Toddlers are notorious for having a tantrum at the most inopportune times. Being on the phone is one of those times. The best method in preventing toddler tantrums is planning. If possible, plan your longer phone calls during your child’s nap. Prepare frequent callers by telling them that you are available to talk for brief moments if your child is awake. A recipe for disaster is to have a phone call when your child is sick, hungry, sleepy or tired.
We all have times when we simply must take a call. This is when it is a good idea to have what I call the “telephone box” . This idea can aid both parent and toddler. This idea works best when a parent uses it consistently, adds variety to it and pairs it with a hand signal. The hand signal can be holding up two fingers which tells the child that you need two minutes. The toddler will learn that you will be with them in a short time.
What you need is a small shoe box or plastic container with a lid.
Place small toys such as puzzles, toy phones, old calculators, crayons with paper, etc. into the box. Place the box on a shelf or inside a cabinet which is near the telephone.
Keep the toys simple. Toys which make noise aren’t the best choice unless they have a volume on them. I have found that 5 to 10 piece wooden puzzles are the best because the parent can aid the child without having to speak. Another idea is to put all the restaurant toys received in the telephone box. They’re the right size and several of them provide enough attraction to give you some time on the phone.
Once you’re off the phone, make sure to praise the child for keeping busy while you were on the phone. Give extra praise if they were able to wait when you gave them the hand signal.
This is the hard part. Make sure to allow a transition time once you’re off the phone. Tell the child that in five minutes they will need to put the toys back into the telephone box and reassure them that the toys will be there for them to play with when you get on the phone again. Encourage the child to clean up by giving them another activity to do with you.
When you notice your child playing inappropriately with the telephone box, that’s the signal for you to add something new to the toy box. Sometimes just adding one new item is enough to the box is enough to attract attention. And feel free to add toys or other safe items from around the house.
Remember that the best method to prevent tantrums is planning and prevention. The telephone box is simply an idea which can help in those times when a phone call can’t be deferred. The telephone box can become a tool you might also use during other parts of your daily routine. Be creative and change up the toys often. Have different boxes with different themes. Mom’s need to be on the telephone sometimes, so prevent problems by having your “telephone” box on hand.