1) "Switch hands" - he'll he holding a toy in one hand, we put the other hand through his sleeve then say, "Switch hands." He does and we are able to get his second hand through without ever taking the toy, thus avoiding his thinking we are stealing his prized possession.
2) "First _____, then _____." - This one took the longest for him to understand because it is a tricky concept for a toddler who is egocentric and lives in the moment. It was inspired by the first speech and language pathologist I worked with while I was a teacher. I had a student with autism who had difficulty transitioning from one part of our day to the next. She made a simple "if, then" picture board for him and before each activity we would use it to show it to him to help him prepare for an upcoming transition. We don't use pictures with Ayden but we do use the first/then concept with him very often. If he is wanting to go onside while we are cooking dinner we say, "first eat, then outside." If he is wanting to read a book before he's gotten ready for bed we'll say, "First brush teeth, then book." We keep the phrases very short, simple and direct and after a few days it really began to help him understand and be more patient.
3) "Or I'll take it..." - This one has been amazing! When he is climbing on his table and chair set so he can reach the kitchen island we'll say, "Ayden, the chair is for sitting. If you climb on the chair again I'm going to take it." If he is pouring water out of the bathtub we'll warn,"If you spill the water out, I'm going to take it." Sometimes he does it anyway and we then we consistently follow through. There are instances where this doesn't phase him much but other instances where he dislikes it very much and cries to have the item back. We say, "I know you really like playing with the [insert item], but you [insert undesired behavior]ed with it so I had to take it." We do not return it at that time, let him cry until he is ready to move on and 9 times out of 10, he believes us the next time we give him this warning.
4) "Tell me what you want" (can also say, "Use your words") - There are plenty of times when Ayden requests something and we misunderstand what he wants. Sometimes he has patience with us and we eventually figure it all out without him melting down. There are also times when we offer him something thinking it was what he was asking for and he immediately begins to wail as if his world is crumbling down around him. This is when we get down on his level and gently say, "Ayden, tell me what you want." After a few moments he will usually regroup and try to request the item again and we eventually figure it out. These kinds of tantrums are different in my opinion because they are purely frustration. He understands SO MUCH and is developing new words all the time but that doesn't mean he can fully communicate easily. He asked for one thing and was offered another. He spoke and was not understood. We do not give him whatever he is wanting until he is calm and has asked for it nicely, but we do not just walk away to let him cry this kind of fit out. We want him to know that we want to listen and more importantly, that we want to understand. And this brings us to our last helpful concept for Ayden..
5) "Ask nicely" - A lot of times Ayden will just say the name of what he wants over and over or he will yell and kind of demand that we give him something. Again, toddlers are very egocentric. He has no idea that rudely asking for something can offend someone or hurt their feelings. He is just beginning to understand that his actions can have an effect on those around him. When he gets caught up in his own desires and demands that they be met, we just say, "Ask nicely, please." and when he does, we give it to him (within reason, of course). We also make sure that we ask him nicely for or to do things in hopes to provide a model for him to follow. The only time this one gets us into trouble is when he wants something he can't have and, all on his own, kindly asks, "Teeeese?" In the sweetest voice ever. It is so hard not to give in when he coats his request in so much sugar.
There may be a few more helpful concepts/phrases that we use to make toddler land run a bit smoother but this gives a good idea of how we prevent *some* of his meltdowns. We would love to hear about ways you prevent toddler meltdowns before they happen. We have truly found prevention to be our best defense against them and would love more tools for our toolbox!
Flashback! Here's what we were up to one year ago today: "Play Date"
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