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Mic Sayre
Mic Sayre, Child Care
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 52
Experience:  I have worked with children of all ages for close to 15 years.
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Child Care Tantrums

Customer Question

My boyfriend's daughter has a 14 month old that will not stop crying (no tears just noise) unless he is picked up. We have tried to ignore his tantrums but it is typical for him to carry on and on only stopping briefly when something catches his attention on TV or in the window for a moment. How do we break him of this constant need to be held.
Submitted: 11 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Melissa replied 11 years ago.
The best way I have found to deal with tantrums in a child of this age is to try and calm the child without actually picking the child up. The child, in my experience, is now old enough to know that they will get their desired response if you keep giving in to them time and time again. Try coming down to the child's level and reassuring the child and calming him down without picking him up. This will be hard on everyone involved, but if everyone remains consistent, the child will eventually realize that he does not need to be held all of the time to feel secure and you will be able to break him of this habit.
Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Reply to Melissa's Post: We have already tried your suggested method consistently for the last 5 weeks. It seems that he calms immediately while he has anyones attention but the minute it is turned from him he's back at it again. We have also tried putting him in his playpen (which he no longer uses for any other reason because he climbs out of it). Once he settles down we try approaching him with reassuring love but the second he sees you heading for him he starts screaming again. We don't want to pick him up then because we are afraid that will teach him that that's how to get our attention. On one particular occasion he has climbed out of the playpen and been put back in as many as 16 times in an hour screaming the entire time with only intermittent breaks when a noise or something catches his attention. He has not been starved for attention in fact he was spoiled with it during his first year.
Expert:  Melissa replied 11 years ago.
That is the best advice I think that anyone will be able to give you on this subject. Maybe it will take longer than 5 weeks to take effect. I know it is frustrating, but no one ever said being a parent was easy! If he was too spoiled when he was younger, it will take longer to undo what has been done. It takes time to learn new habits and to unlearn old ones.
Expert:  Mic Sayre replied 11 years ago.


Even though it's been five weeks since you started this new routine, you have to remember that it has been much longer for the boy to learn this behavior to begin with.

Here are my suggestions:

1) Continue to NOT pick him up, but also continue to go down to his level to speak to him and comfort him and show him affection.

2) Find other ways to comfort him that do not involve picking him up. Maybe that means playing a game with him. Keep it positive. Tell him that you'd love to play a favorite game with him (or read a favorite book--he can sit beside you, not on your lap), but you can only do so after he stops crying.

3) Try getting him involved in calming activities. Water play is good. Get a tub, stick a little dish soap in it, and let him clean his plastic toys (the ones that can be washed safely). Clay or silly putty are calming activities, but they, like the water, are all supervised activities because the boy is so young.

4) Try some of the suggestions posted on this website:

--Sometimes doing something unexpected as suggested here is enough to distract a child out of his unwanted behavior.

5) Try empathizing with him. Obviously he's frustrated about something--the lack of human contact that he was getting before. I can't blame him either. It's a well-known fact that touch is an important part of human development. Continue to be affectionate towards him (keep giving him hugs, even if you're not picking him up anymore). When he's screaming, tell him, "I know that you feel sad because Mommy/Daddy isn't picking you up anymore, but I still love you very much."

6) Encourage him to use his words whenever possible. This will help to cut down on some of his frustration levels.

7) Try making him Mommy's/Daddy's little helper. Spending more time with him, doing things together serves two purposes: a) it gives him that human contact he craves and is used to, and b) helps him to learn to become more independent.

8) Praise him whenever you can.

9) Try to use humor whenever possible. It relaxes the body and relieves the stress that everyone is going through.

10) Try to do more physical activities with him. Do a little dancing to music or running around or whatever he can do physically. This should distract him and use up some of that energy he's using for screaming.

Hopefully one of these things (or all used together) will help you resolve your problem.

Mic Sayre

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