I have a strong willed child. Well, haven’t we all? But I have one of those really REEEAAALLLLLYYY strong willed children. Like the time she was so angry with me for suggesting she come in and wee on the potty, she just pulled her pants down and squatted on the doorstep. Or when she threw the bowl of tomato soup on the (carpeted) floor because it wasn’t on a plate. I could fill a book with the down right unfair things my poor child has had to deal with in the 3 years she has ruled our house. I mean, what mummy doesn’t give their toddler jelly for breakfast?!?!
I know toddlers tantrum. I was quite geared up for that. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the fireball of rage switch that flicks on and off at seemingly random intervals. We tried showering her with love, ignoring, timeout, stickers, rewards, tokens. You name it, we tried it but we were still faced with behaviour which spanned the entire spectrum.
When my sister-in-law suggested the Promise Fairy I jumped at the idea. The concept goes something like this:
- Get a fairy door and stick it to a wall somewhere in the house. Preferably out of reach of the newly crawling baby who will no doubt find the door and rip it off the wall much to the horror of the 3 year old*
- Write a note in tiny fairy handwriting which explains who the Promise Fairy is and why she has left her door in the house.
- Get all excited about the new parenting tactic but then feel deflated as the 3 year old walks past the fairy-door-of-certain-good-behaviour and sits on the baby whilst wrestling a toy out of his sticky little grip.
- Adopt your best super enthusiastic OTT voice and ask your 3 year old if she has noticed anything new, over there, you know, in the direction of the front door.
- Invariably the 3 year old will glance over, not see a giant chocolate in the shape of Peppa Pig and lose interest very quickly.
- OK, time to focus. Go and get the 3 year old and ask her to come with you because you have seen something amazing and she needs to see it. Wahoooooo she has found it!
Our note said that the Promise Fairy leaves her door in children’s houses so that she can help them with their behaviour. She asks the child to make a promise and if the Fairy can see that the promise is kept all day then she will leave a coin. She encourages the child to save up her coins so that she can buy something lovely from the shops.
Violet was slightly suspicious at the idea of good behaviour but after a lot of enthusiastic encouragement from me, and us going to look at the door, talk about how small it is, what the Promise Fairy must look like, the tiny writing in her letter etc Violet seemed sold. I asked Violet what promise she would like to make and she said “to be a good girl”. To Violet this doesn’t mean a huge amount as she’s forever saying she wants to be a good girl. So I helped her narrow it down to something more specific. With some gentle guiding we settled on; Today I will not scream and shout.
It only bloody worked!
There’s something about having a 3rd party observing her behaviour which really worked. She felt much more willing to keep her promise with the reward coming from someone other than Mummy and Daddy. We talked about the Promise Fairy on and off during the day. Had Violet seen her, does she think she’s in the room or perhaps she has gone to check on some of the other children she was helping and so on… It kept Violet’s mind on her promise and she did so well. At bedtime we talked about how she thought she had done with her promise and what the Promise Fairy may think.
The next day Violet checked the door immediately and found a coin (a shiny 1p) and a letter telling her how happy the Promise Fairy was. The note detailed a few things she had done the previous day so that Violet really believed the Fairy had been there. Violet saved her coins and after 2-3 weeks we went to the toy shop and I let her choose something to a value I had set. She took her coins and we gave them to the shop assistant (along with some top-up from me). This process really showed her how she could be rewarded for good behaviour and without a doubt made our house a much more settled and less explosive home.
On days where Violet has not kept her promise, the Fairy has just left a note explaining why there is no coin.
I think the general idea is for the child to make a new promise each day, however for Violet, ‘not screaming and shouting’ is an all encompassing promise which has addressed the most challenging aspects of her threenager behaviour. So we have stuck with 1 promise.
I have tried so many things to try and help Violet with her challenging behaviour and this has undoubtedly been the most effective. I don’t expect her to be perfect and never fly off the handle. But to carry on as we had been could have been damaging. This has been a creative and imaginative way through which has enabled Violet to curb some of her angst herself.
What are your tantrum tactics? What has worked and not worked? I’m all ears and love to have ideas stored for next time!
*this may or may not have happened!