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Taming temper tantrums

Have you ever experienced a screaming ‘I don’t want to leave’ child?

The frustrated two-year old clutched her blue balloon and screamed and shouted, wriggling in her Dad’s arms trying hard to get away and run, run, run!

She didn’t want to leave the park, not now, when she was having such fun!

This is a familiar situation that parents face, and usually at the most embarrassing moments possible.

It is so uncomfortable, especially with other people looking on and tut-tutting.

Recently, a friend asked me how to handle exactly this kind of situation.

During scenes like that, the first thing I used to want to do was to reduce the noise, and not make a scene or draw attention to me or my child.

And that urge is often the thing that stopped me doing what I needed to do to help my child deal with his crisis. Do you also make the same mistakes? Things like:

  • Telling him to ‘Shush, don’t cry like this! Everyone is looking at you!’ (meaning they were looking at me). This only made him cry louder.

  • Ignoring his cries and make for the nearest exit as fast as I could, with a wave of yells from the buggy. (People would shake their heads watching us as we exited the building).

  • Offering him a sweet, - an ice-cream, - a burger – a toy – a ride or - game: anything!!! to get him to stop his crying.

None of these tactics worked to help my child, even if they pacified him for a while

However, when I did what I really needed to do, everything changed:

When I focused on the response my child needed from me, then the whole situation took on a different tone.

And once I did that, it didn’t matter about the by-standers.

If they watched, maybe they would see something good happen.

Responding in the way your child needs takes self control and patience, but there are specific things you can do to gain control.

These are the tips that I want to share with you:

1. Calm yourself. Breathe slowly. Put yourself in control, not your frustration or anger.

2. Stop and deal with it - stop whatever it is you are doing or where you are going. If you are driving, find a safe place to stop and deal with the situation.

3. Make your child look at you - go to your child, hold them, and make them look at you eye to eye, hold their face in your hands if you have to.

4. Get your child to breathe in and out gently, calm his body.

5. Talk quietly to him, reassure him. Tell him that you understand he is upset or angry, that it’s ok, and that you want him to tell you or show you what is making him cry.

6. Don’t give in to what he wants. If he is angry that you are insisting on him doing something, for instance, if you have to go, or he has to give back a toy that he has been playing with, tell him that, and say, ‘Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do.’ Invest in a little extra time, even if it makes you late, to try and get him to calm down.

If the above does not seem to work in your own situation, still keep to Number 1: Calm yourself!

Then you might try something else -

1. Give a happy lift to your voice – positivity has a massive impact on the way a child will respond to you

2. Do something physical with him: swing him up in the air, tickle him, or chase him, or play peekaboo and pretend to be sad that he is angry.

3. Take on the role of different animals or characters that your child loves, and speak to them from that voice.

4. Distract his attention onto another activity.

Not all of these will work on every child: you’ll have to experiment and see which fit better for your own child in each unique situation.

In all the above scenarios, I have assumed that you will have time to stop and deal with the situation. I know it is not always possible.

But it is worth taking the extra time needed, to teach your child how to deal with their emotions. You will reap the benefits as they get older.

Are there any tips or strategies you know of that work well for your child? Do share in the comments below!

In the next post we will look suggestions for dealing with those perplexing problems when children bite and slap.

Margi Kulsoom

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