Rewarding Good Attitudes: An Idea to Tame Toddler Tantrums

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What do you do when your toddler has countless tantrums and you’re at your wit’s end? Call on the “Good Attitude Guys” as a way of rewarding good attitudes.

Screaming. Hissy fits. Temper tantrums. “NO WAY!” shouted as loudly and defiantly as possible. All this AND MORE can be yours when you have a strong willed toddler facing the “terrible twos.” Try this method for rewarding good attitudes to minimize tantrums.

Rewarding Good Attitudes: An Idea to Tame Toddler Tantrums - Kenarry.com

I think the “terrible twos” is actually a terrible misnomer. At our house, this stage lasted from 18 months to 3 1/2 years old. I still can’t say for certain that we’re out of the woods yet, but lately our son’s attitude seems much better. It could be part of the maturing process as he nears his fourth birthday in a few months, but we’d also like to thank the “Good Attitude Guys.”

The “Good Attitude Guys” came to visit our house awhile back. The idea is really quite simple. They love rewarding good attitudes by hanging around. If they see a bad attitude, they disappear one at a time. If there’s still at least one “Good Attitude Guy” hanging around at the end of the day, then the child gets a sticker or something for rewarding good attitudes.

There are many schools of thought about rewarding good attitudes. At the time the “Good Attitude Guys” came, our son’s temper tantrums were frequent. He is a very strong willed, determined child. If something set him off, he would cry, kick, scream and hit. He would cross his arms and be completely defiant. (Sound familiar?) We tried ignoring the tantrums. We tried being extra attentive. We tried reasoning with him. We tried everything we could think of. We were at our wit’s end and needed to try something new. We knew from potty training, that he was motivated by stickers, iPad time and new apps for the iPad. Hence, the idea for rewarding good attitudes with the “Good Attitude Guys” was born.

How the “Good Attitude Guys” Work:

  • There are four “Good Attitude Guys”. To make them, I did a quick Google image search for “clipart kids stars” and found an image showing four smiling kids holding up stars. I printed and cut them apart. I poked holes in the top and hung them from ribbons on our mantle.Rewarding Good Attitudes: An Idea to Tame Toddler Tantrums - Kenarry.com
  • Each morning started fresh with all four “Good Attitude Guys” hanging from the mantle.
  • If our son had a meltdown and couldn’t regain control, we’d put him in time out to think about his attitude. His timeout would last three minutes (one minute for every year of his age).
  • Either during the time out or at the end, I would calmly walk over to the mantle and remove one of the “Good Attitude Guys.” I’d say “because you chose to have a bad attitude, one of the ‘Good Attitude Guys’ is going to go away.”
  • At the end of the day, if at least one “Good Attitude Guy” was left on the mantle our son would get to put a sticker on the chart in his room. I found really cute free printable calendars on iMom.com to use for his sticker chart.Rewarding Good Attitudes: An Idea to Tame Toddler Tantrums - Kenarry.com
  • Once our son had four stickers on his chart, he earned a new app for the iPad. Rewarding good attitudes was highly motivating for him. Each night when he got his sticker for the day, he would have us write the number next to it on the chart. He always knew exactly how many stickers he had and would say things like “Tonight’s my fourth sticker!”
  • After a while, we added other stipulations. For example, if you hit or kick anyone, you automatically lose TWO good attitude guys. We were also getting emails from his teacher at 3-School saying he was being defiant, wasn’t participating in the songs and was in time out for having a bad attitude. We told him he needs to be cooperative and helpful at school. We expect him to have a good attitude for his teachers and his classmates. If we got any more emails from his teacher, he would automatically lose ALL the “Good Attitude Guys” for the day. There would be no sticker.

Why Rewarding Good Attitudes Works

In the article, “3 Golden Rules for Great Behavior,” Nancy Rones shares three rules for disciplining your child: stay calm, set limits, and encourage cooperation. Here’s how those rules apply to the “Good Attitude Guys”:

  1. Stay calm. When my toddler was in the middle of his fourth consecutive major meltdown, this was easier said than done. I would place him in time out to think about his behavior. Then walk away to take down one of the “Good Attitude Guys.” Those few extra minutes were sometimes all I needed. Walking away allowed me to take a deep breath and clear my head before I started to have a bad attitude too.
  2. Set limits. There are four “Good Attitude Guys.” That’s four chances during the day to turn a bad attitude around, to make good choices and to have a cooperative, helpful attitude. Our son knew why we would only be rewarding good attitudes, what the rules were to keep the “Good Attitude Guys” and how to earn stickers. Our son also knew once a “Good Attitude Guy” went away for the day, he wasn’t coming back until morning.
  3. Encourage cooperation. When we talk about the “Good Attitude Guys” with our son, we emphasize having a good attitude is a choice we make throughout the day. While it’s okay to feel angry, frustrated or tired, we make a choice to have a good attitude with how we behave and how we talk to one another.

Rewarding Good Attitudes: An Idea to Tame Toddler Tantrums - Kenarry.com

Lessons Learned from the “Good Attitude Guys”

  • Some weeks, apps were earned in close succession. Other weeks, it seemed like he’d never earn a new app.
  • Some days, even the “Good Attitude Guys” couldn’t help change our son’s attitude. He’d say “I want you to take them all down!”
  • Other days, rewarding good attitudes is the only thing that worked. As he was about to have a hissy fit, I’d catch him looking over at the mantle to see how many “Good Attitude Guys” he had left.
  • Keeping the “Good Attitude Guys” became a badge of honor. When my husband got home from work each night, our son would take him over to the mantle to show him how many “Good Attitude Guys” he still had left.
  • Once our son earned stickers every day for an entire month, we retired the “Good Attitude Guys.”

Have you tried something that worked really well to tame your toddler’s tantrums? Please comment below to share your ideas. As our second son approaches age two, we’re already dreading going through this stage again!

Disclaimers about the “Good Attitude Guys”

There are many different methods and styles of parenting. Different methods of rewarding good attitudes work with different kids. We’re not child psychology experts. We’re just parents sharing what worked for us with our strong willed toddler. We look for teachable moments and use a combination of discipline and rewards to train our boys.  You may have a different opinion about rewarding good attitudes or different results with this method. Rewarding good attitudes is just one idea to try to tame your toddler’s terrible twos. For other suggestions, please visit Parents.com where they have numerous articles about how to handle temper tantrums.

What’s Next?

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8 Comments

  1. I love these and the idea, and really for some kids, the only thing they are interested in is the iPad, others it’s the last. You have to do what works for your kid.
    I personally love the idea of rewarding a good attitude with a sticker/star at the end of the day, and saving up for something they want (like a new app on the iPad)

  2. Wow, I definitely don’t miss the terrible two’s…and thankfully am getting through the terrible teenagers without killing somebody! Great idea – Thanks for sharing and linking up again with us at the #WWDParty.

  3. I love this idea! I, too, have a strong-willed child–he’s now 4 1/2. We’re seeing an improvement in his attitude and maturity, but we’ve always had issues with him at school. Put him in a group situation, and he becomes difficult at times. When you took away all of the Good Attitude Guys once he was home for school, I would think that he wouldn’t make the connection because too much time had passed since the misbehavior. I would love your feedback because I’m looking for ideas for this year at Pre-K! My son also responds to rewards. Thanks for the great idea!

    1. Hi Lynn, Let us know if you try it and how it works with your son. I keep trying to remind myself that our son’s strong will is actually a great quality and will help him stand up to peer pressure down the road, but that’s hard to think about when you’re in the thick of a major meltdown! As for connecting the Good Attitude Guys to his bad behavior at school, our son was only in 3-school this year for 2 hours, twice a week, so there wasn’t a lot of time between when the behavior occurred and when I found out about it to remove the Good Attitude Guys. He was able to make the connection and clearly understood the consequences after it happened the first couple of times. Also, we only took them away completely if he’d had a time out at school and/or if we got an e-mail home from his teacher. Since it was tied to something concrete, that helped him to make the connection too. Good luck — I hope this idea works well for you and your son!

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