Front Loading: My Number One Strategy for Reducing Tantrums
Front loading has been my number one strategy for helping my son and my family from the day he was born.
This works, of course, unless it doesn’t. I’d say that for most kids (and humans) this is the most effective strategy for the reduction of anxiety and major breakdowns (tantrums) . . . and minor breakdowns as well.
When Michael was little, there was an incredible amount of screaming and crying as my beautiful child learned about this very large and very unpredictable world.
If Michael knew what to expect, he’d be okay. If something surprised him, he’d freak. It was crystal clear.
I had all the advice a new mother could ask for. Lucky for me, I quickly became a mother warrior and opted for almost none of this unsolicited advice.
Where did I learn how to navigate this tantrum minefield, though? Well, I had been given a copy of The Baby Book by Dr. Sears. I didn’t pick it up for the first six months of Michael’s life, but when I did finally start reading it, I felt like the whole world opened up into this beautiful sunshiny place. I had found a path to mothering that made sense for me.
Front Loading: What It Is
The way I see it, front loading is providing preparation and explanation for what’s to come. It’s the planning before the event. It’s the outline of the best-selling book before it’s written. It’s the recipe for a perfect cake.
For example, as soon as I make any plans I share them with Michael. I might say, “Hey, Michael, Corey will come over next Monday around 3:00 p.m.”
The next day: “Hey, Michael, I wanted to remind you that Corey will be here next week on Monday around 3:00 p.m.”
On Sunday: “Hey, Love, Corey will be here tomorrow.”
That morning: “Michael, I just wanted to remind you that Corey will be here this afternoon.”
2:00 p.m. Monday: “Corey will be here in about an hour!”
And then at 3:00 p.m., he’s ready for Corey’s arrival.
Cumbersome, I know. Critical, though, to a peaceful life.
An Excellent Example of Front-Loading Success
When I was pregnant with Mason, Michael was two years old. He was already debating with me about philosophies, the meaning of life, the meaning of death, what bugs were in what genus family, and what animal he was that day.
This new human being was going to be a gargantuan change for Michael, who knew exactly what he wanted and that I was going to get it for him. I wasn’t going to be his lady-servant much longer and I could feel the storm a-brewin’.
Because I didn’t want all of the screaming and crying I suspected Michael might create when a new screaming and crying baby arrived, I created a book to prepare Michael for the changes. I read it to Michael as often as possible and I remember him flipping through it probably once a day. I let Michael help me pick out pictures and paper for this book. I put pictures of Michael in it doing regular things that his little brother was going to do.
There are phrases in there like:
“Michael will be a big brother.”
“Mommy will change your little brother’s diaper. You will have to be patient while Mommy does this.”
“You will be an important part of your little brother’s life.”
“Your baby brother will cry sometimes. He will sleep. He will eat. He will need to have bathies also.”
“Michael is important and loved and we will be a beautiful family.”
The result was that Michael was ready. He was amazing with Mason from the day he was born. This was because I explained pretty near every thing that was coming our way. Michael knew there would be noise, that I would take care of him, that I would have to spend time with Mason, etc. Michael welcomed Mason with love because I taught him that he would be okay and Mason was welcome and we would work as a team. There are difficulties, for sure, but relationships are hard in general from my point of view.
I believe front loading takes away the stress and anxiety for most of us. I know it makes Michael’s life much, much, much easier and less scream-filled. Front loading adds stress and anxiety to some families, but for Michael, I wouldn’t do it any other way.
I strongly recommend that you do what works to reduce the stress and anxiety in your child’s life (thus, your life). If I tell Michael in advance what to expect, he doesn’t have to worry and be scared or surprised.
We are worth peace in our lives. We are worth knowing what’s coming so we’re not scared. We are important enough, each and every one of us, to care for ourselves and those around us.
Sent with love and peace,
Head to Facebook and tell me what works for you!