Tantrums are your child’s way of indicating hunger, sleep or tiredness. For older kids it may be about their inability to handle big emotions. Lets see how we can tackle these episodes without losing out.
When your child starts throwing a tantrum, it is often difficult not to have a meltdown yourself. It may seem easy to just give in and get over the situation. However, this can result in the child having more tantrums later on. In very young children, a tantrum is just a natural method to let you know they’re tired or want more milk. As the children grow older, they begin having tantrums to gain attention, or get what they want. They may refuse to give in until they get what they’re after.
Imagine a visit to the supermarket where you refuse that candy your child demands. Your little angel turns into a little devil. His/her face gets angry and red. He/she starts banging the fists on the ground and begins shrieking loudly. People are staring at you. You are so embarrassed, you wish the ground would swallow you up.
Been there? Let’s get to the bottom of this.
What sets them off?
Tantrums can be triggered in a child for many reasons. They are more common in children who are intense, moody, or don’t adapt easily to new environments. Sometimes the reason for a tantrum is simply fatigue or hunger. So always make sure your child is well fed and well rested.
Tantrums happen in young children because they are still figuring out how to control and moderate their moods. Sometimes older children have tantrums too if they have not yet achieved self regulation.
How to deal with tantrums?
Create a Diversion:
Children have relatively short attention spans, so it may be easy to just use something like a toy, book or snack to make them forget the reason for their tantrum. Changing the topic of conversation can be just as effective.
However, don’t switch the topic at the expense of being dishonest. Did you say, ‘we will have pizza on the weekend; eat your veggies today’? Ensure that you deliver on that promise of pizza. Avoid temptations such as offering a candy for retracting the tantrum. If you incentivise bad behaviour, you will see more of it.
Be a Ninja:
This may be difficult when your child is throwing a tantrum, but take a deep breath and realize that you are an adult. Maintain your composure throughout. If you get angry or frustrated, your child will pick up on that and it may make the situation worse. Know the difference. You can be calm, yet stern. You can be gentle, yet in-command. There’s no point screaming your lungs out when you could simply get down to the child’s level and explain what is going wrong.
Children naturally crave attention from their parents and this can often be the root cause a tantrum. Hugs are an easy way of telling your children that you love them and care for them. Just get down to their level and put your arms around them. Talking or reasoning won’t work when all they want is attention. If the hug does not melt them, don’t throw a fit and close the door behind them. Simply tell your children that you will be around whenever they are ready to talk. Stay within their sight.
Show the Way:
Teach your children other ways of dealing with their frustration. Instead of shrieking and yelling, teach them to talk things out. Children do as you do. Show them how it would feel if the tables were turned. If your child is doing something wrong, try to explain it to him/her from your point of view.
Listen to your children and make them feel heard. They tend to relax just knowing that you understand what they are trying to communicate. Of course, it is not possible to do all this during an active tantrum. Practice it when the child mellows down. Check out Do you have a mad house of screaming children and crazy parents? Pat your back.
Spanking your children when they throw a tantrum is an easy way out but not the right one: When you spank your children, you are overpowering them and instilling fear. This will often incorporate aggressive behavior into them as they grow older.
If you have to use punishment to stop an absolutely intolerable tantrum, take away a privilege. If you have a movie planned for the weekend, put it off until good behaviour returns. It is more effective than offering a bribe to stop their tantrum.
Avoid the Storm:
We don’t throw up when we are hungry or sleepy because we know how to behave in a civilised society. Your children will get there too one day. Until then, carry their snack box everywhere. When their tummy is full, they are less likely to snap. If nap time is expected, don’t schedule anything else. Don’t push their limits and get caught in another round of fury.
If your child loses out for not being allowed to wear the clothes he/she likes, let him/her decide. Let the child win the less important battles. If the trigger point is the cookie box in your house, keep it out of sight. If your child can’t handle change, give him/her some time to prepare for transitions and mention things ahead of time.
Use Positive Reinforcement
As children grow, teach them through small tasks, responsibility and consequences for their actions. Beating a few challenges can give them a feeling of triumph and self-worth. Make them feel proud for the good things they do. You can decide how to reward them for the right things, but try to avoid incentivizing with junk food or sweets. For more tips read 10 Ways to Be Awesome Parents.
Keep your Strategy Ready
Don’t get caught unarmed. Begin by reciting the calming mantra – I am in control and I can handle this. Know what works for your child and use each of the tactics, one after another. Try diversion first. Bring out the snack box next. Hug after that. And so on. Most importantly, be sure to maintain your own calmness as you try to restore peace.
Tantrums are a normal part of growing up. Give your children a bit of breathing space. Let them make a few choices for themselves. Encourage good behavior and choices. Try not to judge yourself as a parent by counting the number of tantrum episodes. Instead, concentrate on how you react to the fits. Finally, remember that you’re only human and raising children is never easy. Keep it simple and positive.
For more on how to deal with tantrums check out How To: Combat Tantrums and Threats Like A Boss