Monday, February 8, 2010

Putting and End to Tantrums

You've probably been a witness of a tantrum whether it be your own child’s or that of another child. They can be frustrating and downright embarrassing when in public. How do put an end to a tantrum? Or better yet, how do you prevent them from occurring?

Let's start with preventing a tantrum. If you have a child prone to tantrums, make sure to catch the child being good and comment on it to them. I haven't met a child yet who didn't like approval.

Choose your words wisely. Instead of saying "no" to a request try saying it like this; "Yes as soon as....." Fill in the blanks with what they need to do. "Yes you can have the candy after you eat something nutritious." More often than not, the word "no" elicits tantrums so avoid saying the word.

Toddler's desperately desire more independence so give your toddler control over some things by giving choices. Let them choose between two outfits or several meal choices. I have a child who occasionally doesn't want to go to bed at night so I give her the choice of hopping like a bunny or riding a horse to bed. She has the choice of how she gets there and I still get the end result of bedtime.

Hide tantrum triggers. If it is close to dinnertime and you know your child is going to ask for the cookies he sees and it is not an option, then make sure the cookies are out of sight. Out of sight out of mind right?

Choose your battles. Think about the request your child has made. Some things really aren't important. I have a child who has gone to school in the middle of winter in shorts and a t-shirt because I chose not to argue with her about what she was wearing. Guess what? I saved the energy from the argument and she learned on her own that it is not a good idea to wear shorts and t-shirts in the middle of winter.

Know your child's limits. Don't take your child to the grocery store when they are tired or hungry. That is just asking for a tantrum.

Those are just a few ideas to avoid the tantrum. Now here are some ways to handle the tantrum.

First and foremost, keep your cool. If you raise your voice and tense up you are just throwing fuel on the fire. Use calm words with your child. Some children can calm down just from the sound of your voice.

Try to understand where your child is coming from. Put yourself in their shoes and choose words that they can understand. Validate your child by saying things like "I know you are sad because you really wanted to play with that truck but John has it now." and then suggest another option.

Redirection and distraction are powerful tools. As in the example above, suggest something else that would be acceptable. While at the park you see an ice cream stand, redirect your play to another side of the park. At the grocery store I try and distract my children from the "I want..." by having them hold my grocery list and check off items as we add them to the cart.

Simply ignoring the tantrum can put an end to it. Children throw tantrums to get a desired result but if no one is listening then what is the point? If one of my children is throwing a tantrum I just calmly say "Let me know when you are ready to talk about it" and then I walk away. However, make sure that you do not leave your child completely alone because this can lead them to feel abandoned which can create a whole other set of problems. Send older children to their room until they can cool off instead of for a specified amount of time. This gives them the power to get control.

Give a great big, firm hug in the middle of or just after a tantrum. This reassures the child that you love them even when they behave badly. I've been doing this with my oldest lately. Sometimes she tries to push me away and other times she just absorbs the embrace and calms down.

Don't be afraid to use a little bribery. Bribery is best when it is done ahead of time and on your terms. Tell your child before that if they are good they will get to watch a movie when you get home.

Most importantly, be consistent! If your child knows exactly how you are going to respond then they are less likely to throw a tantrum.

These are just a few of my ideas. I want to know, what are your tantrum stories?

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