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How many of us can relate to this one? Explosive tears, screaming kids and full blown meltdowns in public? Right? It’s a task to manage temper tantrums but today, we have an expert who will do just that in this piece on taming the tantrum.
A frequent reader of my blog sent me a request a few weeks ago. She wanted to know if I had written a post on behavioural issues facing young children and how to deal with them. Most of my readers know that what I write comes from personal experience with bringing up Gy. But, this is a subject that can benefit from some deeper, professional insight.
So, for this post, I am introducing a child counsellor, Gayathri Ananth, who will share her wisdom on this topic. She was kind enough to answer my questions in detail over e-mail. Thank you, Gayathri, for taking the time to answer my queries and those of other parents in such detail. Very grateful for this!
Taming the Tantrum
We’ve seen it all. The supermarket aisle meltdown, the wailing child in the middle of a living room floor, the unwillingness to share, the defiant disobedience, the ‘meaningless’ screaming- you name it and any of the above can lead to a tantrum.
What can we do to handle these scenarios? What causes them in the first place and how can we deal with them positively?
Gayathri Ananth shares her views in the Q & A below
Q: When do tantrums start, typically?
A: Between the age of 18 months to 2 years is the time when temper tantrums are known to start. This is around the same time when the child is just discovering that their wishes can conflict with the wishes of other people. Their feelings are very strong and it can be quite upsetting for them. Early temper outbursts are a valuable chance to teach a child how to handle life with good humour and flexibility.
Q: When do tantrums stop?
A: Tantrums don’t stop. They just take a different form, if not handled properly at an early age. Children who get used to getting things done by throwing temper tantrums would turn into very angry adults who may find it difficult to function normally.
Q: How should we react?
A: Make the message loud and clear, you don’t always get what you want. Communicate to the child that “Whether you feel happy or unhappy doesn’t affect the world one bit. You may as well be happy”.
As a parent one can do one of these things:
- Calm yourself – don’t join in. Screaming would ruin everything. Giving reasons does not work either.
- Don’t try to extinguish the emotion
- Help your child
- Be firm, don’t give in (there are exceptions)
- Talk it through
- Give some control of little things
- Know your child’s limits
Q: What if he throws a tantrum in public?
A: Be calm and present. Help the child by being physically close to him. Don’t smack or yell at the child. If the child is thrashing about on the ground, wait patiently for him to stop. If this happens in a public place like a supermarket or on the street, where you feel embarrassed /exposed, you might want to take the child outside or to a quiet corner. If it is at someone else’s house, it would help to take them to another room and have a quiet talk. But whatever the scenario, don’t give in to the tantrum. Let the child calm down before you decide whether to satisfy the need or not.
Q: How should I prepare for future episodes?
A: Approval and attention from an elder is among the strongest rewards for children. The best way to deal with temper tantrums is to stay consistent. It is crucial when disciplining children that you stay consistent in the way you deal with tantrums. Do not give in. when you give a child attention for misbehavior, the child has learnt that screaming and misbehaving equals attention. And next time the child will know exactly which buttons to press.
Focus on positive behavior. Giving positive attention to a child helps in avoiding future episodes of temper tantrums. When we give our children attention and approval for being well-behaved, they are getting positive attention. Positive attention increases good behavior. When we give our children attention for misbehavior (advice, threats etc), we are giving negative attention. Negative attention increases misbehavior. When children do not receive attention in a positive way, they tend to get it through misbehavior or tantrums.
This doesn’t mean that we eliminate the child’s need for approval and attention, but only try and weed out those attention- seeking behaviors that are excessive or unacceptable.
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