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My 21-month-old grandson lives with his Daddy, Nana, and me, Grandma. In the last 3 weeks he has started having temper tantrums. We used to put him in his Pack-n-Play, or crib for time out, but he gets so angry he has taught himself how to climb up the rails of the crib. He will go headfirst if he has to (of course, he has 3 sets of eyes on him, so that has not happened).

Now we don't know where or how to put him in bed, or a safe place where he doesn't hurt himself.

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    No question, the crib's gotta go. It simply unsafe. – Marc Dec 17 '14 at 4:36
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    This is normal at that age. He needs a big boy bed. – superluminary Dec 17 '14 at 22:08
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I personally think 21 months is time for a bed he can get in and out of himself - my parenting style leans towards independent kids.

That doesn't help with the tantrums though. I have 2 suggestions you can consider:

  • Ask him to go sit somewhere specific, where you can sit next to him. We used a stair, and if he didn't stay put we would go sit with him.

  • Ask him to stay in his room, if he might be better off trying to cool down alone. Some kids are like that, though it seems like that makes him more angry.

  • I know this is not really what you asked for, but consider natural consequences rather than timeouts. I know some parents swear by timeouts, but they are not super effective on our kid, and if you grandson gets super angry it may not be the calm down method it is supposed to be. (Edit to add: Or your approach to timeouts might not be optimal, @anongoodnurse's answer recommends a book that might help)

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You might have to abandon the crib/Pack&Play as a time-out spot for now, and pick a corner of the house or a room with, perhaps, a few cushions or other soft things he can sit on/amongst. There he can have his meltdown safely until he cools off.

Of course the downside of this is that someone needs to stand guard over him and make sure he doesn't leave that spot.

Discipline isn't convenient. Some people don't use time-outs (I did. It was great for our family.)

There are many books available that address other means of teaching children good behavior. As to time-outs, my go-to book is 1-2-3 Magic by Thomas W. Phelan.

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    The only thing I would like to add is to make sure that all three of you are on the "same page" as far as discipline. If the little guy gets varying levels of discipline for the same acts, his acting out might be his frustration with lack of consistency. You haven't said anything that might indicate inconsistency, but it is something to keep in mind while researching other methods. – Thorin Schmidt Dec 16 '14 at 2:21
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    @anongoodnurse I've heard you recommend this book before, and I'm interested. Do you know the difference between the new 2014 version and the 2010 version? Is it the 2010 one you recommend/have experience with? – user11394 Dec 16 '14 at 16:08
  • @CreationEdge - I first used it before it was a book - back in the late 80's. I've since read one edition, but as my kids were past the stage of time-outs by 2010 (almost over!), I've not read the newest ones. – anongoodnurse Dec 17 '14 at 4:25
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A couple of things here stand out to me.

First, in general, crib time outs aren't a good idea. They are convenient, but they also create negative associations with the place of sleep, which causes problems later on; around this time children often go through a phase where they don't like to go to bed (as they're starting to be aware of the ability not to!) and it can be extremely difficult to get them asleep as it is, not to mention if they associate their bedroom and crib with time outs. A neutral space is better, if possible.

Second, time outs in general aren't highly recommended until three. This article recommends using them, but not having them be solitary; instead, have a minute or two of calm down time with mommy. We found teaching our son deep breathing helped some - he would repeat "calm" in a breathy voice and it would often calm him down. Two year olds (or almost 2 year olds, as yours is) aren't ready to follow rules yet, so traditional 'stay over there until the timer goes off' won't work.

Third, get a regular bed - whether that means converting your crib to a toddler bed using a short half rail, or buying a fun race car bed, or just a small bed that's lower to the ground - now. If he can climb out when he's mad, he can also do so when he wakes up in the middle of the night, and he very well could hurt himself. 21 months is somewhat late in my opinion to be doing this for an average to above average sized child - for my two boys, both of whom are 85th-90th percentile, we converted at 18 months.

Finally, something that every parent has to learn at this age is how to spot and avert temper tantrums when you can (you'll learn how, I promise) and help him learn to stop them himself. This helps reduce the frequency, and where you can, teach him skills (like deep breathing, using his words, etc.) to control his frustration - and at this age it is mostly frustration, not anger. Time outs are often not helpful for these, because he doesn't understand why he can't have a chocolate, or why you don't understand which milk glass he wants, or why he has to go to bed. If the time out isn't calming, then it's ineffective - it just frustrates him a more, likely. Focus on using a calm voice and talking to him about why he needs do or not do something, wait out the tantrum, and try to let him develop the skills for handling frustration, rather than trying to stop the tantrum.

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I have been doing some reading up on tantrums recently as my LO is a similar age and started to have them too. I found this link quite helpful - http://www.babycenter.com/0_tantrums_11569.bc as it helps you to see things from their point of view as well.

Regarding timeouts it suggests to make the timeout last for

about one minute per year of his age

Personally I have started trying to take on some of the advice and now when my daughter has a tantrum, I try to explain to her my reasons for not letting her have chocolate (for example) calmly and name the feelings she's having "I know you are angry because of xyz" and sit with her until she's calmed down.

As there's three of you maybe you could take it in turns to stay with you grandson while he is having a full blown tantrum.

  • but not interacting with him, just being in the room doing something else, reading a book or magazine – WendyG Jun 20 at 14:11

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