When your child throws a tantrum, it is easy to get frustrated, overwhelmed, angry, and embarrassed, especially if the tantrum happens in public. Unfortunately, the occasional tantrum cannot be avoided, they happen to every parent. But while your child is in the throes of a fit, try to remember these tips.
1. Tantrums are normal. The first thing to remember when your child has a tantrum is that the behavior is normal. Tantrums are a normal way for kids to express their frustration when they may not be able to communicate their feelings appropriately. While this fact doesn’t make the tantrum any easier to deal with, it does help to know that, developmentally, this is a normal stage of your child’s development.
2. Do not engage. During a tantrum, the temptation can be to lecture, yell, or reason with your child. They cannot hear you or comprehend reason when they are in the middle of a fit. The best thing to do is to wait it out. If you feel the need to discuss the situation with your child, wait until later when they are calm and ready to listen to you.
3. Leave the scene. When your child starts to throw a tantrum at home, make sure they are safe, and then leave the room. Typically, if they don’t have an audience to get a reaction from, the tantrum will cease. If you are uncomfortable leaving your child alone, get busy doing other things and pretend to ignore them. If the tantrum happens in public, take your child to the bathroom or your car so they can calm down. If the tantrum continues and your child is unable to calm down, buckle them safely in their car seat and drive home.
4. Consider triggers. Think about what triggered your child to get so upset in the first place. How can frustrating situations be avoided in the future? Of course, not all tantrums can be avoided but certain triggers can be removed. When armed with this information, you are better prepared to use distraction to lessen or avoid future tantrums.
5. Don’t give in, except once in a while. Giving in to your child’s tantrum will do nothing but encourage future tantrums. If your child is throwing a tantrum because they want to eat a cookie before dinner, do not give your child a cookie. It is also not a good idea to use bribes to stop a tantrum. Saying to your child, “If you stop crying, I will buy you a toy” only rewards your child for the tantrum. However, if your child is in the middle of a tantrum and the only way to help calm them down is by listening to the same song over and over again on the car ride home, this is an exception to the rule.
6. You are not alone. Although it may feel like you are alone while your child has a fit at the grocery store, all parents have been there. It is likely your child will have a tantrum in public at some point. No doubt it will be embarrassing and inconvenient, but it is generally unavoidable. Remind yourself that it is normal for kids to have tantrums, leave the store, if needed, and try to laugh about it later.
7. Use distraction, humor, and hugs. During a tantrum, kids are not able to listen to reason, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to wrap up the crying quickly. Try using a distraction like, “Where is the ball?” or, “Do you want to read a book?” Make a silly face to lighten the mood or turn on some music and do a silly dance together. For some kids, a tight hug helps them to calm down when they are upset. Trying to help your child move past the tantrum can teach them methods for calming themselves down in the future. The situation that caused the tantrum can be discussed later, if needed.
8. Don’t doubt yourself. One time my daughter had a horrible tantrum and I blamed myself. ‘What am I doing wrong? Am I a terrible mom?’ After expressing these feelings to a friend, she reminded me that I am not a bad mother, I was just having a bad day. It happens to all of us. Remain confident in your parenting skills and remind yourself that you are doing the best you can. Tantrums happen to all parents.
The next time your child has a tantrum, try to stop and remember these tips. Eventually, the tantrums will end, and your child will grow and learn to communicate more effectively.
Sarah is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom of six children, including triplets.
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