We’ve all seen it happen, often to a rushed and harried parent, in the middle of a grocery aisle. The Tantrum. Ick. But, think about what your child is feeling. Out of control, wanting and needing the safety and comfort of your control over the terrifying emotions they are experiencing. You being frazzled does not help your child manage his behaviors, and certainly does not help your child manage stress.
Take a breath. I am not recommending ‘giving in’ to your child’s screaming demands for candy! You will be doing him a disservice, even if you think you are solving the immediate problem. Children need parental control. They need parental control to feel safe and secure, to know that their parents are not going to allow behaviors that harm them, even from themselves.
Generally, children who have been taught to manage their behaviors, including temper tantrums, are happier and more capable of handling many of childhood’s dilemmas. Socially, children have much more common sense than most adults give them credit for. If little Joshua can see that his temper tantrum is not giving him ANY positive benefit, eventually, there is no motivation for tantrums. If your normally sweet, adorable Jason suddenly becomes a devil child, ask yourself: What is going on in his world that makes him need to act out in this way? Is it fear, or hunger? Could he be overtired? Or, is he just tired of being dragged through the shopping mall looking at the latest fashion trends?
A few general anti-tantrum tips are:
Take care of your child’s physical needs before embarking on any outing. Just as you wouldn’t leave the house without your keys, make it a regular routine to ‘feed, water and walk’ your child, so that their physical needs are met, before leaving the house.
Talk with your child about expectations, his and yours. Tell your child what you expect from him, they aren’t mindreaders any more than you are. Don’t wait until you are at your destination to talk about behavior. A friendly, calm and gentle chat with your child is much easier than hauling a screaming, kicking child through a mall to the car for timeout!
Pack your purse. Toss in a few crackers, a piece of cheese, even occasionally, one of those hideously bright colored plastic toys from the kid’s meal at the local fast food restaurant, a few wet wipes in sealed packets for wiping messes off that sweet face, and patience. Always pack patience! Don’t think of the treats as bribes, think of them as rewards for expected behaviors. Think of them as inducement for continued good behavior, because your child certainly will. Be sure, when doling out the treats, to casually mention the reason, “Daddy really likes going places with you, Joshua, when you act like such a big boy and are so fun to be with!” or “Joshua! Thank you for behaving so well! You are great!” and eventually, (sometimes, not even all that long) Joshua will become accustomed to self-control and the confidence it brings.
And, the most important tip:
Never overreact or lose your temper yourself! Not only does losing your own temper give your child the concrete proof that temper tantrums work, but it totally destroys your parental credibility! Losing your temper during a child’s temper tantrum does nothing positive, creates MORE emotional damage and wears you out!
Be consistent in the ways you handle your child’s temper tantrums, and you may be surprised how quickly they become a thing of the past. The added benefit is that you guide your child into adulthood, as a self-controlled, confident person, fully capable of dealing with life’s inevitable frustrations and stress.