us, okay, like a visual planner. So you can show them visually? What is coming up next, like in the morning, they wake up, they eat breakfast, they brush their teeth and get dressed, they make their bed, then we go to the park, then we come home for lunch, then we you know read our books, then maybe we watch a show, then maybe we do you know what I’m saying? So you kind of show through pictures the whole day for your toddler like if they go to daycare, it’s like okay, we get in the car, then we go to daycare when you come home we eat dinner then we play a game like you kind of try to show them so that there’s just no question about what you’re doing. The consistency in the routine is good and that goes for food goes for naps if they’re still taking them. And you know what it also goes for bedtime baby kid should have a set bedtime every single night. Their body clock will reward you their wakeup time will record you and believe me, kids get overtired. We are in the middle of Philly, we just got two huge snowstorms. Just last week. My kids were off from school for three days, they were off Martin Luther King and then two snow days last week, the week before that we have bad thunderstorms. Trees were down everywhere, which is really random in January. So they were off school again. They played hard. They were sledding, they were outside, they were out in and out. And and, and they were so smoked by like 740 they were passing out on the couch, right? When your kids go real hard. Don’t stick to a routine for the sake of the routine like oh, well, we don’t go up till 745 It’s like no, guys, let’s get upstairs, we’re gonna brush our teeth. I’ll read your book and lifestyle, right? And we did like a quick, abbreviated, 10 minute bedtime routine. Because they’re just so tired. They just wanted to go to bed, you know? So you got to kind of look at the consistency in your routine. Kids like consistency. And I know as parents sometimes you’re like, I just want to fly by the seat of my pants, right? Kids don’t like that. And their sleeps gonna suffer for it. You know? Do you want to pay attention to that consistent routine? You got to give choices to your kids, right? They like also feeling in control. One of the big lessons I do when I’m doing a private toddler sleep coaching, evaluation with a family is talk about like, how does the bedtime routine happen? You know, right now I’m actually working with a two year old, a five year old and an eight year old from the same family. And they’re doing beautifully. Right. And it’s really interesting, because they’re all very different with all very different needs and challenges and positives and you know, some areas we’re working on. So it’s really interesting to see. For children, Topper age choices are great, right? You can choose to brush your teeth, or I’ll do it for you. Believe me the first time you shove that toothbrush in their mouth, they’re probably going to not want you to do it again. Right? We race up the stairs. First one up the stairs, you know gets to pick the color of the bath. I use these little bath tablets to change the bath color the kids like that. Right? Go upstairs racing like a dinosaur. Pretend you’re a dinosaur to run upstairs, right? And then you’re up there. It’s like do you want these pajamas are these pajamas, I want those pajamas. That’s not a choice. You can pick these pajamas, or these pajamas, I went the other pajamas. That is not a choice. You may choose these are these where you can sleep in your underwear.
That’s it. And you say nothing else. And then they either choose them or they don’t put the other two in the drawer and walk away. Let them sit in their underwear for a minute. Believe me, they’re not gonna stay there. Right. But I don’t think parents ever get to the point where they’re like, Oh, let me just try that. Right. It’s the same with books. Pick this one or this one. You don’t want to pick either. Fine. We’re not reading tonight. Good night. You may get in bed. I’ll give you kiss. Wait, what?
What do you mean, we’re not reading? Well, these were the books I chose. You didn’t choose one. So we’re not reading.
Right? It is fascinating how quick kids will change their mind because they’re pushing boundaries, guys. They’re testing how far are you willing to go? And then what is the repercussions of the choice? Right? So it’s always very interesting with these like, powers charcoals. Right? What the choices will do and they’re amazing when you start to stand by the choice in the boundary, right? I do this a lot. When do we start to get into the overnight coaching because a lot of its boundary breaking. You know, they’re like my kids been getting in my bed for 24 months for 26 months for 18 months. I’m like okay, well what do you do and they get in, but like I’m so tired, I just let them sleep.
They’re like, Well, then why would they stop coming in?
What like what’s motivating them to not come in? You know what I mean? If my husband woke up and gave me a backrub, at 3am, every night, I’d be up waiting for a backrub at 3am. Right.
So you’ve got to understand the boundaries and the choices, you’re not welcome in my bed, but you may sleep on the floor. Or you can go back to your room, your choice, beds off limits boundary. Right? And start slow, small win is getting them out of your bed onto the floor, believe me, the floor is not comfy the first night, they might be like, yeah, sleeping bags the best, believe me after a couple days that wears off. Okay,
you got to look at some praise, some positive reinforcement, but you’re gonna have kids who are learners of praise through earning something right, and you’re gonna have kids who don’t want to lose something. And this is something we dive into more based on your toddler’s personality, and framing up the right program to balance both quality sleep boundary management, right.
That’s how we have to look at the positive reinforcement side. Because, again, it’s something that loses its luster, as well. But it can motivate children to do certain things. I’ll give you an example. We have a gumball machine, it is on our website, you can download the template for free with all of our other freebies. And I print it out and I cut it and I stick it on the wall. And every time my kids have to go to, to sports practice, they get one Gumball per hour, right? I don’t feel like carrying my kids lying about going to practice. They’re the one that want to do the sports and they love them. It’s not like I’m forcing them to go Believe me, I don’t want to be driving around like a chauffeur every night. So they get to fill in a gumball for every hour when the gumball is filled. Then they get a special treat, right? We go for ice cream or something like that, right? And then every time they complain about going, I scratch a gumball off. So they lose one they gotta return it. You see. So there’s boundaries, there’s choices. And then there’s an aspect of a consequence, when there’s something not followed through on right life isn’t just a big bet. Big bowl of cherries. So it’s really interesting when you start to incorporate that into the day with a toddler, you know, the next is looking at redirection. If you start to see that, like maybe a sibling came home, right, and a toddler is having tantrums every day when they get home from daycare, because mom’s been home all day with the baby. And that’s not fair. And they had to go off to prison at the daycare, you know, so they’re already pissed off about the fact that they didn’t get mommy time all day, right? You’ve got to try to redirect some of that tantrum and understand why it’s happening. Again, you got to probe. So if you can see that this only started happening once the baby came home and maybe when you’re both home, right, the baby and the toddler, the you know, the mom or dad says hey, look, I’m going to spend some time with you now little ones since you’ve been gone all day. Here partner take baby, and you and the toddler have some one on one uninterrupted, alone time doing whatever the activity is to fill the toddler’s cup that they may be missing. Okay, so you kind of try to redirect some of that attention and manage it, you’ve got to avoid a kid getting overstimulated. WWF wrestling as a means of hanging out is great, not at 745. Okay, overstimulation can cause a whole bunch of stimulant hormones, that makes it hard for them to settle for naps, and for bedtime. Okay, too much screen time too much TV, it activates certain parts of the brain that just take time to come back down. So it’s, it’s just got to be something you’re conscious of, right? At least an hour of no screens before bed to have your child properly settle. Okay? So you’ve got to avoid that overstimulation. And then you’ve got to talk about emotions, like I understand you’re sad, or you’re happy, I understand you’re frustrated, right? Because kids can’t always explain it. As I was saying they’re their, their developmental kind of voice doesn’t always come yet, when they’re two, three and four years old. So you’ve got to kind of manage what are you going to do to balance both the rewards and then also the consequences for an unkind behavior, right? I have clients that are like, Oh, I put my kid in timeout, and I just stick them on the stairs, but they don’t seem to care. I’m like, Well, if they don’t care, it’s not going to change your behavior.
To pick them up and set them in their room, then,
you know, it’s not a bad thing, like my daughter’s rooms like a Pee Wee’s Playhouse. But if you stuck her in timeout in there, she’d lose her mind. Why? Cuz she can’t see what’s going on. Right? So if you are going to be someone who does timeouts and find them to be calming or effective for your child, you got to kind of make sure that it’s doing what you you need it to, but generally, eye contact and calm voice can mitigate like, I understand you’re upset. Talk to me about what’s going on, right? Sometimes they just need to be hugged. Sometimes they just need to feel some engagement or touch or reassurance
Maybe they’re frustrated because they’re trying a new thing that they can’t quite master yet, right? Kids model our behavior.
They model how we act. How we are my husband, I are very conscious of that we do not fight. I have not fought with my husband in 15 years, but twice once he shaved his head right before our wedding. And I asked him kindly not to so he did not listen and picked his head. And I was like, Really, dude, like the one time in 15 years, I’ve asked you to not do something. And you did it anyway. And you know what, who cares? Like, it doesn’t even matter his hairs back now. But the one thing I did ask was not to shave his head. I didn’t talk to him for like a week, I was so pissed off. Because he looked ridiculous. And I was like, You know what it is? Who cares? It’s your hair, whatever. You know, after a week, though, it took me a week to get over it because I was mad. And then we got in a fight like one other time, I’m telling you, we don’t fight. We just we’re not conflicting people. We have our own opinions. We respect each other. We talk through things, but we were not like a household that fights.
We really do try to emulate that for our kids. And we joke around to them like, okay, you know, Daddy says this. So sometimes we kind of pass it along in that way. And the kids think it’s funny. They’re like, Oh, Daddy, you’re in trouble, you know. So we try to have fun with it. Like, it’s just about not everything is rainbows and butterflies, right? Sometimes you need to seek professional help. As a sleep coach, as a parent coach, as a toddler coach, like, that’s what we do here, we try to take you outside of your perspective. In this session, just last week that I did. This client that has the two year old, the five year old, the eight year old was like, Oh, my gosh, you have taught me so much just in our first our of three weeks of coaching. And she’s like, some of it is so obvious yet I didn’t think about it that way I didn’t look at like this has been so helpful. And then I just met with her and her husband again for our third session, and their kids are thriving. And we’re just implementing things that they really as parents were kind of just so in the middle of that they didn’t step out have to take a look at what was going on. So sometimes professional help is going to be what you need, right? We can’t solve everything you get, you’re going to have to bring in the experts. You know around a lot of different things if you’re seeing behaviors continue to persist or escalate certainly, remember tantrums though they’re normal, their normal part of toddler development, and with patience, consistency and understanding, you can help your child to navigate the stage with better emotional skills to regulate on their own. So if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. My name is Courtney Zentz. Again, the founder of tiny transitions and the host of the kids sleep show. And we are all here and happy to help you on your journey for navigating a good sleep nice balance in the home, and everything along the way. Thanks so much for listening to this episode. I hope you found it helpful. And remember, we’ve got an arsenal of content offer free just go to tiny transitions.com forward slash learn. And you can get all of our freebies or templates, all of those different things I talked about on the show today, ready and waiting for you. I hope you have a great rest of the day. We’ll see you next week here on the kids sleep show.
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