The Number One Parental Concern…

The Number One Parental Concern…

Every child throws at least one at some point…often around two :-).   They don’t get their way, they want attention, no one is listening to them, or they’re just testing their vocal chords with a long ear piercing, glass shattering, screaming fit.  So yes, you guessed it.  Tantrums!

Tantrums can be unlearned.  Tantrums can be avoided.  Tantrums do not have to be a way of life.  The Terrible Twos can become the Terrific Twos with just a few simple and consistently applied strategies to simmer that hissy fit:

Time Out:  You can send them to their room, or have them stand in a corner, but isolate them for several minutes until they calm down.  Sometimes they just need to be out of the environment that caused them to get so worked up.  The Time Out doesn’t have to be sitting.  In fact, if it can be active, that can be all the more useful, such as “Race you outside around the house one time.”  Or, “You can sit in the Time Out chair, or you can do 10 sit-ups, which would you choose?”

Pattern Interrupt: Think of various fun and funny things (not toy or food rewards) you can introduce to surprise him.  Some examples:  If you’re at home, start howling with him.  He is likely to be so surprised that he will stop to watch you in dismay.  Then you can even have a howling competition, which is likely to erupt into raucous laughter together.  If out in public, you could say something completely off topic.  Anything will do.  E.g., “I was thinking about your turtle.”  (Used especially if he/she doesn’t have a turtle.  This again, typically causes a momentary break in the cycle of emotional momentum, enough for you to then be able to redirect it, such as to then say:  “So I was thinking about making  xyz for dinner.  Would you like to help?”  Or, “I was wondering what you were going to play when you get home.”  Questions that lead him/her into the near future with something to look forward to can be very useful.

Be Calm: You have to be the example.  Yelling and shouting, teaches them to yell and shout back.  Speaking disrespectfully, teaches them to speak disrespectfully back.  One of the hardest things for parents to do–and yet one of the most important–is to be firm without loosing it too, especially in the face of overtly defiant behavior.  Remember that one of their jobs is to test the parameters of their environment and your rules.  The child with consistent parameters may resist and push against them but is ultimately happier and feels safe in the knowledge of what is expected,

No Bribes, No Rewards: If you’ve ever had a dog, you know that you wouldn’t give it a treat for chewing up your shoe or other errant behavior.  Same with children.  If they’re being disruptive and throwing a tantrum, don’t reward that behavior with candy or some other toy.  So many harried parents are so desperate to get their child to stop doing what they’re doing, especially if they’re throwing a tantrum in a store, that they beg and plead with them.  That’s not cool…you’re the “top dog” and your child needs to feel the security of that confident position as “pack leader.”  So, even if it means that you need to leave your grocery cart in the aisle while you whisk your child to the car to sit there (with you in the car as well), then do so.  To reward a tantrum is to encourage it to happen again and again.  Instead, train them to understand that tantrums do not get them what they want, AND in fact it delays it, because the shopping still must be done, but now it will have to be done after she’s finally over her tantrum.  Then you can have a brief conversation, and resume where you left off.  (Hopefully your cart is still in the aisle 🙂 and you can pick up where you left off).

Of course children don’t always throw a tantrum because they aren’t getting what they want.  Since it can be a tummy ache or just tired, it’s important to listen to them once they become calm. Help them communicate what they’re feeling and encourage them to use words and talk next time they feel frustrated rather then throwing a fit!

The bottom line lesson for them is that tantrums do NOT get them what they want.  To reinforce tantrums with bribes and treats is to invite and encourage them.

Here are some other tips for dealing with tantrums

What methods have you used to calm the storm your children whip up?