Tantrums…they can be exhausting, frustrating and embarrassing. Especially when they happen in public, or in front of friends and family. As parents we spend a lot of time trying to avoid and defuse them. We find ourselves walking on egg shells, or giving in to demands just to get through the day without them. But it’s why our children’s tantrums return again and again.
All kids tantrum from time to time, especially children under five. There are some common causes, tiredness, hunger, being over stimulated or overwhelmed. As parents we should try to make sure our child will have success by watching for these triggers, but it is the “I want my way” tantrums that are often the most challenging. The one where you can see it starting in the store because they want a toy, or because they don’t want to leave the party.
It is important to recognize that we can become part of the problem by providing our kids with an audience and a target for their display of emotion. They need to learn that they can soothe themselves, and that they can and will recover from whatever they’re feeling. There are some important things you can do to handle a tantrum effectively which will help your children learn this very important lesson.
Try understanding first. Always start by empathizing. This can be very de-escalating and can often stop a tantrum in its tracks.
Never give in. It is okay, as a parent, to change your mind or reevaluate your decision, but never after your child has been rolling around on the carpet in a rage. Say what you mean, mean what you say. If you give in to the behaviour, you may have dodge that tantrum but you’ve guaranteed another.
Don’t be afraid of the tantrum. Be neutral and confident. Children watch us, and if they see that we are having difficulty controlling our behavior they may feel it just can’t be done. So, the more you yell, the more hysterical you’ll both become.
Disengage. Don’t work so hard. Sometimes we become part of the problem. We start negotiating, pleading, cajoling and then threatening. All of which are fuel for the tantrums fire. In a neutral way, walk a few steps away and give what I call paradoxical permission… “Go ahead get it out. Cry if you have to, but you still cannot have that toy.”
Give messages of competence. Say things like. “You will be fine, you will feel o.k. in a few minutes you’ve gotten through this before, and I know you can do it.”