Like most two year olds, my son sometimes has trouble controlling his emotions. It's mostly when he skips nap, or refuses to eat. He becomes an emotional mess, and just cries and cries. In these situations I know it's not his fault so I never punish him. However, I cant help but sometimes get frustrated because its hard.
Like most parents I try to stay patient with him, and find teachable moments in these times to help him learn what he is feeling and how to better communicate it. I feel that emotional IQ is just as important as intellectual IQ.
When he is the in middle of one of his meltdowns-- it is almost impossible to talk to him. So, I just try to hold him until he calms down. This works some days-- but other days when the baby is screaming, its almost dinner time, and my husband is still at work this isn't always a realistic approach for us.
So this led me to develop him "Cool Down Basket." It's not complete yet, but it's a start. I keep it in a closet when we don't need it so that the items in the basket don't look their 'newness.' Then when he starts having a meltdown I give him a hug, hold him for a few minutes, reassure him that I love him, and then tell him to sit down on some pillows and play with this basket. So far it works every time, and has become a lifesaver for us! It distracts him, keeps him busy, teaches him about feelings, doesnt make him feel that he is in trouble, and allows me to get back to doing what I need to do without feeling guilty!
Here's whats inside--
1) "Stress" Balloons-- I filled up four different colored balloons with different materials. Cotton, playdoh, shaving cream, and air. I drew different faces on them. The purpose is to give them some tactile things to keep their hands busy. They can squeeze them, throw them, etc. It's very similar to a stress ball you find in stores.
2) Books about feelings-- I put in a couple of books we owned about getting mad/ feelings. If my husband is home I will usually sit with him while we play with he cool down basket together, and we always read a book. This can help anybody calm down!
3) A water bottle filled with water, glycerin, food coloring, and glitter. Turning this bottle over and watching the glitter slowly fall down makes me feel so much calmer even if I am not upset!
I also plan to laminate some pictures of him making different faces, and showing different emotions. This can lead to some great conversations about what makes us feel this way, etc. I also want to get a small unbreakable mirror to put in the basket so he can see how he looks!
This technique doesn't have to be used just when a child is having a meltdown! Some other ideas can include if they are getting frustrated with another child, having trouble sharing, being very hands on, upset about not getting their way, etc. Anytime they need to just cool down, but don't deserve to be 'punished!'