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Stopping a Temper Tantrum In Its Tracks: What To Do When Kids Lose It
Why do children have such loud and embarrassing
temper tantrums? And what can you as a parent do to help make them stop?
Think of ways to distract your child. Young
children have a very short attention span. The average two year old will change
the focus of their attention approximately every minute, so you can use this to
your advantage if you feel a tantrum brewing. If you are at home, redirect your
child to a new task or toy and calmly talk about something new. Before going
out, bring a bag of distractions in case your child begins to squirm or reach
for items you are not going to buy. When you feel a tantrum coming on, take
something out of the "fun bag" and offer it to your child. Examples can be a
colorful notepad and a bag of bright markers, a small sack of their favorite
action figures, an interactive picture book, a small musical recorder or radio,
or, when all else fails, a small snack. Remember to rotate these items regularly
so that your child does not tire of them. By using a steady, cheerful voice, you
can distract your child from the object of their desire.
Keep it quick. Understand that your child is not
going to do well if you drag her on twelve errands in a row. Kids get tired and
bored easily, and no amount of distractions will ward off a tantrum if they are
tired, hungry or need a change of scenery. Be aware of the signs that your young
child is heading towards a melt down, such as whining, crying, or complaining.
These behaviors are the red flags you will need to learn to recognize. When they
occur, respect that your child may be unable to continue as planned and curtail
your plans for the day. Consider hiring a babysitter or trading off play dates
with another parent so you can get through your weekly errands quickly.
The attention factor. Lastly, remember that kids
often have temper tantrums because they are not getting enough attention.
Children are smart and know that even negative attention, including a parent
scolding them, is better than no attention at all. Work hard at recognizing the
times when your young child is doing something well and comment on it. If you
can, set aside some special time each day for an activity--even if it is a short
one--whether it be doing a puzzle together, story time or taking a short walk
with your child. This rewards your child for their positive behavior and makes
them strive for better behavior in the future.
What to Do When a Tantrum is in Full-Swing
Take control of the situation. When a child is
having a tantrum, they are signaling to you that they are out of control and
helpless to rectify the situation. Although you may also feel helpless, this is
the time to take control of the situation. Your child needs to see that you are
confident and able to handle things. If you are at home, and the tantrum will
not stop, place your child somewhere to ensure his safety until he can calm
down. Pick the same place and put your child there each and every time they
cannot calm down. If you are in public, calmly tell your child you are leaving,
even if that means your shopping doesn't get finished or you have to leave a
play date. Children need to know that their parent is handling the situation for
them when they are unable to do so themselves.
Teach your child the importance of the word "No."
Don't waffle when your child acts up as a way to avoid a confrontation or to
stop a tantrum. Your child is brilliant at knowing how to get what they want
from you. If you hesitate and give in even once when a tantrum starts, they have
learned that tantrums will get them whatever they need in the future. If your
child is in full tantrum mode, tell them, "You can't always get everything you
want." Follow up by removing them from the situation or isolating them
temporarily until they calm down. Be firm and consistent and your child will
learn that having a tantrum will not get their needs met.
Temper tantrums are a part of all of our lives, whether we are children or adults. Your job as a parent is to help your child recognize that the behaviors associated with a tantrum are not acceptable ways to act either at home or in public. A loving parent also helps their child through this phase by setting firm boundaries, creating consistent rules, and modeling for their child appropriate ways to act, both at home and in public. You may not be able to eliminate all temper tantrums from your lives, but you can create an environment that allows both you and your child to get through them together.
"Stopping A Temper Tantrum In It's Tracks: What To Do When Kids Loose It" reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents
*Check our our behavior charts designed specifically for tantrums!
By Jane Simeo
Joan Simeo Munson has a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and is the co-author of the forthcoming 50 Plus One Great Life Lessons to Teach Your Children. Over the years, Dr. Munson has worked with incarcerated individuals, families, adolescents, and college students in a variety of settings, including county and city jails, community mental health centers, university counseling centers, and hospitals. She also has a background in individual, group, and couples counseling. Dr. Munson received her Ph.D. from The University of Denver, her Master of Arts degree in Community Counseling from George Washington University, and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Illinois. Dr. Munson lives in the Boulder area with her husband and three energetic children, ages ten, eight, and five.