Daddy Lessons Bites!: A Temper Tantrum Solution!?!?!?
The Usual Calm Before The Storm...
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A Possible Solution?
We've all been there. In a grocery store, a packed mall, or Heaven forbid, a packed church on Christmas Eve mass--we've all been victims of the shrilling, shrieking, kicking, crying, shouting, yelling shenanigans of children we affectionately call temper tantrums.
Tantrums are normal for children though; It helps them explore different avenues of how to act when they're upset, and in doing so as they get older they begin to take on 1 or 2 tantrum characteristics and adapt them as they grow older to show they're upset (crying and stomping things around were my thing as a teenager, something I was told I was doing when I was 3-4 years old when I had temper tantrums. Along with rolling on the floor.)
As adults, and specifically as parents, we tend to see temper tantrums as a major disturbance to whatever we are doing at the time. But we need to stop thinking like that all the time and start seeing temper tantrums as opportunities to learn from our children, while at the same time as opportunities to mold our children into adapting more acceptable and less chaotic ways of expressing their negative emotions.
Here's some ways of how I do it, and I hope you can use these techniques too.
1.) Ask your child what he/she is doing.
The moment Jaden starts throwing a tantrum, I automatically sit back and face him. Then, I ask him what he's doing. While many 2 year old's still can't respond well enough to convey a solid answer, look for all kinds of response mechanisms. Are they crying? stomping? yelling? clutching a body part? Since Jaden is actually comparatively advanced for his age, he is able to respond in a manner that I'm able to understand (being his dad and all) and I can usually tell if anything is definitely bothering him (i,e, a boo-boo) or maybe it is just a tantrum over something which upset him/her ("iPad".) But like i said, every child is unique, so generally look for cues that match your child's personality.As their parent, always try to keep those tidbits of behavior in your head, since they're often keys to learning more about your child's personality as they get older.
2.) Reinforce the admission of negativity.
After I ask Jaden what he/she is doing, I follow up by checking if he does indeed have a boo-boo, to make sure nothing physically is wrong. Most often than not, nothing is physically wrong, so at this point I ask him literally "What is wrong?".This will allow your child to try putting whatever is upsetting him/her into words or actions--a great exercise for development! In my case, Jaden can use a lot of words at 2 so again, going back to the cues, I can often determine what is causing the negative emotional response from him (i.e, the tantrum)
Maybe the tv show they're watching just finished. Or maybe they say another kid with a toy they wanted pass them by. Or, as experience from my kids taught me, a temper tantrum usually means that the child is tired and needs to take a nap. Determining and reinforcing the existence of negativity is more of a self-enrichment exercise for both parents and children; the more we practice this, the more we learn about what kind of things bother our children, and at the same time, our children get to practice the idea that we as parents are always available to listen to whatever negative emotion they're going through, And trust me, teaching understanding at 2 isn't too early at all.
3.) Upon confirming why they're upset, offer them something that would make them happy.
Remember when I said that infants and infants transitioning into toddlerhood act based on emotion, not logic? They'll do things that make them happy. In this case, this is another opportunity for you as a parent to exercise your discretion and learn how to offer just enough. I personally believe that parenting is and always will be different for each and every parent. Despite what others might say, there is a happy balance here where the child can get something that would make him/her feel happy while educating the mom/dad about where the limits should be.
However, there is a wrong approach to do this, and sadly, the wrong approach is the one being used by almost all parents because its the easy way to get their child to calm down. This is NOT the approach we should be using.
The wrong approach is simply caving in and automatically giving them whatever they want or whatever we think can pacify them. STOP!
Temper tantrums make great learning tools for parents to teach their children discretion and limits, while at the same time allowing the parent to evaluate themselves on how well they deal with setting limits in a stressful situation. Make the most out of it and try to do both. Don't just give in and cave, for what good are you teaching your child then? That they cry enough they get anything they want? Tsk tsk.
For instance, there is a big difference between giving a child a chocolate bar to get him to stop his tantrum, and giving the child half the chocolate bar and telling him if he stays quiet he can have the other half tomorrow. Chocolate bar=positive emotion. Not all of it=negative emotion. Having more tomorrow=positive emotion. See what I did there? In such a simple manner that's easily adaptable to any age, we can slowly teach our kids pros and cons, i.e. logic.
4.)Once they respond to the offer--by either stopping or reducing their negative activity (i.e., getting off the floor, or stopping their feet stomping) always make sure to make a mental note in your head about what I call the "positivity trigger" was, and try to keep that "positivity trigger" available in your diaper bag. In Jaden's case, a sure way to get him to stop his tantrum is by giving him his sucker/pacifier. But I don't just automatically shove the sucker in his mouth--I still follow through with my steps, because I want to establish certain things with him while he's young. For instance, reinforcing the idea of letting him tell me what is wrong rather than just rolling on the ground screaming. Keeping mental notes in your head also lets you react better in a situation where you don't have that handy positivity trigger, because you'd know exactly what the next best thing should be next to it (i.e, a lollipop, while not the healthiest, makes an excellent replacement for a plastic sucker/pacifier)
5.) Congratulations! At this point your child should have stopped the tantrum. You've managed to introduce a positive trigger, albeit with set limitations, to reinforce both your child's need to feel positive emotion--which gets rid of the negative trigger he may have experienced--and the fact that you maintained your cool throughout the ordeal will only help you in the long run as a parent.