Why We Don’t Do Time Out (No, this is not a judgemental post)

We use Time Away instead of Time Out.

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Creating a Toddler-Proof Calm Box

If you have a toddler, you’ve at some point experienced the infamous tantrum.

tan·trum

/ˈtantrəm/ noun

an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child.

It has the simplest definition, that can have the most complicated and emotionally draining side effects.  They can be big, or small. They can happen in the middle of a crowded restaurant because you ordered apple juice instead of lemonade.  Or maybe it happens in the comfort of your own home as your toddler’s upset because you told them it was time to eat lunch. Or these wonderful events may occur while at someone else’s house where you have to quietly walk outside because you told them they couldn’t have any Swedish Fish.

The point is, most toddlers have an inside banche waiting to come out.  And if you have a toddler, and have never had a meltdown, please write a book about how you managed to do that, and teach me.  I would be willing to sell my soul for it.

Tantrums and meltdowns are the most draining parts of being a mom (for me).  Most of the time, I don’t mind the constant clean up or the constrained schedules of nap and bedtime, but the irrational tantrums that I can NOT remedy with pure logic, is the bain of my existence.  Many times, I’m pretty sure I look at my husband and say, “I think I’m not built to be a mom.” Everly is already a very vocal and strong willed little girl. For the most part, she is excellent at accepting the word, “NO,” but when her inner banche is unleashed, it’s a true live emergency.  There are loud noises, screaming, casualties, and running, all from a small ticking time bomb.  

Most of the time, we have to wait it out, but sometimes the wait is too long.  Sometimes we don’t have the luxury of waiting when you are in a public place. I searched online for different methods, looked in my mommy groups, and this idea of a “calm box.” had come up a few times.  It seemed too easy, but I thought I would give it a try.


What is a calm box?

The objective of a Calm Box is to encourage a child to take time, use some tools within the box to self-regulate and calm down their feelings of intense anger or emotion.    I found these boxes are sold in a lot of places (For adults and children). But these can also be made in very inexpensive ways through sensory tools and activities that you can create for your toddler. 

I personally love having a mix of both consistent activities/physical motions that my daughter can do to calm herself, and pair them with something that is sensory.  


Here are the 5 different activities/exercises that we usually use when Everly throws her fit:

  1. Smell the flower and blow out the candle.  When she’s throwing her fit, I’ll hold an imaginary flower towards her, and ask her to smell the flower.  To get her to exhale big, I hold up 2 fingers and tell her to blow out those candles. I repeat until she’s calmed down.
  2. Put your hands in the air and breathe.  Sometimes physically showing them to put their hands in the air is a small enough distraction to redirect emotions.
  3. Touch your toes.  Same as above.
  4. Count my fingers.  This encourages a pause from the situation by counting to 10.  
  5. Hold their hand on your chest while you hum.  This sounds odd, but it’s part activity distraction and part sensory.  Hum a calming tune your toddler will respond to, and they feel the vibration from your throat or chest which can be calming.  If they’re able to, have them do this on their own.

On the sensory side, Lemon Lime Adventures has a great post about sensory hacks specifically for an angry child.  Dayna is a National Board Certified teacher with Early Child Development background.  I admired her story of parenting and the methods she used for her son who was diagnosed with SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder).  She talks about how sensory is part of her child’s frustration and anger, and shared some really great sensory hacks posted below that I think are great additions to a calm box:

  1. Use glitter glue to make these Lego Calm Down Jars. Simply shake and wait for the calming to begin.
  2. Making worry stones for children to use when they are feeling nervous or anxious. Great to use in the car, at a desk or on the go.
  3. These DIY stress relievers are a great hack to creating your own squeezy tool. Have kids squeeze and take out their anger on these instead of hitting or pushing others.
  4. Make a Mermaid Fabric Weighted Lap Pad for your child give them some deep pressure and a fun sensory lap pad!
  5. 2 simple ingredients will help you make DIY Squeeze Balls for your child to use anytime they are angry. Squeezing the balloons helps provide proprioceptive input and organizes their sensory system.
  6. Make a DIY Squoosh Box out of a cardboard box to give your child somewhere to calm down.
  7. If you are looking for something to have on hand at all times, you can put together an anti-anxiety kit  complete with essential oils, songs, and stress balls.
  8. Make a fire-breathing dragon out of a simple cup to practice calming breathes.
  9. A DIY Crash Pad is a fantastic place for your angry child to thrash and bang around without hurting them or anyone else.
  10. Use ice cubes to create these awesome calm down cubes for your classroom.
  11. Use pillows or stuffed animals to make a pillow cave to provide joint compression to help your child organize their nervous system while calming down.

READ HER FULL STORY HERE: https://lemonlimeadventures.com/sensory-hacks-calm-an-angry-child/

Will this work for every child?  NO. Every child is different. Every child responds to things differently.  If anything, we hope this gives you some inspiration, on other methods for calming your child’s emotions.  Whether it’s a calm box, a time-out, time alone, or whatever, find what works for you!

Share your stories and successes with the community.  

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My Confession: I Sometimes Lie to My Daughter

I confess…I lie more often than I want to, and it’s a bad habit.   Please don’t judge me. Let me explain. Growing up, I had a very superstitious upbringing (being Filipino).  I was fed stories of mermaids who could potentially grab and drown you if you stand too close to the river or monsters who ate only children.  A horror movie in the making? You BET, and there have been many made since then. #gottalovefilipinoroots  

As I grew older, I obviously saw the intent for these stories and swore to myself I would never use those tactics with my daughter.  In fact, I set myself a standard to NEVER lie to my kid. I envisioned my very logical-self being able to reason with whatever my daughter would challenge me with.  I swore to myself I would do this with the intent that my daughter would mature. I would use the same logical reasoning with my husband but with the patience of Mary Poppins.  And honestly, I did pretty damn well in the first 2 years of Everly’s life.   

THE EARLY NON-LYING STAGES

Everly was a smart and balanced little girl.  She learned sign language early, and by the time she was 6 months old, she communicated with us.  She was mellow andshe took “no” very well. Once she was a little over 1 year old, she was speaking.  By 2 years old, she could hold a full conversation. We would go to Disneyland and toy stores where she would ask for us to buy her things.  We would say no, and she would simply give them a hug and say ‘goodbye.’ If I asked her to eat something specific, and she originally refused, I was able to tell her WHY this was important, WHY she needed to eat it (logically), and she gave in.  Then, something happened. I remember it vividly…

We went on a family vacation to Orlando when Everly was 2.5 years old.  In the last few months prior, she had been playing with another 2 little girls at her school, which her teachers at the time warned me  they were negatively impacting her. They were a little bossier and one child was physical. That’s another story for another time, but it did change Everly. In addition to  that she was also turning into a threenager. She screamed, she didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. It was a challenge, but we stuck to our guns. Sometimes we won, sometimes she was in time out for a long time, but we were getting worn down.

We took a red-eye flight to Orlando (our mistake, which we will never do again).  Everly didn’t sleep at all. We went to Disneyworld after we landed, hoping she would crash when she was tired, but instead, she was worse than a zombie.  She was a flesh-eating, shrieking zombie who needed what she wanted and needed it now. She needed to see a princess, and if there wasn’t one available…MELTDOWN CENTRAL.  The pepperoni on her pizza fell on her napkin…MELTDOWN. She wanted to eat, but she didn’t want to leave the room…MELTDOWN. This all happened before noon.  

She was clearly overtired.  It was a perfect storm of what she had been exposed to in the last few months, the development that she experienced going from baby to vocal toddler, and the fact that we all had NO sleep.  And then it happened…

THE LIE…

It was dinner time. We were staying in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, conveniently with animals outside our balcony.  She hadn’t had a proper meal all day. She was flipping out with the food that was on the table. She was screaming, pulling her clothes, yelling “NO,” and would just not eat.   We were frantic trying to keep her volume down not to bother other hotel guests who probably thought we were torturing our child. 

And I blurt out…”Everly, if you don’t eat and calm down the BEARS will hear you!”

And Justin, blurts out…”Yeah, and they’ll  EAT YOU.” (as I whispered, “too far, babe, babe, too far.)

And Everly’s response?  

She went completely silent. 

Looked at us with big, wide eyes with a slight feeling of concern. 

“Bears?”…she said.  

“Yes, Bears…” I said in a nervous tone.  

“Okay, then we better hurry.” Everly says, as she heads to the table, and complies, without a fight, without tears, and eats ALL her food.

We thought, what are we thinking?  Bears??!! WTF – How messed up are we?  But it worked… And we abused it. We’ve now taken it  to another level.

When she fights sleep or fights eating, or can’t self regulate herself, the bears knock on doors.To this day (a year later), she still complies.  She sometimes yells, “BEARS, DON’T COME, I’M EATING, okay?”

Do we feel like  horrible parents?  We totally did, and then I realized, YOU HAVE TO DO WHAT KEEPS YOU SANE AND YOUR CHILD HEALTHY. 

Logic doesn’t always work with a child. When time is limited, reason doesn’t always work, and I don’t have hours to let her figure things out. We use bears.  I stopped being critical of myself. I stopped letting judgment hit me on our methods. I don’t use it all the time. I use it when all else has fails and she’s at risk of impacting her health – eating, sleeping, self harm.  Sometimes you need to access your crazy imagination to help your kids.  

I think of the alternative.  I could let her not sleep (or pass out).  She will likely not pass out. She will be tired, cranky, upset.   I could let her skip dinner, wake up hungry with stomach pains. I could let her cry until she’s done.  I’ve tried this before (and she will outlast 45 mins). Her throat hurts and she’s upset.  

OR, I can tell her the bears are coming.  In the same way parents use Santa Clause, or the Easter Bunny.  I chose the mythical creature. One day, I will tell her the truth.  Until then, my child is rested, and happy and safe from the bears. Until the next time she decides she doesn’t want to listen.

Share this blog with someone who needs a reminder they’re not crazy…because there are crazier parents like us.  🙂

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