Kids are not well known for being “reasonable”. Or well behaved. Or choosing the time for their meltdowns and tantrums. It happens when you least expect it and have multiple sets of eyes watching you how you handle it. Some of which are going to judge your parenting abilities based on that sole moment in the middle of the store.
Handling tantrums takes a bit of practice and toooons of patience.
In fact, the first thing when trying to become a pro at handling tantrums, is remember it has most probably very little to do with you and your parenting. It has everything to do with your child not being yet developed enough to handle their emotions. For all they know, the world is ending in the very second you say “No”. Or “that’s enough”. Or “time to go home now”. They are still learning. Part of this learning process and growing up is understanding self-regulation, self-control, patience etc.
You are most probably doing everything to have a happy, healthy and independent child. Part of it is saying “No” sometimes. And that is completely fine. If we gave in to every desire our kids have, we would end up broke and living in a chaotic house filled with toys and candy. That is not where I am headed in life. Even though sometimes I get really close ;).
The second thing is adjusting your expectations. Kids don’t really understand why having gummy bears for lunch is not acceptable. The same goes for laying on the floor and screaming in the middle of the grocery store just at the moment when you are running late with that healthy dinner you were planning to make. So be prepared for anything your child throws at you and accept it as a pretty normal part of raising a pretty normal child.
And then go to the next three steps for handling tantrums like a pro.
- Wait it out. Trying to discipline a screaming crying child will get you nowhere. Explaining is a nice thing to do, but also pointless in this moment. Create a safe environment where your kid will maybe kick, roll over, throw himself on the floor, bed etc.. just wait it out patiently. I know that this is the hardest part but believe me it’s nothing you can’t do. I am speaking from experience here :). Yelling, screaming and time outs don’t really achieve anything other than making your kid scared from you. Imagine yourself being upset and crying or yelling and somebody makes you sit in a corner by yourself. Not fun right? It will make you more frustrated and even feel betrayed by that person. Offer love and support and just wait it out.
- Talk with your child. When your child calms down, whatever the reason was for the tantrum might possible be gone miraculously by now. Or maybe not. Talk about it. Listen to your kid. Understand. Say that you understand. Ask questions. State your opinion. Set boundaries. State why you won’t allow so and so. Explain your reasons. Your child might understand and even agree. You will be surprised how much they grasp if you just explain it in a nonthreatening way.
- Gently go on with whatever was happening before the tantrum. Your kid was crying because he was denied a sugary treat? Offer the acceptable alternative. For a toy you did not agree to buy? Offer to go to the playground. To watch Youtube for hours? Offer some blocks, toys, coloring book etc.. you get my point.
The crucial part of handling a tantrum, without causing further distress to everyone involved, is patience. Try and remain calm because you getting angry is not helping anyone. Be a friend to your child but also remember that you are the adult and have to guide your child to what is right.
And please don’t forget that you can also say yes sometimes. A little chocolate treat won’t hurt anybody. Staying a bit longer at the playground will not derail your life so much. Getting all wet at the sprinklers will only add up to the laundry, but is an experience your kid will remember. We get so obsessed to teach our kids the “right” things that we forget to have fun sometimes.
Other useful tips for preventing tantrums:
- Make sure your kid is sleeping enough.
- Don’t let your kid get too hungry. Carry healthy snacks wherever you go.
- Take care that your kid is not overstimulated. Large crowds, too many activities, too much noise can affect different children in different ways. Have you noticed how many tantrums you face on a regular kids’ birthday parties? Or family gatherings? Arrange some peace and quiet for your kid. It will help your kid to calm down and give the time and opportunity to process everything that is going on.
- Announce your plans beforehand. If you are facing tantrums when there is a new activity happening, announce it a bit earlier. In that way, your kid has the time to process whatever your plan is and is not caught off guard and unprepared for such a sad event like bedtime ;).
- Allow your child to make some decisions. Your kid is having a tantrum over getting dressed? Offer choices. Since going out naked is probably not an option, offer the blue trousers and the red ones. Giving the power to decide might make your kid more cooperative and less frustrated.
So a summary would be: just have patience and go gently on your kid when they can’t handle their emotions.
Good luck and may the force be with you on the next tantrum.
My Quiet Spot
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