The Book: The No-Cry Discipline Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Good Behavior without Whining Tantrums & Tears by Elizabeth Pantley.
Tantrums, Fussing and Whining
If you ask parents to list the most frustrating discipline problems during early childhood, you would find that these three items appear on every list. All children master their own version of these behaviors - every parent has to deal with them!
Controlling their emotions
Most often these behaviours are cause by a child's inability to express or control his emotions. Tiredness, hunger, boredom, frustration and other causes that ignite The Big Three can frequently be avoided or modified. When your child begins a meltdown, try to determine if you can tell what the underlying issue is causing the problem. Solve that problem and you'll likely have your sweet child back again.
Handling tantrums, fussing and whining
No matter how diligent you are in recognizing trigger causes, your child will still have meltdown moments. Or even meltdown days. The following tips can help you handle those inevitable bumps in the road. Be flexible and practice those solutions that seem to bring the best results.
You may be able to avoid problems by giving your child more of a say in his life. You can do this by offering choices. Instead of saying, "Get ready for bed right now," which may provoke a tantrum, offer a choice, "What would you like to do first, put on your pajamas or brush your teeth?" Children who are busy deciding things are often happy.
Get eye to eye
When you make a request from a distance your child will likely ignore you. Noncompliance creates stress, which leads to fussing and tantrums - from both of you. Instead, get down to your child's level, look him in the eye and make clear, concise requests. This will catch his full attention.
Tell him what you DO want
Instead of focusing on misbehavior and what you don't want him to do, explain exactly what you'd like your child to do or say instead. Give him simple instructions to follow.
Validate his feelings
Help your child identify and understand her emotions. Give words to her feelings, "You're sad. You want to stay here and play. I know." This doesn't mean you must give in to her request, but letting her know that you understand her problem may be enough to help her calm down.
Teach the Quiet Bunny
When children get worked up, their physiological symptoms keep them in an agitated state. You can teach your child how to relax and then use this approach when fussing begins.
- You can start each morning or end each day with a brief relaxation session. Have your child sit or lie comfortably with eyes closed. Tell a story that he's a quiet bunny. Name body parts (feet, legs, tummy etc.) and have your child wiggle it, then relax it.
- Once your child is familiar with this process you can call upon it at times when he is agitated. Crouch down to your child's level, put your hands on his shoulders, look him in the eye and say, let's do our Quiet Bunny. And then talk him through the process. Over time, just mentioning it and asking him to close his eyes will bring relaxation.
Distract and involve
Children can easily be distracted when a new activity is suggested. If you child is whining or fussing try viewing it as an 'activity' that your child is engaged in. Since children aren't very good multi-taskers you might be able to end the unpleasant activity with the recommendation of something different to do.
Invoke his imagination
If a child is upset about something, it can help to vocalize his fantasy of what he wishes would happen: "I bet you wish we could buy every single toy in this story." This can become a fun game.
Use the preventive approach
Review desired behaviour prior to leaving the house, or when entering a public building, or before you begin a playdate. This might prevent the whining or tantrum from even beginning. Put your comments in the positive (tell what you want, not what you don't want) and be specific.
When it's over, it's over
After an episode of misbehaviour is finished you can let it go and move on. Don't feel you must teach a lesson by withholding your approval, love or company. Children bounce right back, and it is okay for you to bounce right back, too.
Tantrums are becoming an increasingly discussed topic in my mother's groups, and I noticed that my last post that discussed them seemed to generate some interest (see an excerpt from The Emotional Life of the Toddler that discusses why toddlers have tantrums). So I thought it might be useful to follow up with a book that gives practical advice on handling tantrums.
The book refers to 'No-Cry' solutions because it comes from the author's series of books started by 'The No-Cry Sleep Solution', which was all about gentle methods of encouraging your child to sleep through the night. If you can actually deliver these methods without some tears and tantrums then either you are a miracle worker and/or your child is a robot. But that said, the ideas in this book are gentle and respectful ways to manage the toddler (and preschool) years.
What I like most about this book is that it takes a long term view. Many toddler books seem to ask: 'how can I survive by whipping my hideous bratty little toddler into shape?' whereas Pantley's philosophy is to say: 'I'd like an open, trusting, respectful relationship with my teenager, how can I guide my child towards respectful behaviour while nurturing our relationship?' Which, I have to say, sits a lot better with me than the 'toddler taming' philosophy. The focus is on positive guidance and encouraging cooperation, and avoiding escalating conflict by doling out punishment focused on the behaviour rather than the underlying causes of that behaviour. There is also quite a lot in here about helping parents manage their own anger and frustration at being given the responsibility for (but limited control over) the behaviour of a little person. It is not a permissive or unschooling approach, and does advocate setting clear 'expected behaviour' and firm limits.
Some of the methods in this book could be considered methods based on punishment or manipulation. For example, there is an alternative to a star chart system which involves having happy faces that are turned to sad faces every time a child breaks a rule. There is also a short section on how to do a 'time out' - but this is very much included as a last resort method. Depending on your point of view, these inclusions are both a strength and weakness of the book. As a plus, it makes the book something you could feel comfortable giving to a 'mainstream' parent, and it is much more compassionate and flexible approach when compared to the infamous Toddler Taming; but on the downside the more punitive suggestions are not entirely consistent with the no-cry gentle philosophy and parents who are looking for an approach that avoids manipulation and punishment may need to read selectively.
The book is written in friendly plain English and is more practical than theoretical. It is a smorgasboard of tools, and there are many chapters with ideas on how to handle specific situations: eg. hitting, dawdling, bath time trouble, going shopping, biting, bossiness, bad language etc.
I think the biggest shortcoming of the book is that it could be clearer what approaches are aimed at different age groups, what kind of 'misbehaviour' is age-appropriate and likely to be a passing phase, and where guidance is needed. The author just assumes parents will work this out. To some extent as a parent you know these things by watching your child, but I think it can be very difficult to see inside your child's head, and it is easy to read 'misbehaviour' into ordinary and appropriate developmental behaviour (eg. early tantrums, exuberance, dropping objects off the highchair etc).